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The High-Functioning Addict—Hiding in Plain Sight

By: Michael Plahn

The High-Functioning Addict is a term used to describe an individual who may appear to have a very productive, seemingly manageable, and in some cases an almost idyllic life…on the outside. However, it is as if he/she is living a secret dual-life. One of productivity, maybe even marked with high-achievement, while the other is a life of escape through alcohol, drugs, and/or other addictions (that the addict’s family may be oblivious). This person is able to succeed in their life well enough to where the effects of their addiction(s) has not impacted the life they project to others. This article is written about alcohol and other mind-altering drugs, but other addictions may apply.

According to an article by Kristen McGuiness: Are You a High-Functioning Addict? published on the Huffington Post website, The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported in a 2007 study, that claimed 19.5 percent of all alcoholics(nearly four million people) are of the “functional” subtype.

Every high-functioning addict whom I have ever met in Recovery admits to having excruciating dark times that other addicts also report. However, my experience, both personally and professionally, is that career success and wealth can delay or even prevent the initiation of the Recovery process. Career and personal successes, wealth, power and ego-inflation stemming from an impressive title or elite social circles can actually defer the emotional and spiritual pain that is typically involved with an addicted individual’s willingness to seek help. An addict’s type of career can even seemingly promote over-indulgence and make certain behavior (as long as it is not egregious) acceptable, if it is for the good of the firm.

Some high-functioning addicts have the means to take extraordinary measures to keep the pain away. This is exemplified by one Recovering addict, who asked to remain anonymous, who stated, “I knew an eight-figure guy who bought a new car every two months to get enough juice to keep the pain away; it actually worked for a while.”

Having a high-functioning person with elevated status (be it a celebrity or someone respected in a professional community) come forward about his/her struggles and subsequent Recovery is rare. Anonymity has been synonymous with most successful Recovery. Instead, we hear about the horror stories, PR nightmares, and tragedies of celebrities and professional athletes.

However, recently Chicagoans were privy to a very public admission of a struggle with addiction. A letter was posted on the WGN-TV website, written by evening news anchor Mark Suppelsa, where he admitted to having a problem with alcohol and was voluntarily entering Hazelden’s Center City, MN location for treatment. He returned a month later, as planned, and received overwhelming support from viewers, fans, colleagues, and management at WGN. The brief letter defined a very secretive high-functioning individual who was finally ready to seek help.

I am an Addiction Recovery Expert and someone who was once a high-functioning addict who understands that a high-achieving addict has tremendous responsibility. At LifeSkills Authorities, LLC. (“LSA”), I help families and self-referring individuals find appropriate help for addiction, depression, anxiety, and related issues. While it may be obvious to others and recommended by professionals to take an extended leave of absence, at LSA we look at each situation individually to find the most appropriate and realistic solution for the afflicted individual and those affected by their affliction to begin the Recovery process.

Without professional help and a well-designed and appropriate plan that is respected by the bright high-functioning person, the request to seek help usually stops abruptly. If you want a positive outcome and a plan that will help a high-functioning addict begin to recover, contact LSA now to learn about The LSA Pre-Treatment Solution and our other individualized approaches to solving our clients’ concerns.

LifeSkills Authorities, (LSA) helps individuals and families who suffer from the effects of addiction, depression, mood disorders, chronic pain and/or aging issues. LifeSkills Authorities is unmatched in its role as an objective advocate that creates a customized plan and blueprint for recovery.  This personalized solution ends the needless suffering and brings about healing and positive change for the afflicted individual, family, and loved ones.  LifeSkills Authorities is based in the Chicagoland area and serves clientele nationwide.

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Sober Zombies…Recovery can be Miserable

By:  Michael Plahn

Addiction can be a terminal disorder.  The statistics for success typically focus on or involve abstinence.  I have known many many people over the years who have struggled with recovery from various addictions (some statistics show abstinence rates under 15%).  So, for a person who suffers from addiction to be abstinent (after following most of the well-known paths of recovery), is truly remarkable.  But, is abstinence all that matters?  Not if you are a Sober Zombie like I was a little over ten years ago.

