Christian Living

Family Matters 04/07/11

Signs You May Be a Workaholic

"It's like I married my alcoholic father. Not a day goes by in which my husband spends less than 12 hours on some assignment related to work. When we vacation, he says he wants to rest, but I always find him secretly working on his tablet. At night, he steals away to the quiet of his at-home office until wee hours of the morning. After a few hours of sleep, he's up and traveling to the real office job. I don't see him until 8:00 pm. By then the kids are in bed. He grabs a bite to eat and the cycle starts all over again. There is something terribly wrong here. Can a person be addicted to work?"

In the same way a drug addict uses pot or an alcoholic downs booze, work can have an anesthetizing effect on negative emotions. Yes, people do use work to escape and avoid unpleasant emotional states. Because hard work is sanctioned in our society, it is an addiction often overlooked. But, the fall out for the family can be just as devastating.

Our once sacred days of rest have vanished as malls and superstores stay open during Shabbat and on Sundays. Technology invades our home life. Solicitors assault us during the dinner hour. The boundary between work and home is blurred by constant interruptions from cell phones and mobile devices. This instant communiqué turns our play to work and our home fronts to alternate work sites.

Workaholism is real. But how do you know if you are simply a hard worker or a workaholic? There are signs that may help you figure that out. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you view work as a haven rather than a necessity or obligation?
  • Does work obliterate all other areas of your life?
  • Can you make the transition from the office to the little league game without guilt and constant thinking of what you need to do?
  • Do you have work scattered all over your home?
  • Do you regularly break commitments to family and friends because of deadlines and work commitments?
  • Do you get an adrenaline rush from meeting impossible deadlines?
  • Are you preoccupied with work no matter what you do?
  • Do you work long after your co-workers are finished?

If your answer to most of these questions is "yes", then it's time to reevaluate your love for work and cut back. Workaholism can bring emotional estrangement and withdrawal in your relationships. In the worst of cases, it can even lead to separation and divorce.

Children of workaholics learn they are valued for their achievements and often lack parent attention. They can show high levels of depression and tend to take on parenting roles similar to those in alcoholic homes.

So if you think you may be a workaholic, acknowledge the problem. Then, begin making small changes that limit work hours. Pay attention to other parts of life, such as your family, spirituality, play, friends, etc. Vow to spend more time doing other things. Talk to your family about balance and determine ways to be more involved. Turn off electronics when you come home and be unavailable for certain hours of the day. Leave the office at a reasonable time even if your work isn't perfect or completely finished.

Don't downplay the negative impact workaholism plays in your life. Even though you may be rewarded at work for your efforts, your family needs you more than your work does. When you’re tempted, think of that saying, "I've never met a dying person who regretted not spending more time at the office!"

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