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ET-061: Rising from the darkness of addiction to help others find their path forward

With Mr. Luke Worsfold

ET-061: A conversation with Mr. Luke Worsfold

and your host Wayne Brown on August 22, 2023

Episode notes: A conversation with Mr. Luke Worsfold

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.

Today, we’re staying put in the UK and we’re visiting the coastal city of Southend-on-Sea, located in Essex. And we’re meeting up with our addiction counselor, Luke Worsfold.

It’s an important episode as Luke and I unpack the challenges faced by what research is suggesting is affecting a growing number of people, and that is substance abuse and drug addiction. When you hear Luke’s own story, you’ll learn that he speaks from firsthand experience with his mother struggling with addiction throughout her life. She was in and out of rehab and prison, and her drinking progressively worsened until she passed when Luke was 10.

Luke himself embraced drugs during secondary school as a means to find solace and escape.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

“…But at that time, as a 10-year-old boy who just lost his mum from something called drink and drugs, which as a 10-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what that was. I didn’t know about addiction, I didn’t know what any of mental health was. I didn’t understand any of those things. All I knew is that my mom wasn’t around anymore. So, for a 10-year-old kid, I didn’t know how to cope, I didn’t know how to deal with that grief, and what that led to, Wayne, is that I ripped out anything that connected my head to my heart. I just ripped out all of my emotions on an unconscious level. And just as a man, just got on with life, especially growing up in a time when there was a lot of toxic masculinity, and there still is in many, many ways…..”

Today’s Guest: MR. LUKE WORSFOLD

Becoming an entrepreneur and forming his own company, Luke soon found that the stress and the pressure of running the business fueled his addiction and his life quickly spiraled out of control. Living in denial, it took a brutally honest comment from his mentor and friend that forced him to confront this addiction and seek help.

Through various avenues, including AA meetings, therapy, and personal developed seminars, he ultimately discovered addiction therapy. This proved instrumental in addressing the root cause of his addiction, helped him feel his emotions again, and raised his awareness, thus helping him to recover.

Today, as a successful entrepreneur and specialized counselor, it’s Luke’s mission to help others to win battles with their addiction. His journey taught him the importance of self-awareness, emotional healing, and the power of choice. And he strives to inspire and empower others to reclaim their lives.

Final words from Luke:

So I think when it comes to an employee, the one thing I’d recommend is if you’re starting to spot some of the signs, is recognize that it’s important to have that conversation with them, to have a think about the support that the company offers or that you feel like you can give them, and the resources, and ask them some of the things they need. Recommend that they have a bit of a plan to get things under control.

Approach the conversation, see if they want to make a change, and then help them make that change for a few months. If they’re putting in the effort, they go into therapy and they’re changing things, help them in the work. Take a couple of things off their plate. Don’t let them off scot-free, but take a couple of things off their plate.

Help them rearrange some of their days so they’re either coming into the office more, if that helps them, or working from home more, if that helps them. Either way can be really valuable. Allow them to have some more free time to do some more activities and hobbies, like going to take clients to golf rather than drinks, and have some more freedom during the day, and that kind of stuff.

But really just having a conversation and just approaching it gently and just making them aware you’ve noticed this behavior is getting a bit out of control. Is there anything you can do to support them? And I think it’s really important to have those conversations, because it improves their performance. If everyone was managing their mental health as you know from the coaching world, then everyone’s performance would go up and they wouldn’t be hung-over and underperforming.

I’ve had so many clients who I’ve worked with, who have said, “My team’s doing better because I’m doing better. I’m leading them better.” Or, who are on a team, going, “I’m performing so much better. I got a raise because I’m actually showing up at work now and I’m actually delivering and I’m not drinking and doing drugs and I’m actually building better connections with people ’cause I’m focused and I’m doing better negotiations.”

So, understanding the value of having those conversations and the value and the importance of really working through that stuff and taking it seriously to work on their mental health and the emotional side of things.

[music]

0:00:04.1 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as team ET. Today, we’re staying put in the UK and we’re visiting the coastal city of Southend-on-Sea, located in the area of Essex. And we’re meeting up with our addiction counselor, Luke Worsfold. It’s an important episode as Luke and I unpack the challenges faced by what research is suggesting is affecting a growing number of people, and that is substance abuse and drug addiction. When you hear Luke’s own story, you’ll learn that he speaks from firsthand experience with his mother struggling with addiction throughout her life. She was in and out of rehab and prison, and her drinking progressively worsened until she passed when Luke was 10. Luke himself embraced drugs during secondary school as a means to find solace and escape.

0:01:00.5 WB: Becoming an entrepreneur and forming his own company, he soon found that the stress and the pressure of running the business fueled his addiction and his life quickly spiraled out of control. Living in denial, it took a brutally honest comment from his mentor and friend that forced him to confront this addiction and seek help. Through various avenues, including AA meetings, therapy, and personal developed seminars, he ultimately discovered addiction therapy. This proved instrumental in addressing the root cause of his addiction, helped him feel his emotions again, and raised his awareness, thus helping him to recover. Today, as a successful entrepreneur and specialized counselor, it’s Luke’s mission to help others to win battles with their addiction. His journey taught him the importance of self-awareness, emotional healing, and the power of choice. And he strives to inspire and empower others to reclaim their lives. So, team ET, I welcome you to what is a very important conversation for all leaders with our guest, Mr. Luke Worsfold, in this episode titled Rising From the Darkness of Addiction to Help Others Find their Path Forward.

0:02:12.1 WB: Welcome to the ET project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:29.0 WB: Alright. Well, welcome, team ET, to another week. We have a really fascinating, interesting guest joining us today, Luke Worsfold. Luke, welcome to the ET Project. It’s great to have you on board and we’re gonna have a really fascinating conversation, I’m sure.

0:02:43.3 Luke Worsfold: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks very much for having me, Wayne. It’s amazing to be here.