I am open about my experience of being abstinent, but miserable.  I actually got worse when I stopped drinking and using drugs.  I was abstinent for over nine months, and precisely following the suggestions of a mentor in a well-known lay program, regularly meeting with my psychologist and psychiatrist, taking the medications exactly as prescribed, exercising 5-6 days/week, and living a moral life.  The result?  I was abstinent (which was miraculous), but to say I was miserable is a drastic understatement.  I was in so much emotional pain that I began to pray for the willingness to take my own life.  Thankfully I was not suicidal, but I was absolutely miserable with no hope of better days on the horizon.  I was, what I recently heard described as a Sober Zombie.

That was in 2000-2001 and I would have paid any amount of money, traveled anywhere in the world, and done anything someone told me, if they claimed to have a potential solution for me.  I was dead inside and desperate for help.  I spoke with my Psychiatrists and Psychologist, asked around, called physicians, tried to research, but I could not find an approach that seemed to offer me hope or a solution.  Eventually, I was even told by my Psychologist and Psychiatrist in joint meeting that they did not know what else to do for me…they had tried everything.  What the hell was I supposed to do after that session?!

Well, my story is one filled with grace and the intuition that a team of professionals, assembled in a holistic manner, might be able to help me.  As many know, this pain and desperation actually led to the birth of LifeSkills Authorities and our comprehensive approach to Recovery Coaching (although I sure didn’t know it at the time).

Through a series of events, I began personally assembling a team of qualified professionals (personal trainer, nutrition consultant, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Internist, and a mentor), and stumbled onto a different path offering a different way to live in recovery.  I made it and live an amazing life now.  But, most who are like me 10+ years ago (fortunate and blessed to be abstinent, but utterly lost and hopeless), are likely in trouble.  Many who experience even close to what I went through in my first year without alcohol, return to their addiction of choice out of self-preservation or, tragically, have a much worse fate.

I was an extreme example of a Sober Zombie (this descriptor is so eerily spot-on).  Over the years I have known and still regularly see many miserable recovering people.  Some fly under the radar, accumulating year after year of abstinence and go about their lives with a sad quiet desperation.  While others are so miserable that they seem to have a mission to make everyone they encounter miserable too.  Do you know anyone life this?

If you are living with or know a Zombie who is trying to convert others to the ‘walking dead,’ please contact us now.  Most of these people have bravely fought addiction (and are among the small percentage who are still abstinent) and now accumulate months and years of ‘clean time.’  To their family, many physicians, and other observers (even those in the helping fields), they notice the obvious, the person no longer drinks, uses drugs, or has abstained from their previous addiction(s) of choice.  Since abstinence is such an influential barometer for success, Zombies may get a pass for dysfunctional behavior because they have not yet fallen back into their addictive patterns of old.  But, without help, Zombies will hone the skill of pushing away those who love them the most, sabotage careers, and alienate the friends or professionals who may be their only life-lines to a better life.  But, most importantly, Zombies can get to a point where they will argue that they know what is better for them…even more-so than the world’s experts.

So, what’s the future for a Sober Zombie?  Not good!!  Honestly, my guess would be that most return to a life of active addiction our of mere self-preservation to make the pain leave (even for a moment).  So, if you know someone you think may be miserable in recovery, please get them in touch with me personally.  The LSA Recovery Coaching advantage has been called, “A guardian angel for anyone suffering from addiction or related issues,” for a reason…we have the antidote for the Sober Zombie.  LSA’s Recovery Crisis and Recovery Care programs can turn Sober Zombies into vibrant, healthy, peaceful, and joy-filled examples of recovery…a life that should not be missed.  Contact us now to help yourself,  a loved one, or someone you know before it is too late.

 

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The Addiction Solution

By:  Michael Plahn

This may be the most important article on alcohol or substance abuse (or addiction) you will ever read.  This may finally be the formula for solving the addiction issue in your family?  Strangely enough, the answer is straightforward and simple in theory.  However, why does it seem that many afflicted with addiction and/or mental illness, who want to recover, continue to suffer, even after professional treatment?  Are you aware that some success rates are less than 10%?  Don’t those low efficacy rates seem absurd?

