Living with someone with an addiction to work, is still living with an addict. Of course, there is a difference between a hard working person and being a work addict. While that line might be a narrow one, what it draws is an important difference between the two issues. Hard work is what brings success, joy and the fulfillment of dreams. Work addiction brings instability, exhaustion and stress. Hard work strives to gain something. Work addiction hides from something. And that difference is all the difference. Wayne Oates created the term ‘workaholic’ over three decades ago, in his book Confessions of a Workaholic. 30 years on, we are still gathering confessions.
Having danced along that fine line myself a few years back, with very little grace or poise, I see now that I was dangerously close to becoming a permanent work addict. Being a tourist operator in a seven day a week business saw me become a borderline crazy person and downright unpleasant. My relationship had fallen apart so I worked longer hours to avoid going home to an empty house. My exhaustion and sadness tricked me into taking on more and more of a workload because I felt that I would be more valued and appreciated if I worked longer hours to get things done. Wow. I must have been slightly nuts. The long grueling hours turned me into a Grinch. No one thanked me. Hell, no one spoke to me, and I don’t blame them one bit. Everyone avoided me because I was irritable, unpleasant, foul-tempered and an absolute martyr. Luckily for me, I had a forced holiday for a family wedding, and after three weeks away, I decided to quit. I realized what that job was allowing me to do to myself and I painfully realized I was avoiding facing up to my failed relationship. Hands-down, the best decision I ever made. I needed the break from work, and work needed a break from me.
According to licensed clinical social worker, Nancy D Losinno, work addiction is a psychological issue and is most often related to stress, low self-esteem and perfectionism. She notes the following as tell-tale signs of a work addict.
- Marriage becomes serious – lacks in fun
- Work addicted partner is always rushing around, has no time for meaningful conversation
- Non work addicted spouse feels lonely, almost abandoned
- The work-addicted spouse is physically, sexually and emotionally remote
- Work addicted partner uses the ‘silent treatment’
- Work addicted partner is emotionally demanding on the family
In this digital world we live in, technology is perhaps making us more vulnerable to work addictions. We are constantly available through our phones, Ipods, Ipads, tablets, laptops and whatever else gets invented today or tomorrow. Our downtime is diminishing with technology. A study into work addiction and technology perspectives conducted by Emerald Insight found that with our increasing need for a communication device there is a definite potential to over adapt to technology and fall into a pattern of work addiction.
I was almost there a few years ago, and I still struggle with my work habits on occasion. I managed to jump back onto the right side of the fence, but if you or someone you know is not that lucky, there are support groups, forums and doctors who can provide support and advice. Don’t fight the addiction monster alone, find some support and then use it. Once you take that step your life will begin to improve. You will find that you sleep more peacefully, socialize with grace and smile just because you are happy again.
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