0:02:47.1 WB: Luke is in recovery from addiction. And Luke, you’ve just restarted a podcast, I noticed, and I was listening to one of the later episodes where I think you were talking to Peter Sage, and it was a really fantastic conversation and you asked a question that I loved, which is, what was his definition of addiction? So I’m gonna return the favor on his behalf and ask you, what’s your definition of addiction?

0:03:15.0 LW: Okay, awesome. Yeah, thanks very much, Wayne. So my definition of addiction is when someone is repeatedly using a substance or a thing or a person to get a desired outcome typically loaded with endorphins in the brain, and they’re repeating the action in an uncontrollable manner and it’s causing destructive consequences on their life because they can’t stop repeating that action over and over again. So that could be with alcohol or cocaine or drugs and they’re just doing it over and over again, and they can’t seem to stop.

0:03:50.9 WB: When I was thinking about addiction and the word itself, I mean, there’s many forms of addiction, of course, and your area that you focus on is substance abuse and substance addiction as opposed to, I guess you could say, there’s gambling addiction, there’s sex addiction, even work addiction, right? So there’s many, many different forms of addiction, but what you are focused on in your therapy is all about… Is helping people work through substance abuse. Is that fair to say?

0:04:21.9 LW: Yeah.

0:04:22.9 WB: Excellent.

0:04:23.2 LW: Yeah, yeah. Most of the people I work with is clients who struggle with drinking and also drugs, primarily cocaine, a lot of senior executives and leaders and business owners in London and also globally all over the world.

0:04:37.5 WB: And you have a lot of personal experience, right? Of course, which led you into this field of therapy. And so, I just wonder if you would mind briefly sharing a little bit of your backstory. It’s an interesting story and I think it’s set up the conversation very nicely.

0:04:55.0 LW: Of course, of course. So for me, it starts before I was born, with my mom. Now, my mom, she was an amazing woman, but she had her own struggles with drinking and using drugs. And she used to run or be a manager in a furniture company. There was my granddad’s furniture company and she used to be an interior designer and manage a few of the shops there. And she struggled with her own drinking problems and she used to drink to manage her own stress and all of the challenges in her own life. And what that meant is when I came along, her drinking and her own drug use was at quite a severe level when I was born. So by the time I got to 10 years old, her behavior had escalated and escalated and escalated, and she tried to get help along the way. But for her, she couldn’t get things under control. And she got to a point where unfortunately she lost her life to addiction. She died from drinking and using drugs. And one thing that that’s taught me and taught a lot of my clients is that her life was not an example, it was her death that was the lesson. And that’s always stuck with me, because it wasn’t her life that was an example, it was her death that was the lesson. And that helped me later on in my journey.

0:06:09.5 LW: But at that time, as a 10-year-old boy who just lost his mum from something called drink and drugs, which as a 10-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what that was. I didn’t know about addiction, I didn’t know what any of mental health was. I didn’t understand any of those things. All I knew is that my mom wasn’t around anymore. So, for a 10-year-old kid, I didn’t know how to cope, I didn’t know how to deal with that grief, and what that led to, Wayne, is that I ripped out anything that connected my head to my heart. I just ripped out all of my emotions on an unconscious level. And just as a man, just got on with life, especially growing up in a time when there was a lot of toxic masculinity, and there still is in many, many ways. And I had two brothers who I grew up with, and my dad. So after my mum passed away, me and my brothers, we would fight and we would argue and we would beat each other up, and that was acceptable. Boys will be boys. They’re allowed to fight and beat each other up, but we weren’t really explicitly given permission to feel our emotions necessarily.

0:07:10.7 LW: So for me, I just suppressed a lot of that. I wasn’t aware of what was going on at the time, but I was just suppressing emotions and displaying an emotion that a lot of men display, which is anger. I just had a lot of anger coming out of me, to my brothers and towards life in general. So as I went through school and started to try my first sip of alcohol, my first joint, my first line of coke, as I was growing up in those early years, I started to realize on some kind of level, that these things are taking away and numbing some of these emotions that I’ve buried so deep down, and they’re sort of soothing some of these things. So what that meant for me and started to set me up for in my life was that when I went on to start my own company, so I ran my own company, a web designer marketing company, and I started to build up and have more staff and employ people and wear a suit every day and go into the office and started to become a leader. And as I started to lead this team and run my business and have clients and manage the difficulties between the clients and the staff and my business partner, the pressure and the stress just built up, Wayne. And as it built up, and as it got more and more challenging, my drinking and drug use escalated too, because I didn’t know how to deal with those emotions and stress and pressure.

0:08:35.2 LW: And that was just the thing for me that was a learned behavior, societally reinforced, to then keep using over and over and over again. And it became, like I mentioned what addiction is at the beginning, it became a behavior for me that I just used drink and drugs every single day without being able to stop, without… With the negative consequences just compounding and compounding and compounding. And for me, it got to a point where I ended up losing the whole business because I didn’t have the money and I was just spending money I didn’t have on drugs. And it just got worse and worse and worse and I lost the whole business. And I had to move out of my penthouse flat into a house share, get rid of the Mercedes, and just cut down my whole life and all my expenses and rebuild. And it was at that point I booked in to see a therapist, and it was an addiction specialist therapist. And over the past… This is my seventh year in recovery now, so over the past seven years, I got my life back on track and I’ve had an amazing journey going and doing a degree and helping people. But that just gives you a bit of a background in terms of how I got to where I am today.

0:09:44.0 WB: Yeah. Well, first of all, congratulations on being able to bounce back, and we’ll talk a little bit about resilience and the emotional baggage that goes with everything you’ve been through. But congratulations, as a starting point. Your current business is called Inside Addiction, but you have… I guess it’s an acronym, ‘Lisa,’ and I’d love to know what Lisa stands for, so L-I-S-A.