If you want to solve the addiction issue in your family, once and for all, here is the formula I’d recommend:

  • Hire a qualified objective professional to be your family’s personal advocate throughout the entire process and to help you select the appropriate level of treatment to offer to your addicted loved-one
  • Have this same qualified objective professional recommend potential solutions for you and other family members such as Family Intensives (treating the entire family system is often overlooked)
  • Have the hired professional liaise with potential treatment facilities that can execute appropriate treatment programs to meet the needs of your addicted loved-one (have your advocate help you narrow the options to 2-3 qualified facilities)
  • Have a professional execute a compassionate and dignified form of Intervention/Family Meeting to present the treatment options in a loving manner
  • Contract with the same professional to accompany your addicted loved-one to the selected facility and prepare him or her for an optimal beginning to treatment (this is much more than just getting them there safely…Contact LSA to learn how we do this and why it is so essential)
  • Follow a continuum of care recommended by the professionals and needed by your afflicted family member (Primary treatment, Extended Care, Outpatient, or Customized Aftercare specific to the individual’s needs) as recommended by the treatment facility and professional advocate initially hired by the family
  • Have the family commit to Family Intensives, individual, group, and/or 12-Step help for a minimum of six-months
  • Engage with a customized multi-disciplinary program (that incorporates a 12-Step program) such as LSA’s Recovery Coaching to help your afflicted loved-one to re-acclimate to the ‘Real World’ and continue to grow, change, and stay supported throughout his or her first year of Recovery

If you, and your family take all of these suggestions, then your family and afflicted loved-one will change more than you will ever believe right now.  I’m serious!  I hear a ton of excuses as to why an individual or family cannot commit to certain actions.  And, guess what?  Those people continue to suffer.  True, it is their choice, but it does not have to be their destiny.

Sadly, but understandably, most families affected by a family member’s addiction and behavior don’t believe their loved-one will really ever embrace help and change.  However, if you follow the aforementioned actions leading up to and through the entrance into an appropriate treatment facility, you will be absolutely amazed.  If you follow all of the aforementioned recommendations, it is very possible that I will be reading an inspirational book you write about the process because of the dramatic change you and your family gratefully experience.

But, that means, no short cuts! If anyone deviates from the plan (especially the addicted family member), don’t be surprised if there is a relapse, your family goes back to status quo, falls apart, or worse.  I know this sounds rigid and dramatic, but this is a terminal disease that will also rip apart the fabric of the family.  This is one of the many reasons that qualified professional help is so essential.

I am hired to provide solutions for individuals, families, and businesses…many times for individuals who are especially defiant and difficult.   Contact LSA to allow me to stop the pattern of misery and destruction addiction has caused in your life or in the life of someone you know through The LSA Pre-Treatment Solution and LSA Recovery Coaching.

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Rehab Work?

By:  Michael Plahn

This is not a simple question to answer.  There are several variables that affect the answer.  What level of treatment, Outpatient or Residential?  Does the alcoholic or addict have a Co-Occurring diagnosis (additional disorder or mental illness).  Did the addict enter treatment willingly or were they coerced to enter the program?  Was the treatment program an appropriate fit to address the salient presenting issues?  What kind of Extended Care or Aftercare program was followed?  Get the idea?  This is a complex issue, so if you want a successful outcome, work with an objective professional available at LifeSkills Authorities.

As I discussed recently, there are several levels of addiction treatment or ‘Rehab’ (read further about this in: How to Select an Appropriate Level of Addiction Treatment). For this article, let’s use the example of Inpatient Residential Treatment.  I read studies that reference abstinence rates from as low as 5% to 60%.  That is a huge disparity and the success rates seem pretty poor, don’t they?  Where is the 90+% that I’m guessing you want to know about if you have a loved-one suffering from addiction?

This question led me to develop LSA’s Pre-Treatment Solution and LSA Recovery Coaching (a 52-week Aftercare program).  These programs combined with appropriate levels of addiction treatment will lead to what I hope will be success rates that top 90% and become the new Gold Standard to treating these chronic disorders.

