Dear Dr Toni:
Is there such a thing truly as workaholism? My partner who is a healer in the addiction field is convinced I am a workaholic. I am a gay man in a long time partnership. We own a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, my parents are in their 80’s and need my financial assistance, and I am the primary breadwinner in my marriage so I have to work a lot in order to take care of all these people.
I don’t think I am working a lot to self medicate. I assume that is the definition of someone who has an addiction, right? Having said that, I became very ill last summer after a fluke infection set in. I was hiking in Greece with my partner and fell down a hill. A cut in my knee ended up being deeper than I had originally assessed. It became infected and I developed sepsis. I ended up in a hospital that gave me the wrong antibiotics and I went into a brief coma. My partner is a close friend of a French woman who is an internationally known actress so he reached out to her. She consulted her physician and I was medi-vacked to a hospital in England where I got the right anitbiotics and within weeks was pretty much back to normal.
I went back to work but recently I caught a cold that went into my chest because I refused to go to bed. I had a deadline to meet. So, Doc, am I a workaholic because I got sick twice in 4 months?
Am interested in your take on this.
In my book The LifeQuake Phenomenon, I address workaholism specifically as one kind of addiction that is so completely ignored in the field of addiction because we are a nation of overworked, exhausted, physically and spiritually bankrupt citizens. It is one addiction that is so easy to justify why one would sacrifice one’s well being for a compulsive behavior.
Stanford Professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote about the prevalence of people operating in corporate workplaces where it is expected to work 60 or more hours a week in his 2018 book, Dying For a Paycheck. The 40 hour workweek has all but disappeared. With all that said, I would invite you to this inquiry: Your body’s immune system is compromised right now. This infection and recent cold is trying to tell you something. When we don’t pay attention to the tap on the shoulder or the two by four, the third incident can be a deadly hit from a Mac truck, either figuratively or literally.
Take a few minutes and drop into your body. Breathe into the place that is resisting slowing down your workload. What emotion is there? Keep going deeper into it. How old is this emotion? How old were you when you first remember having this feeling? Did you feel responsible for your parents even as a child? What does the child part in your body need right now? Either visualize what he looks like or feels like. Just listen to that child. He needs to be heard or he is going to keep sabotaging you until you do hear him.
Now the last step, is to call on your Higher Self. If it helps, imagine a wise old man in your heart. Use one of your hands to connect with him by touching your chest. He is here to give you higher guidance if you are ready to hear an answer that your ego conscious mind would not be able to give you, perhaps. All you need to know is your next step. Just ask humbly to be given your next step around your work life that will support your physical and emotional well being. You don’t need the 5 year plan. Just your next step. Our higher wisdom, when the conscious mind is relaxed and quiet, can give us “out of the box aha! solutions” that the mind conditioned by childhood traumas and cultural expectations cannot.
May you thrive in your next chapter as you practice this often!