0:10:13.4 LW: Awesome. Yeah. Awesome, awesome. So the Lisa part is an interesting story. So that was actually my mom’s name. So my mom’s name, her name was called Lisa and that’s why I named it Lisa Inside Addiction, to have her name in there. And so it had some meaning, and just reminded me her kind of connection to this journey, this experience, and hopefully her story and her journey can also be a light that guides people down sometimes this tunnel of darkness. So that’s why it’s called Lisa. And we also got Inside Addiction on the podcast, in therapy, so that’s where the name comes from, Lisa Inside Addiction.

0:10:52.5 WB: I heard it worked out differently, right? So I heard it worked out as, ‘Living Inside Substance Abuse.’ [laughter]

0:11:01.0 LW: Yeah, that’s awesome.

[chuckle]

0:11:01.6 WB: But thank you for that.

0:11:03.0 LW: No, that’s awesome. Yeah.

0:11:05.1 WB: Now I can relax.

0:11:06.1 LW: Yeah. I do need to come up with an acronym, because it doesn’t actually have one. I’m gonna think on that. I’m gonna take your words of wisdom, Wayne, and I’m gonna brainstorm an acronym for it.

0:11:14.6 WB: It makes a lot of sense, of course. I mean, you have such a strong story tied back to your mother, and yeah, it makes perfect sense. Our listener base are predominantly what we call executive talents, but leaders by another name. I’d like to really turn the spotlight a little bit on, if we think about the conversation that’s happening in the world today about mental health as a starting point. If I think about substance abuse, is it only the mental part? Because it’s also, I would think, somehow physiological as well as psychological. Would that be fair or not?

0:11:56.2 LW: Yeah. So I think there is a physical dependence that can occur. I break it down into a continuum. So on the far right of the continuum, at the most severe, you have a dependent drinker or a dependent user that’s drinking every single day, high volumes typically in the morning, to stop the shakes and seizures. And then the next level along, you have a daily drinker. Now, a daily drinker, they drink every single day, but not at the same volume and level as a dependent drinker. So that may be someone who just has a bottle of wine every night. They’re not drinking in the morning, they don’t have withdrawal symptoms, they’re not physically dependent, but they are drinking every single day. So that’s why I’d say that they, in the continuum, fit as a daily drinker. Then the next level up, you have a weekend drinker. So this is someone who drinks or uses drugs every single week, but not every single day. So maybe that’s on a Saturday or a Sunday or a Friday, or like a few days in the week, and they have a few days off. So they’re not doing it daily, but they are doing it every week, typically.

0:13:02.6 LW: Then, the next level up is kind of a binge drinker. Now, a binge drinker, they may go a few weeks without drinking or without using drugs, but then when they do, they kind of press the fuck it button. They go all out and they drink and use drugs perhaps for days on end or go on a really big binge, cause massive havoc. Then they’re like, “No, I won’t do it for another three weeks, or a few weeks or a few months,” and then they’ll go on another binge and they’re kind of in that binge cycle. Then eventually, you have a non drinker, someone who just doesn’t drink or use drugs at all. So, in terms of the dependency, Wayne, that would be someone who’s at the dependent level, and a lot of the clients I work with are on the rest of the scale. So if you’re a senior executive or you’re someone who’s drinking or using drugs, or typically they’re drinking normally and doing a bit of coke or something, that’s very common in the city in London. So the thing is, is that that is someone who’s going to fall in the binge, the weekend, or the daily drinker. And they’re going to fall roughly in that level. But they won’t necessarily have such a physical dependency on it because they won’t have got to that level yet, and they’ll be somewhere else on the continuum.

0:14:10.8 WB: The more dependent they become, I’m guessing the more obvious it is to other people around them. Would that be accurate?

0:14:20.8 LW: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And the consequences get higher, right? So at the beginning when you’re just drinking every now and then, you may get away with it. Your family members and the people around you and your boss and your co workers won’t really notice that you’re going out a couple of days a week, they’ll kind of… Won’t really be aware of it. But if you’re starting to hammer every single day, and every day you’re coming to the office hung-over or you’re coming into the office hung-over a lot, or calling in sick because you’re just on a come down from the drugs and you’re not really with it, they’re going to start to become more aware that you have a bit of a problem, and that can be challenging and that will affect your work relationships as well as your home life, 100%.

0:15:06.3 WB: Yeah, for sure. And you mentioned in your introduction about the catalyst or the triggers for you were, as you moved into business, the extra stress, the anxiety, the pressures that you were facing. And as I think about business and the environment around the world at the moment, now we’re at epidemic proportions with people that are feeling anxious and lonely and overwhelmed, burnt out. I guess, therefore, it could be almost a correlation or maybe a tipping point where it starts to move into this addiction level of substance abuse. Yeah, of course, I’m jumping to a conclusion, [chuckle] not necessarily cause and effect, but I’m just thinking, is there a potential parallel between what we’re hearing in the media about all of the challenges leaders in particular are facing and the potential for them to shift in this direction? Do you have a feeling for that yourself?

0:16:14.9 LW: Yeah, 100%. 100%. And I think the thing is, is like you say, there is a correlation between the stress and the pressure in the world and the decisions that we have to make as leaders and CEOs and as executives, and the amount of stress and pressure and isolation sometimes we feel. And a good example of that was Covid, right? When Covid started to happen, that was really challenging for a lot of people. And during that time, we also lost a lot of connection. So for some people, they were like, “Okay, I’m not going out in the city. So therefore, I’m going to be a bit insulated and I’m not going to be doing so many drugs or drinking.” But some people said, “Well, I’m at home working all day, I’m really stressed, I’ve been on these Zoom calls, trying to put out all of these fires, deal with all of these meetings with all the higher ups, and managing a team remotely and everyone transitioning to this big remote world. And now, I’ve got 50 people I’ve now got to manage remotely and sort them all out.” That was extremely stressful for a lot of people.