Back to the simple and original question, ‘Does Rehab Work?’  Last Friday evening, actor Rob Lowe was asked that same question on  Piers Morgan Tonight.  Mr. Lowe confidently answered the question by stating, “Rehab gets a bad name…it can be an amazing experience.” He went on to say “Charlie (Sheen) is wrong (for saying that Addiction Treatment does not work),…it does work.” Lowe also suggested that it (Professional Addiction Treatment) does work if you take the actions suggested by the counselors and staff, NOT if you follow your own rules.

I agree with Lowe’s position that ‘Rehab’ or Addiction Treatment does work, despite the poor numbers discussed in the beginning of this entry. It breaks the addictive cycle, begins healing underlying issues, and objective professionals formulate a plan for you to continue changing and staying abstinent.  Admittedly, without competent treatment facilities such as Caron, Promises, Casa Palmera, The Canyon, Rosecrance, and the several available through Treatment Solutions Network, it may be difficult to even establish a beginning.  But ‘Rehab’ is a beginning, not a cure.

I am confident that the key to finding long-term recovery from addiction is to have a comprehensive plan with competent professional help for no less than six months, and preferably one year post-discharge from treatment.  Believe me, it will save you a lot of heartache, pain, money, and maybe your life if you follow this suggestion.  Contact LSA to find out how we can help you or your loved one today.

 

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Tough Love: Helpful or Hurtful?

By: Michael Plahn

‘Tough Love’ has been recommended for families affected by addiction and untreated mental illness for years.  It has been the catalyst for greatly improving the lives of people I know very well.  I have also seen this backfire and become the impetus for further misery and even tragedy.

I see this topic divide, fragment, and many times disintegrate families.  What is the best approach for you and your family?  Only you (and your family) can make those decisions.  You have to live with the decisions and the repercussions of your actions.

For sake of example, let’s use the case of Paul, a 24 year-old male who has suffered from what Mom calls Depression (but he has never been diagnosed by an appropriate professional) and abused alcohol & drugs since he was 16 years-old.  He has been to two local Outpatient Addiction Treatment programs (for alcohol, cocaine, and opiate abuse) in the past five years.  However, after completion of each program, he relapsed each time within weeks of discharge.  Paul, currently unemployed, lives with his mother, father and younger sister (Angela 17 years-old).  Paul is verbally abusive to his entire family at times, and is currently using opiates (Vicodin, Oxycontin, and heroin), cocaine, and alcohol.

Dad, loves his son, but is frustrated and wants Paul out of the house unless he is sober and holds a full-time job.  Mom is upset with her son’s behavior, but concerned for Paul’s safety if she does not help him.  She cannot bear to see her baby boy “in the streets.” Paul manipulatively threatens, “if you throw me out, I’ll likely get killed in the streets.”  Angela loves her brother, but they rarely speak anymore.  Mom and Dad have warred for years over Paul and what to do for him and with him.  First Dad was supportive, but now he is intolerant and has begun to detach from the family.  There is a constant state of tension, but silence in the home and the parents’ relationship has suffered significantly.  Mom and Dad do not interact much, but if they do it is typically a verbal battle about Paul.

What should this family do?  I know individuals who were asked (in a ‘Tough Love’ approach) to either accept help and enter a reputable treatment facility (such as PromisesCaron, or Treatment Solutions Network approved programs), or leave the family home immediately.  That was just the beginning, but many are now happy and living amazing drug-free lives for several years.  They credit their parents’ refusal to allow them to live in the family home unless they were sober (and some gainfully employed) as the key event that lead to their long-term recovery.  Some were even required to take random drug screens as a condition to stay under their parents’ roof.  These individuals would tell Mom and Dad to “Kick Paul out if he is not willing to enter an appropriate treatment facility OR immediately stop using, attend 12-Step Meetings, and have a full-time job in a week.”

But, is that really the appropriate solution for this scenario with Paul and his family?  Will it work?  It’s not that simple.  Addiction and mental illness are much more complex issues than they may appear.  Honestly, if Paul could stop on his own, he likely would have long ago (there is very little fleeting pleasure at that stage of addiction).  True, there are success stories with a rigid consequential approach, but this can also be a very dangerous approach for some individuals.  Richard Rawson, associate director of UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs claimed in a piece by ABC-News that coercive or confrontational approaches actually push the afflicted away from treatment.

