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Confessions of a workaholic

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Hi I am Odeta and I was (almost) a workaholic. I cured myself from it at the last moment. How I escaped is the subject of another article. But I would like to go into the symptoms and most importantly causes for this very common and contagious disease of our time.

How do you get into it?

Well, no one plans on becoming a workaholic. You get into it due to a very simple mechanism. You start by having to deal with difficult tasks’, putting a lot of effort into solving them, having your adrenaline levels raised to the max and it culminates with the social recognition’ that you might receive from your boss, client or colleagues for conquering them.

This recipe is simple but it is 100% efficient into getting you hooked on work. Of course in order to stay a workaholic you need most of all to have the ‘difficult task’ ingredient available; once there is nothing to do, it is pretty hard to stay hooked on it. The ‘social recognition’ nevertheless is an ingredient that does not need to be present every time, it is enough that our mind has recorded once that we can receive this in exchange for extreme long hours and the same mind will manage to associate, by itself, the long hours with the reward of having your boss say the two magic words “good job!”.


How do you stay a workaholic?

Remember the warm fuzzy feeling after having accomplished something and getting the praise for i? Well that feeling lasts for about 5 minutes and then the new task arrives. You find yourself falling from your tower back at the bottom: another almost impossible task you have no idea about. You feel panic for a moment and then the adrenaline kicks in again. You again need NO SLEEP; you live only off caffeine; you get to tell your colleagues when they arrive in the morning that you never left the office. Your boss sympathizes with you and tells you: “you should take it easy”. But you know that your boss does not really mean it and if you left the office, the same guy would be extremely disappointed in you if you did less than a perfect job.

After a time you start to feel good at work and you feel SAFE. After 48 hours of non-stop working you finally got the problem under control and you are not going to let go of it anymore. Your other colleagues can of course not take over now! They will mess everything up! Only you know how to do it and you know how to do it perfectly. But for this you need not to loose sight of it. Sleeping is a distraction, leaving the office is a danger… You have it totally and utterly under your control and will never let go!

You start feeling unease on the weekends and out-of-purpose on your free days. To keep your adrenaline up on the weekends where you are “not allowed to work” you might do bungee jumping or any other extreme sport just to feel that you did something useful.

How can you escape it?

 Like with any dependency, you almost cannot escape it. I know, I know, it’s work not booze or drugs, but the truth is that the effects on your social life are similar to any other drugs. You see less and less your family and your friends, you are not able to focus on anything else anymore and, most of all, you are extremely miserable without it.

There is no instant cure for workaholics, you just need to slowly but surely let go of your tasks and rediscover the  joys outside the office.

I have slowly given away a lot of my attributions and have drastically reduced my working schedule but the detox process is a long one. Last week I had a client meeting where I felt that I was loosing ground and that I was not being “irreplaceable” anymore. After the meeting I was down. I felt like going back to the office trying to do some extra work and impress them all over again show that I truly am “irreplaceable”! But I couldn’t do it, I had a meeting with a friend so I did this instead. My luck was that this friend is at the moment leading a totally different life than mine. A free life, with a lot of small diversified, exciting, activities.  This made me snap out of it once again. I know this is how I like to see myself as well: interesting and diversified.  I do not want to be boring… But the truth is fixating and obsessing over one thing is boring. Spending more time with strangers than friends is wrong and boring. Having nothing else but your work to talk about is definitely boring. And most of all defining your whole life only through your work is scary and very dangerous…


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