0:17:13.4 LW: And because there wasn’t such a close eye on them, that drink that they’d have after work slowly starts creeping forward and they’re like, “Oh, let’s have a drink at lunch, because why not? It’s a sunny day, I’m at home, no one’s watching me.” And then they’re going to be drinking at work, which is a boundary a lot of people would not actually cross. They wouldn’t be drinking at work, necessarily. And then they’d then be drinking a bit earlier in the morning, because they’re stressed and it would escalate. And a lot of the clients I’ve been seeing since COVID have found their boundaries to be blurred and to actually… Been drinking and using drugs more when they’re at home, because they don’t have so much accountability, they don’t have so many people around them who are checking on them during those working hours. So, I definitely think there’s a correlation.

0:18:00.4 LW: And I think with the potential recession coming, that can cause a lot of challenges for a lot of people when we have these big, cultural and societal and global phenomenons happening, whether that’s a coronavirus or a recession, it creates a lot of stress and pressure to make decisions to manage people, to deal with those situations as senior executives. And when we’re not taught in school, how to deal with some of those pressures and stresses in a healthy way, we turn to what’s always been there. And what’s always been there is drink and drugs. And even if we’re at a different level on the continuum and we’re like a binge drinker or a weekend drinker, and we’re not drinking that much, you can easily become a daily drinker or dependent drinker when that stress is turned up, or we don’t have the healthy tools in place. So it can be a dangerous time for a lot of people going into a recession with a lot of decisions having to be made.

0:19:00.0 WB: Mental health in general, but I’m imagining substance abuse or addiction is very closely tied to this. It’s still not an accepted norm in society, so it’s something that we try and hide from other people, I presume. And therefore, I’m wondering, what are the consequences when we try and internalize or we hide the addiction and we’re not able to share it with anyone else? What are some of the effects that that triggers?

0:19:33.2 LW: Yeah, yeah. So when it comes to that internal pressure building up, I think a lot of it is about not having the self awareness to understand it’s happening. It kind of happens in the background, like me when I was running my company. I wasn’t really consciously aware of the stress. I just had bills to pay, a team to manage, I had the office to sort out, I had clients who were calling me, I had my business partner and our relationship to manage and lots of things going on. And you don’t really have time to sort of stop and think. One of the big things that goes is self care. So we don’t have time to really take care of ourself ’cause we’re running on this fight or flight at a million miles an hour, with lots of high anxiety in terms of our mental health. Anxiety is a big emotion and also sadness and isolation. But those emotions are building in the background.

0:20:25.4 LW: They’re just building up because of all these decisions we have to make. We don’t really have time to stop and think things through in terms of our feelings. It’s like demands need to be met. There is a Coronavirus or a recession on the horizon that is happening, and we need to make those decisions under the gun. There’s not really much time to think about how we’re feeling. And like you said, it’s certainly not culturally acceptable to say necessarily in a meeting, “Let me just go and check my feelings, and then I’ll get back to you on this decision,” thinking about what’s going on. You just need to know the answer then and there. “You’re a senior executive. We pay you this money. You just need to have all the answers. Get on with it, man up, do the late hours, put in the work, your career’s on the line. Nut up and shut up.”

0:21:05.2 LW: You can’t really go and have some feeling time before that happens, but that costs you a lot by running on that treadmill, going a million miles an hour, having all that stress and anxiety builds up, and then the mental health then leads into the addiction because we’re not managing those emotions. They’re building up. We’re not taking time for ourselves. And then that then leads to those emotions kind of coming out sideways, because then when we go and have a few drinks to “relax” or go out and entertain a client, then the wheels fall off and we have way too many drinks, end up kind of blacking out or doing loads of coke, or coming in at 4:00 in the morning and our partner’s then pissed at us and… ’cause our partner’s living in the doghouse [0:21:50.3] ____, then we can’t focus at work, and it all just go… ’cause we’re hung-over, we don’t have the performance, then we have more decisions to make, but we’re not ready and in the state to make those decisions because we’ve been doing drugs and drinking. So it’s like a cascading effect from the mental health and the societal pressure, then leads into the addiction and then it kind of cycles back round ’cause of the consequences of the drinking and using drugs.

0:22:15.5 WB: If I’m a leader, how can I identify potentially some form of addiction that may be happening, but unspoken? Is there any telltale signs that I should be looking for?

0:22:28.8 LW: Yeah, yeah. So I think some of the most important signs is, especially looking at that continuum and thinking about where you are on the continuum, or, is the frequency of your drinking or drug use increasing? Is the volume of your drinking or drug use increasing? Those two things are important. Do you feel like you don’t have time to do a lot of things and you’re always out of time and you’re always on the back foot and stressed and trying to get ahead of things? If you’re feeling a lot of stress and anxiety, that can be a big indication. If you’re making more justifications and saying to yourself, “Well, I’ve got to take out these clients on Thursday, and I’ve got to take on these clients on Monday, and I’ve got to have all these occasions,” when really you’re secretly the one booking all of these things in, in the first place, that can be a big indication.

0:23:19.8 LW: And one of the other ones will be your partner, typically, or the people around you noticing, and perhaps even starting to say something. Like your partner will say to you, “You’re drinking a bit much,” or “You’re using drugs,” or “You didn’t come home till 4:00 in the morning.” You’re starting to recognize you’re arguing more about your drinking or drug use, and perhaps your performance at work is dropping, and your performance is going down and maybe you’ve been called in to have a review with your boss because your performance isn’t where it needs to be, and you’re starting to recognize that things are struggling and building up. Those are some of the main signs I’d recommend clients look for, and a lot of things clients experienced before they come to me.

0:24:04.4 WB: So let’s say I’m the leader again, and I’ve started to observe these telltale signs. How do I approach this from a sensitivity level in the early phases of the discussion? Before I’m really sure, should I be looking for guidance from a counselor or therapist like yourself? Should I talk to the HR team as an example? [chuckle] How would I, an inexperienced person as a leader, deal with this situation in the early beginning stages?