Trust me, this could be an extremely complicated situation.  What works for one individual or their family may not have the same result for Paul’s family (or yours for that matter).  Let’s say that Paul was physically abused by his uncle (when Paul was 8-9 years-old).  What if he had a physical handicap during adolescence and as a result he was ridiculed and teased by his peers?  Either of these issues could change this situation significantly and may make Paul much more fragile than the family realizes.

These examples of underlying trauma are also likely to affect his ability to find long-term recovery.  If they are not addressed, it is likely that Paul will struggle and repeat dysfunctional patterns.  There is significant research that shows an extremely high percentage of addicted persons have also experienced some level of trauma  (which may be an underlying issue propelling the addiction).  At The Meadows, a facility that specializes in treating underlying causes of addiction such as trauma, they understand this reality.  Sadly, many people, minimize the significance of how trauma can negatively affect treatment outcomes and long-term recovery efforts.

If you were Paul’s Mom, I would recommend that you engage a qualified objective professional who can assist in determining an appropriate treatment facility and executing a compassionate loving process to intervene on your son. A competent professional would suggest solutions for the entire family’s treatment, not just Paul.  Granted, I’m biased, but LSA’s Pre-Treatment Solution is an ideal fit for this family’s situation.

There may be good reason to protect yourself and others in your home by asking an afflicted family member, who is acting dangerously, to leave.  But, as mentioned, this is more complicated than many well-meaning lay-people realize.  If you are going to embrace a ‘Tough Love’ stance, then please make sure you have professional guidance, that the family agrees as a group not to cave under manipulation, and become willing to accept the potential consequences of your ‘Tough Love’ approach.

 

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Secrets, Addiction, Mental Illness, and The Private Family

By:  Michael Plahn

“This is a family problem and should be dealt with in private” –A concerned person referring to a family member who is struggling with active addiction or untreated mental illness.

This can be a sentiment that I encounter when speaking with families who are struggling with addiction and/or untreated mental illness.  Some families are more protective of their privacy than others.  For some, allowing anyone into the family’s issues, even confidential professionals, can be a challenge.  So, when addiction and mental illness reach a crisis point, without the right counsel, a family can choose to ignore the issue or take other unfortunate paths (such as confronting the afflicted member without objective professional guidance) to protect their privacy.  This is why LSA’s extremely confidential, single point of contact Pre-Treatment Solution can be so appealing to families who are concerned with privacy.

I know recovering individuals who are comfortable telling anyone and everyone about their recovery (and previous addiction).  I have watched celebrities speak about how they have personally recovered or someone in their family has successfully overcome addiction.  Recently, I watched a very grateful Carol Burnett on Piers Morgan Tonight speak about her daughter’s recovery from addiction.  I have listened to highly educated lecturers in the’ helping professions’ outline the importance of eliminating secrets within the family as a necessity to creating a healthy family system.  I know colleagues who have a strong belief that if family secrets are not eliminated, there is virtually no chance of lasting recovery (the addict will suffer or die, and the family will disintegrate).

Personally, I think that stories of recovery are needed and give the suffering some much needed hope.  I agree that secrecy (over the long-term and used as a defense mechanism) can be a huge impediment to positive change.  However, I appreciate and understand the very real need many families have, to be reassured that they are working with competent professionals who respect the confidentiality and privacy of their clients.  More directly put, these people do not want their family business ending up as public fodder.

Many times, what a concerned caller is trying to articulate is that they do not know where to begin or how many of these ‘confidential professionals’ (some of whom belong to the same social clubs and can be seen at the same community activities) may be involved in helping the family member in trouble .  What about the family that has celebrity status, a very prominent name, or a professional who does not want his or her career destroyed by ‘loose-lips.’  In cases like these, if the concerned family member(s) knew of a single point of contact who could be the family’s confidential advocate, with their best interest in mind, to navigate the entire process, they very well may seek help.  I have personally experienced very cautious and private individuals gratefully embrace LSA’s Pre-Treatment Solution as they were told how it worked.

The LSA Pre-Treatment Solution guides and assists families and businesses through the entire process of helping an afflicted family member or colleague.  It truly is a total solution…especially for the family or business concerned about privacy.  This program enables a family or business to have a single source of contact (the LSA Specialist), guide and assist the concerned family member, in a calm confident manner.

