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  • Writer's pictureDoug Fleener

It Can't Be Lonely at the Top

The saying, "It's lonely at the top," is a common idiom used to describe the isolation and pressure that often come with being in a position of leadership.

As a recovering leader, your life and work are at risk if that happens.

I remember the first time I heard someone say alcoholism and drug addiction are lonely diseases. I thought, "Well, you people didn't know how to party!"

Then someone said, "I could feel alone in a crowd of 1,000 people." BAM! That hit me right square between the eyes.

I discovered that I had deep feelings of loneliness. Of not fitting in. The sense of inferiority that kept me from getting too close to people. That loneliness took me to all-nighters in crappy motels drinking and drugging alone or with other sick and lonely people.

Bill Wilson said, "Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness."

Tortured. We know where that will take us. Back to those dark places.

As a recovering leader, you need strong connections with people in recovery, and with someone, you can discuss the pressures, challenges, and opportunities you have as a leader.

That can be a friend, a mentor, or a coach.

I've been lucky enough to have some close friends with whom I could share how I felt leading organizations and companies. Interestingly enough, neither was in recovery. But they were someone I could talk to openly, honestly, and regularly. I also regularly have a coach.

Nixon said, "It's often said that it's lonely at the top, but I sure like the view." He lost that view in a spectacular crash. Keep yours. Stay close to people that help you be a sober, happy, and effective recovering leader.

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