0:24:37.4 LW: Yeah, so I think one of the challenges with HR and a lot of the clients that come to me is confidentiality, and they’re worried that if they’re on record saying, “I did 5 g of coke,” that they’re going to be in trouble or fired. Even though everyone knows what’s going on, they don’t necessarily say, and it’s not on record. So I think that can be even more isolating ’cause they don’t feel like they can reach out for help all of the time, and that can be challenging in itself. I think having a conversation with your boss around your mental health and that you’re struggling a bit can be something, a good first point of call to let them know what’s happening.

0:25:15.6 LW: The next step would be to take some time off, book some holiday. And it’s always when you think, “I don’t have time to do that,” that’s always the big indication that you need to make time to do it, because the fact that you think that you don’t have time for the self-care is the exact reason you need to take it, which is obviously so counterintuitive, so crucial. So having some time off is really important. Reflecting on things, reflecting on what’s going on and what’s happening, even if it’s just over the weekend, just going away for the weekend, booking an Airbnb and just chilling out and taking some space to really reflect on the situation.

0:25:53.9 LW: And then I’d also say, yes, seeking a therapist, that’s really, really important. Looking for an addiction specialist therapist, because a lot of clients will go to traditional therapy for anxiety or something like that, but they won’t really look at their life through the lens of addiction, which is really, really important. So they’ll have some sessions that work on some of their emotions, but they won’t really have worked on the addiction side of things. So, when their emotions escalate again, so will the addiction. So it’s really important to go to a specialist in addiction therapy and have those sessions and learn the tools and discuss what’s going on, and start to get there early. A lot of people have coaches, whether that’s tennis players or anyone in the sports world. So, having a therapist that’s gonna help you with your emotions is really, really important to help you process that and start to work on that.

0:26:49.9 LW: Some other things would be to think about your hobbies. So, if you like golf or if you like tennis or if you like the gym, focusing on them, bringing back in the space to go and do those, and do more sober activities, not just going out for client drinks, ’cause you need to blow off steam. Taking a step back, slowing down, going to play golf, going to… Go and play tennis, go to the gym, make some more time for yourself to really slow down and reflect, is really important. So there’re some of the core initial steps I would take to really start to not spiral so far down the continuum to a dependent level.

0:27:30.4 WB: I’m thinking about Alcoholics Anonymous, and they used to say that the first step is admitting that you actually have the problem. I can imagine a lot of people would be in denial, “This is not really a big problem, I can deal with this, I can cope with this.” Even though they may sense that things are sliding out of control, they may still be denying. In your case, I know I was reading through some of your material and it was your mentor or a long-term friend who actually created that point where they made you realize you had a problem. They called you a crackhead or something, from memory. How damaging was or how potentially damaging was a statement like that to you?

0:28:22.1 LW: Yeah. So for me, just to give the audience a bit of backstory, so I was running my business, and I’ll say denial was a really important part. And I was just denying I had a problem. I was just drinking and using drugs. I was just like, well, I just need more money to solve my problems, or I just need to get to the next bit and then I’ll be okay, then I’ll be on solid ground. I just need to grind this bit of work out, then it’ll be okay. But because of the stress, I was just drinking and using more drugs, and it got to the point where I did lose everything, and that led me to sitting there on a park bench, drinking and using drugs. And I was smoking a joint after a heavy night of drinking and doing coke, and it was at that point where I was calling through people… Still in denial, still trying to drink more, use more drugs and get high and just keep going and going and going. But I’d run out of money, I’d spent all the client’s money and I was thousands of thousands of pounds in debt, and I had one number left in my phone, and that was of this business mentor. And I called him and I did try and bullshit my way through the call and get him to send me some money for some excuse that I made up that I really needed it for. And he did. He said to me a sentence that changed my life forever. He said, “Luke, you’re a crackhead.”

0:29:37.2 LW: And although I’d never done crack, Wayne, that really just cut through everything. That was the story I was telling myself, all that bullshit I’ve been telling myself; I was fine, I wasn’t like my mom, it will get back on track, I’ll rebuild things, I’m not as bad as that guy. I’m not as bad as the guy on the park bench. Well, eventually, I was the fucking guy on the park bench. Eventually, I did get there. I wasn’t homeless and the stereotypical park bench, but I was literally sitting on a park bench in that moment. And that’s the thing, we don’t think we’re gonna get there and we are gonna get that bad, but I’ll tell you and the audience what my therapist always used to tell me. She used to say, “Luke, yet, you are not there yet.” And that’s one thing to really bear in mind, because everything is escalating and you are going down that continuum. And for me, when my friend said, “Luke, you’re a crackhead,” that broke all my denial.

0:30:32.9 LW: And slowly, those rose-tinted glasses just got broken and I saw the world in HD, and I was like, “Fuck, I’m just like my mum.” I’m drinking and using drugs every day, I’m gonna end up dead, just like her. I’m gonna end up dead just from drinking and using drugs. I don’t wanna do this anymore. So sometimes, people need a big wake up call and sometimes they get the wake up call earlier. I mean, one of the big wake up calls a lot of my clients experience is when their partner sits them down and goes, “Wayne, if you drink or use drugs anymore, we are over. I can’t take this anymore.” They give them what I call the stop or else talk. That kind of somewhat ultimatum of, you can’t keep doing this, you can’t keep coming home at 4:00 in the morning and being out with clients all the time.

0:31:19.4 LW: And that partner is normally a big enough wake up call for them to go to therapy or get help. But it could be losing your first relationship because of drink or drugs. It could be losing your first job to drink or drugs, or it could be your tenth relationship or your tenth job that you’ve lost. But I think it’s important to recognize that things aren’t getting any better, and when you start to get those signals, really take a step back. That’s why I said, have a couple of days off work, where you reflect on things and start to see what’s going on. And yes, that’s hard. That takes a lot of courage to really have that perspective and to really look at the damage we’re doing and how much drugs we’re doing and drinking. That takes a lot of courage to do that, but it’s really, really important and it can 100%, as I’m living proof, change your life.