Immediately following formal engagement, the LSA Specialist follows a systematic process to help formulate a comprehensive picture and answer the questions needed to properly assist the family.  As discussed in a previous two-part LSA Blog feature, determining the appropriate level of treatment and potential facilities to execute the necessary treatment and therapies is a major undertaking (not recommended for a family member to tackle without objective professional help).  This responsibility would not fall directly on the shoulders of the concerned family member (a point where many individuals find themselves giving up), as the LSA Specialist is now their personal objective advocate who will assist and guide them to find realistic solutions to the numerous questions surrounding this topic.

This same LSA Specialist organizes and facilitates an open compassionate approach to intervening on the afflicted person and has all the logistical questions answered before the Family Meeting/Intervention takes place.  Amazingly, even the most defiant addicted/afflicted person willingly says yes and accepts help (mainly because the systematic process used was open, dignified, and offered options to the afflicted person, not coercion or demands).  The LSA Specialist moves into action again (ie., liaising with the treatment facility selected by the afflicted person and making sure they are expecting us, contacting the travel agent to let them know which flight we need booked, confirming the destination with the driver of a car already waiting outside, and then the very same LSA representative accompanying your loved-one on the entire journey).

"You Are Not Alone"

Your loved-one won’t be heading out to the treatment facility alone or asked to go with you or another family member.  LSA’s personalized accompaniment has proven to be such a significant part of our process that we insist on accompanying the afflicted person.  The trip to the treatment facility can be a frightening experience for most, as well as a time to build barriers to change and healing (usually without realizing it).  This is a key reason why LSA travels with them, from the Family Meeting/Intervention until they reach the intake room at the treatment facility.

If I am the LSA Specialist, this is one of the most profound aspects of the process for me.  It is real.  There are tears and laughter as I am bonding with them, breaking down walls, building up hope, telling them what it was like for me when I was in their position, and what they may encounter in the next few days and weeks.  This process instills hope, builds trust, and prepares them for a positive beginning to treatment.

Let’s say our destination is a Residential Treatment facility out of state, such as Promises, Casa Palmera, or Caron Renaissance.  Then, we will typically have plenty of travel time together (if the Family Meeting/Intervention is in Ohio or Minnesota).  However, even if the treatment facility selected is in-state and does not require a flight (ie., Rosecrance for someone residing in the Northern suburbs of Chicago), LSA hires a car service, allowing our focus to be on the client.  Remember, we are not just making sure your afflicted loved-one arrives, instead we are using techniques in a very casual manner to assist in making their entrance to treatment as positive an experience as possible.

The LSA representative will be present at the treatment facility’s intake meeting (with the patient’s permission) and even stays in town an additional day to check in with your loved-one the following day, to make sure things are still going well.  So, for those of you reading this who have unfortunately had a family member enter treatment multiple times, you already know how different this approach is than what you and your family have experienced.  This is truly a comprehensive solution…and the beginning of long-term recovery.

For the family who is concerned about privacy and confidentiality, I sincerely get it.  I hope you can clearly see that the LSA philosophy of helping our clients and their family members/colleagues have been filtered through this lens.  Realistically, there are still stigmas and judgment surrounding addiction and mental health issues.  And, for families that travel in certain circles, or may be in the spotlight, confidentiality and privacy is a legitimate concern.  Each family, like the individual, must find a path that works for them.  Different families will embrace recovery at different levels.  This is why it can be crucial to have a trusted adviser and personal advocate such as LifeSkills Authorities, who is adept at confidentially working with you and your family.  Don’t delay any longer, contact us now.

Copyright © 2017 — LifeSkills Authorities Blog

Contents on LifeSkillsAuthorities.com including any images, text, external links, graphics or any other material posted on this website is intended solely for informational purposes. The information contained herein is written by non-medical professionals and not a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis of any disease or disability. Please seek advice from a qualified medical professional with any questions that you may have regarding your physical or mental health condition(s). If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or any other medical emergency, dial 911 or visit your local emergency room immediately. The thoughts and views expressed here are not necessarily those of LifeSkills Authorities, its owners, employees, or management.