All Roads Lead To Rome or Home: Addressing Addiction in the Workplace
Prior to the Tiger Woods story breaking, Oprah did a show with Dr. Drew who was promoting his new intervention show on sex addiction. She opened the show with the statement (paraphrasing) that everyone has some kind of addiction, whether it be drugs, food, sex, the internet, or work. Although most people would agree with such a statement (and God only knows, when you’re in the field of addiction recovery, it seems to be true) it gave me pause to consider its validity.
In an attempt to prod corporate America to address addiction in the workplace, I have often cited examples of how this epidemic affects the bottom line beyond traditional forms of addiction such as substance abuse.
Does it go the way of the Roman Empire where gluttony and alcoholism were pervasive? America is known throughout the world as a religious nation, but are we a spiritual nation? If you go to church on Sunday, and then spend the rest of the week striving to fill a “soul hole” with substances or activities of questionable benefit, how does your spirit get fed?
Hats off to Oprah for emphasizing that without a spiritual connection, recovery is impossible. Now, if we could only translate that into the workplace more fully. I’m not suggesting that the word “God” become a corporate password. I do, however, think that as employees are being asked to work longer hours these days, hiring external consultants to open a dialogue around the root cause of addictive behavior in the workplace will substantially increase productivity. And now more than ever, this is especially true in these challenging economic times. When people are turned on to their work, they don’t need to get turned on through substance abuse or internet distractions.
Years ago, I remember watching this elderly Chinese man cleaning tables in this empty restaurant after the lunch crowd had left. Now, I know this gentleman had probably washed thousands of tables in his time, and yet he was so focused and buoyant with the task at hand. When I asked him his secret, he said, “Meditation.” It turns out that he had been a Tai Chi practitioner for many years. Perhaps traditional meditation may not have much appeal for mainstream America, but there are guided visualization techniques that can definitely be initiated by anyone that can connect an individual to his internal landscape. When people devote time to an inner life, addiction recovery is made more possible, providing the opportunity for productivity to improve.
Here are some simple tips for turning within that are not time consuming:
1) Before you get out of bed in the morning, imagine your coming day as if it is a movie. As you envision all the various details to be attended to, breathe into your belly. Experience yourself relaxed and at peace while doing the most mundane tasks at work, especially the ones that send you into frenzy or distraction.
2) Once you are at work, set a timer on your computer or cell phone to go off every three hours. When the timer goes off, find a place with some privacy (preferably in your office), sit back in your chair and close your eyes. If need be, sit in a bathroom stall. Now, turn within and notice how you are breathing. Shift your breath, so that you focus on your belly as you breathe in and out. Notice any emotions that are stuck and direct your breath into those places until they dissolve.
3) At the end of the day, before dinner or bed, sit in a chair and return to your breath. Notice where there is stress lodged in your body. Scan back over the day and intentionally release any negative feelings from events that you are still carrying with you so that you can sleep peacefully.
Normalizing addiction through the assumption “that everyone has at least one” could be a good thing if it takes away the shame and secrets most addicts carry. It becomes a slippery slope when we confuse what is normal with what is healthy. Simple stress management techniques can have a transformative effect on addictive behavior. We do not have to go the way of an ancient empire and play the fiddle as Rome burns.
Dr. Toni Galardi is a public speaker, business consultant, columnist, and author of her new book, The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive not Just Survive in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval. Her website address is http://www.LifeQuake.net