0:32:11.9 WB: If I’m a friend observing somebody that I’m suspicious is addicted to substance, do I just speak openly to them? Should I be worried about triggering an anger rage, or is there anything I should be mindful of before I approach them?

0:32:30.7 LW: Yeah. So I think one of the most important things is make sure they’re not drinking or doing drugs at the time. That can be a definite thing to be mindful of initially. Also bear in mind if they’re on lag, they’re really hung-over or how they’re feeling, try not to go in there full force, just with loads of shame and guilt, when they’re at their lowest. Wait till they’re kind of fairly balanced and talk about it from your perspective rather than saying, “Wayne, you’re doing drugs, you’re drinking, you’re a crackhead. You’re fucking everything up. You’re doing this.” Try and explain it from your perspective.

0:33:08.1 LW: So I’d say to you, “Wayne, I’ve been seeing that your drinking and drug user is getting really, really challenging. That’s been affecting your work, and it makes me feel really sad to see you going down this path and to see things getting worse. I really don’t want you to get to the point where you’re losing things in your life, Wayne. That’s really, really challenging for me to see. I really want the best for you and I want to help you. What do you need to get things back on track, and what can we do to help you?” And just letting them know that you see, and what your perspective is, without saying, “You should do this,” or “You’re that,” or “You’re this.” Just really coming from your point of view and being empathetic and understanding and giving them that kind of jolt and wake up call to let them know that their behavior is getting worse. You’re aware of it, you’ve noticed it. At some level, it’s been ticking over in their mind and they’re aware of it, so it will kind of resonate with them in terms of the negative consequences that can sometimes come from that. So, they can get defensive if they’re not ready. They can be like, “I’m not as bad as that person. I’m not that bad yet.”

0:34:16.6 LW: And if that happens, it’s important for you to take a step back and understand. You can’t force anyone to do anything. You can’t force them to make the change. Maybe they need to go and lose another relationship or another job or bang their head against the wall another time. But just to let them know that you’re there for them to support them if you want to be, and to support them along the journey and to really talk to them straight up and just tell them the truth with what’s going on, with some compassion in there as well.

0:34:45.0 WB: It’s really about being empathetic, compassionate, and going in with the genuine desire to support them, I guess.

0:34:52.6 LW: Yeah, yeah. I think like with my friend who said, “Luke, you’re a crackhead,” he genuinely said that from love and care. He’d built his own business and he’d been on his own journey with drink and drugs and he was saying it from a place of love and care, and that he genuinely saw how much potential I had and was saying it from a place of love. So also, if you’re on the other side, bear that in mind that the person is coming from a place of love and care, they’re not trying to brand you or shame you or anything like that. They care about you. And that’s what my friend did. I saw that, at that time. I was like, yes. In that moment, I thought, “Oh, you prick, why are you saying that to me?” But I also understood it came from a place of love and care, and it was well intentioned. He wanted the best for me. He wanted me to have that wake up call. So, having that positive intent and care for someone is really, really a key to the whole process.

0:35:43.3 WB: Yeah. There’s a word, judgment, which keeps popping into my mind as you’re talking. And if I’m talking with somebody that’s addicted, I guess they’re going to feel that I’m judging them. So, as part of being compassionate, empathetic, I need to be mindful that I’m not coming across as judgmental, I presume.

0:36:04.2 LW: Yeah, yeah. Exactly, exactly. And I think that helps from my perspective as a counselor, because I’ve been there, I’ve done loads of drugs, I’ve drunk loads. I know what it’s like to be in that situation, so there’s no judgment. It’s understanding. It’s like I completely get it. I’ve been there, at 4:00 in the morning, doing lines of coke, whatever it is. I understand how challenging it is, but I just don’t want that for the people who I come into contact with in my life, because I understand people can die from addiction, as mom did, and I don’t want that to happen and I wanna make it my last mission to stop that. So when I talk to people, it comes from that empathetic place, and without judgment. So, trying to…

0:36:44.7 LW: If you’re talking to a friend or a colleague, explain that and explain that it doesn’t come from a place of judgment, it’s just what you see in your perspective, and explaining, “No, it’s my perspective that I see that you’re drinking and using drugs five nights of the week. How do you feel about that? Do you think that’s a bit much, Wayne? Do you think that that’s an acceptable level?” And asking them the question. And they’re gonna be like, “No, it never used to be that bad. It’s actually getting… Got more because everything’s been really stressful or whatever.” And then explain to them, say, “Look, it’s getting bad. Maybe it’s something I can be here to support you through and we can get the right support in place, and you can get through it.”

0:37:24.0 WB: Another point that pops out when I listen to what you’re saying is, I need to be ready to be there and support them as opposed to just come along and make the statement, “Hey, this is what I’m seeing.” I also should be the person that says, “How can I assist? Can I assist?” Is that always the case?

0:37:44.3 LW: Yeah. So you don’t have to necessarily make that commitment necessarily. But it is… Normally, if you want to have the conversation, you’re gonna be close enough to that person to wanna make that commitment. If you’re their boss or you’re their friend, you’re gonna be there to support them and help them, and you’re gonna wanna help them through that journey. And that’s also okay. Like my friend, he did help me. He helped me. I used to go and work in his office. I didn’t even work for his company or anything like that, but I didn’t have an office anymore and I was just one person trying to get my life back on track. And I used to go travel an hour to sit in his office every single day and just have a desk at the end of the office. And I used to go there every single day and he did support me to get my life back on track. And I built up my own business again and changed things around and got things back on track. But he did support me. He didn’t charge me any money. He was just there to support me every single day as I went through the journey. And you don’t have to take on a big commitment, it’s just thinking about the resources you have in order to support someone. And also, if it’s in the company context, what does the company resources can you use? Will they pay for a support or a recovery program for that person to go through? Will they pay for rehab for that person to go through?

0:39:00.2 LW: What resources can you have in terms of time, money, or emotional support, or can you go and do sober activities with that person and say, “Look, we’re not gonna go out for client drinks, we’re gonna go for golf, and we can have the morning off work, and we’re gonna go for golf instead, and we’re not gonna have any drinks.” Can you do a sober activity with them or help them build that more into their life?

0:39:20.3 WB: Thinking now post, hence where the recovery is underway, how do you go about rebuilding the trust and the relationships? I imagine there’s a lot of ego that’s still playing out, and how do you win back that trust and rebuild the relationships?

0:39:39.7 LW: So I think one of the most important things with trust is, when the trust gets eroded, it’s because we’re lying about drinking and using drugs. We say, oh, we’re not gonna go out, or we’ll be home at 10:00. We walk in at 4:00 in the morning. And there’s loads of different times where we’ve eroded that trust. So when we’re rebuilding it, it’s really important to stick to your word and stick to your commitment. So if you say you’re gonna just go for lunch, then make sure you do that and only commit to things with your partner or your boss or the person you’re trying to rebuild trust with, to things you can actually do. If it’s unreasonable, then say that and say, “Look, I’m not quite sure, I don’t know what time I’ll be home. I’ll do my best to get home when I can.” Try and say things that you can commit to. Don’t say again, “I’m gonna be home by 10:00,” and then not be there. Or say, “Yeah, I went out, I didn’t do coke. I promise, darling. I didn’t do coke.” And then she finds a baggie with coke in your pocket. And then she’s like, well, clearly, you did do coke and you just lied to me yet again.

0:40:40.3 LW: So it’s really important to obviously tell the truth. I know that that sounds obvious, but it’s really challenging sometimes when you’re used to lying, and it just rolls off the tongue so quickly. So definitely making commitments you can stick to, and even if that means micro commitments, even just little things like, “Yes, darling, I’ll do the dishes today,” actually making sure you go and do the dishes and you stick to that commitment. Because even those little things will build up your word and she’ll be thinking in her mind, “Oh, he’s sticking to the things he said. He said he’s gonna take out the trash. He did it. He said he’s gonna do the dishes. He did it. He’s starting to build his word and stick to those commitments, which is really, really important to rebuild the bridge.” And two more things on my mind. So the other one is, it can be really important to rebuild the word with yourself. We lie to ourselves so much, and I lie to myself, “Oh, I’m not gonna drink that much tonight.” And then, yeah, again, lo and behold, we’re hammered. Or, “I’m not gonna go and do coke tonight. Definitely not tonight, I’m never doing it again. It’s definitely not happening.” And then we go and do it. So, rebuilding the word to ourself is really, really important to know that we can start to stick to the things we say we’re going to, because we lie to ourselves so much.

0:41:53.0 LW: So, to start to rebuild that word is really important. And that really ties into the next point, because sometimes, Wayne, what happens is a client will be doing really, really well, they’re getting their drink and drug use under control, they’re going along the journey, but their partner will doubt them and be like, “No, I don’t believe you. You used drugs tonight. You definitely did that.” And that’s a really tricky situation, because for the partner, they’ve seen it so many times, they don’t know what to believe and they’re still rebuilding the trust. So, their perspective is valid. And for the person in recovery and the client I’m working with, they’re thinking, “How dare you? I’ve been doing so well. I haven’t done any drugs in loads of weeks. How dare you doubt me? You don’t have faith in me, you don’t believe in me. How dare you shoot me down?”

0:42:36.9 LW: And there can also be that little voice that goes, “Well, she thinks I’ve done it, so I’m gonna go and do it anyway.” And that can be really, really challenging. Both people have a valid perspective. She does because she’s seen it a hundred times and she’s still rebuilding the trust. He also does because he has done really well and he definitely hasn’t done coke, and he knows that. So it can be really challenging on both parts, but that’s why the word with yourself is so important. Because if someone around you doubts you and you know you haven’t done it, you can look them dead in the eye and go, “Wayne, I definitely did not drink and do drugs.” And if whether they believe you or not, you know what you did. And yes, they may not believe you that time, but they’ll hear it in your tonality and your voice and your behavior.

0:43:21.1 LW: And in their mind, they’ll be like, “Maybe he didn’t do drugs,” because you have that confidence. You’re just unshakeable. And over time, you’ll build that confidence within yourself and you’ll just know, when I say I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it. If you ask me or anyone asks me, “Luke, you did coke last night, and you drink loads,” I’ll be like, “No I didn’t, because I don’t use drugs. I’ve been clean for many years.” So, it’s just obvious to me and I just have that conviction and that confidence. So in order to rebuild trust, it’s really important to rebuild the trust and the word with yourself, and then now overflow to the people around you.

0:43:56.3 WB: There’s an expression I’ve heard many times through different psychologists in particular, a lot of the addictions come through fear of not being enough. Guess that could be a trigger, what you were just saying. There could be a trigger, again, that I’m doing my best, but still it’s not enough to convince my partner, to convince my boss. It leads me back down the path of… Back down the drug path, back down the alcohol path. So, your point’s really valid. I feel that we need to be consciously aware of our inner dialogue and the conversation that we’re constantly having with ourselves to really start to change the language that we’re using with ourself and really somehow find that positive rather than the negative.

0:44:49.7 LW: Yeah. And it’s easier said than done. It’s not always so simple, but definitely building that word and that conviction with yourself is really important. And understanding that dynamic I just explained, understand what your partner’s going through. Okay, yep, I know it’s hard to sit with, but I did fuck up loads of times. So, she has a point to think that it may have happened this time ’cause I have lied seven million times in the past, so I can understand her perspective. And even if you can have the awareness to do that, just to look her in the eye and go, darling, I did not use drugs. I stuck to my boundaries. I stuck to my word. Just give me a hug. It’s okay. And just give her a hug, and watch her kind of melt and melt into that trust.

0:45:31.3 WB: Do you have any influences in your world that you rely on today, that helps you stay the course? You’ve been seven years on the recovery journey. I guess you’ve built a network of people around you that are there, that offer the support. Is that how you continue to move forward, or…

0:45:52.8 LW: Yeah. So in terms of the people around me and my support network, I discovered a lot of mentors early on. Peter Sage was one of them, and he actually came on the podcast. He has been one of my biggest mentors. And I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of people to help me stay on track, and a lot of mentors like [0:46:11.9] ____, a lot of podcasts myself. So that’s one of the things that really helps me. Also, I do journaling. So, journaling’s really important to have that internal dialogue and speak and have that internal conversation in a way to process my own emotions. I also have a lot of hobbies that I do and a lot of friends outside of business and therapy. So I go out on my bike. I went out the other weekend when the sun was out, which was lovely. I went out on my bike and I’m with all my biking friends, on my cycle bike.

0:46:41.4 LW: And they don’t know much about counseling or business, and I just completely have fun with them, talking about completely unrelated stuff. And then I have my counseling friends who support me, ’cause counseling can sometimes be a lonely place. So it’s important to have other counselors who you talk to. So I have a network of a few friends who I communicate on that level. And then I have my business friends who’s like the mentor I spoke about. We’re still very good friends now. And I have a few other mentors that I have around me that mentor me in business, which is really, really important, to help me stay on track and be growing my business. And then lastly, there’s therapy. I’m still in therapy to this day. My goal is to do 10 years of therapy, and I’m at year number seven. So I’m gonna do 10 years of therapy. So I still have my own therapy on a regular basis to process my own emotions, to reflect on things, to grow in my own self and to work on different things in my life.

0:47:36.3 LW: And I think that’s really a good sign of any coach or any counselor, is if you ask them, what are you working on? They should be able to tell you and say, “Yep, I’m still in the trenches. This is what I’m working on.” If they go, “Pfft, I’m fixed. I’m at no risk of doing drugs. I’m perfect, Wayne. I’m invincible,” then you’ve got worries. I’m just the same as everyone else. I’m in the trenches, I’m doing the work on myself. So my mentors would be all those different categories. People in my biking world, in my business world, in my therapy world, my counselor, also my partner. She’s a big support for me. And having those people to help me stay on track is really, really important.

0:48:14.9 WB: Yeah. Fully concur with you. In our coaching area, we call it our personal board of directors, not from an addiction or a therapy point of view, but from a coaching point of view. Luke, if you were to give any final closing suggestion, particularly for the leaders listening, is there anything you would say to them that would sort of give them some hope or guidance about the future in dealing with potential for some of their employees with substance abuse?

0:48:47.8 LW: So I think when it comes to an employee, the one thing I’d recommend is if you’re starting to spot some of the signs, is recognize that it’s important to have that conversation with them, to have a think about the support that the company offers or that you feel like you can give them, and the resources, and ask them some of the things they need. Recommend that they have a bit of a plan to get things under control. Approach the conversation, see if they want to make a change, and then help them make that change for a few months. If they’re putting in the effort, they go into therapy and they’re changing things, help them in the work. Take a couple of things off their plate. Don’t let them off scot-free, but take a couple of things off their plate.

0:49:29.2 LW: Help them rearrange some of their days so they’re either coming into the office more, if that helps them, or working from home more, if that helps them. Either way can be really valuable. Allow them to have some more free time to do some more activities and hobbies, like going to take clients to golf rather than drinks, and have some more freedom during the day, and that kind of stuff. But really just having a conversation and just approaching it gently and just making them aware you’ve noticed this behavior is getting a bit out of control. Is there anything you can do to support them? And I think it’s really important to have those conversations, because it improves their performance. If everyone was managing their mental health as you know from the coaching world, then everyone’s performance would go up and they wouldn’t be hung-over and underperforming. I’ve had so many clients who I’ve worked with, who have said, “My team’s doing better because I’m doing better. I’m leading them better.” Or, who are on a team, going, “I’m performing so much better. I got a raise because I’m actually showing up at work now and I’m actually delivering and I’m not drinking and doing drugs and I’m actually building better connections with people ’cause I’m focused and I’m doing better negotiations.”

0:50:39.3 LW: So understanding the value of having those conversations and the value and the importance of really working through that stuff and taking it seriously to work on their mental health and the emotional side of things.

0:50:49.7 WB: Where can people connect with you, Luke, if they wanna learn more about what you’re up to and the work you’re doing?

0:50:57.5 LW: Yeah, perfect. So I’d say the most important place to go is that I have a free online assessment that will actually place people on that continuum and let them know how bad their drink or drug use is; if they’re at a dependent level or a binge level, or where they are. And it also guides them through different categories in their life, around their social life or their subconscious programming and tells them what are some of the contributing factors to their drinking or drug use. And they can access that at insideaddiction.co.uk/why, and that’ll tell them there about why this behavior’s going on and if it’s a problem. So I’d say that’s the best place to start, Wayne, for them to go and take that. Completely free, have a look at what’s going on, have a look at some of their behavior, answer the questions in the short self-assessment, and then go from there.

0:51:43.2 WB: Perfect. We’ll make sure we link to it in our notes. Luke Worsfold, great connecting with you, great conversation, really insightful, and I’m sure our listeners have got a lot from the discussion. All the best with your own journey, and hopefully there’s a strong network that continues to support you and… Yeah, I really admire what you’re doing and the direction you’re heading. So, congratulations and thank you.

0:52:11.8 LW: Awesome. Thanks very much, Wayne. Thanks for having me. And thanks, everyone, for listening.

[music]

0:52:17.3 S3: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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