“Workahol-ism” – A true story

Originally posted on ImprovisingMe.com

“Hello, my name is <insert name here> and I am a workaholic

The first step in recovery of a “silent” epidemic that is affecting far more people (and their loved ones) than any statistic will reveal is actually accepting the fact that you are one. How does one know if they are a workaholic? According to Workaholics Anonymous if you answer “Yes” to three or more of the following questions you may be a workaholic:

  1. Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
  2. Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can’t?
  3. Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  4. Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
  5. Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
  6. Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
  7. Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?
  8. Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?
  9. Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won’t otherwise get done?
  10. Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?
  11. Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  12. Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
  13. Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
  14. Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
  15. Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?
  16. Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  17. Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
  18. Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?
  19. Do you work or read during meals?
  20. Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?

Yes, yes, yes, yes…YES!

I would add the following questions to the list:

  1. Do you sleep less than 6 hours a day on a regular basis so you can work well into the night?
  2. Has your health gone south? -Think blood pressure, LDL/HDL’s, weight gain, etc.
  3. Do you know your health has gone south and you don’t have the time to change your lifestyle due to work?
  4. Has your wife/loved one threatened to leave you, or worse left you, due to your excessive work habits?
  5. Do your family/friends give you a hard time for being on your cell phone making calls and sending emails (even on weekends)?
  6. Do you crave Mondays during the weekend?

I could go on and on but I think you get the point…

So why am I taking the time to write about “workahol-ism”?

I have worked in the consulting industry for the past 10 years and the questions above describes nearly 50% of my co-workers. They often talk about, if not brag about, their first-40 and second-40. Their first-40 represents the work they bill to their customers and the second-40 is for all the other crap they do for work purposes.

They get up early and stay up late all for work. They take conference calls from the beach and couldn’t pay them to leave their computers home while away on vacation. Essentially, their lives are unequivocally, work-centric.

NOTE: I used consulting for example purposes, only. ”Workahol-ism” is not isolated to any one industry. I believe it is rampant in just about every industry including the government.

So for purposes of full disclosure let me tell you my story.

A little over two years ago, while on my first vacation in over a year, the right side of my face stopped working. I couldn’t blink, smile, drink, or even smoke a cigar. I was later diagnosed with Bells Palsy.

According to my physician, Bells Palsy can be caused by one of three things:

  • Herpes Zoster (Causes Chicken Pox & Shingles)
  • Lyme’s Disease
  • Idiopathic (Of unknown causes)

Well, I tested negative for Herpes Zoster and Lyme’s Disease. So when I asked my physician what could cause this he explained there were some studies that linked Bells Palsy to stress.

Well that made sense to me. I was working over 80 hours a week for close to a year prior to getting sick. I had taken on more than anyone person could possibly accomplish and I was feeling the pressure. There were times where I could literally feel my blood pressure rising as the stress increased.

Something had to give and it was the right side of my face. I honestly believe I got off easy because I could just have easily had a heart attack or a stroke.

Interestingly, my wife had been warning me for months that I was working too much and taking on too much. She warned me time and again that I was missing my young children grow up…

She was right.

Unfortunately, I ignored all my wife’s warnings and even after my face went “off-line” I was not convinced that I needed to change my ways…

Fast forward to today and I can now admit that I am a recovering workaholic.

I have spent the last two-plus years accepting this fact and trying to figure out exactly how to “unprogram” myself. I did not seek any outside help although I often wish I had. I will, however, share what I learned and continue to learn along the way via this blog.

My goal is to raise awareness about “workaholism” and to help those that may not even know they are afflicted by this disease.

So if I have peaked your interest, please check-in from time to time for I will continue to tell the rest of my story. I will tag each related post with “workaholic” for searching purposes.

Want to contact me directly…hit me up on Twitter (@billannibell) or via email (bill dot annibell at gmail dot com). I am here to help.

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I really like this post. I’m actually suffering from the same syndrome – trying to figure out how to work smarter. As Chris Rock says “life is long…” whats the rush…

Elif Müftüoğlu

this is real for many of us, I wanted to share a news related with the subject. The Japanese government is taking radical steps to rid itself of its image as a nation of workaholics who rarely take holidays and sometimes work themselves into an early grave. I’m not sure if it should be really solved on government level, but better than nothing I guess.


Kevin Lanahan

For many Boomers, our work tends to define our lives. Ask us who we are, and we’ll respond with what we do for work.

As for me, work is what I do to finance my life. I can’t imagine NOT working at this point, and need an office and people around me to add a social component to work, but I don’t need to put in 60-80 hour weeks on a regular basis. That’s just bad management (both on your and your bosses parts).

Lara Coutinho

Thanks for your story Bill. 🙂

Taking care of yourself is hard work. Doing it alone sucks. So, where do you go for help? My favorite place in the DC metro area is The Unity Club. They have a meeting for whatever ails you: AA = Alcoholics Anonymous,ACA = Adult Children of Alcoholics, ADA = Affective Disorders Anonymous, Al-Anon/AlaTeen, CLA = Clutterers Anonymous, CoDA = Codependants Anonymous, DA = Debtors Anonymous, EDA = Eating Disorders Anonymous, FA = Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, MA = Marijuana Anonymous, NA = Narcotics Anonymous, OA = Overeaters Anonymous, SCA = Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, SIA = Survivors of Incest Anonymous,
SLAA = Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, WA = Workaholics Anonymous.

But believe it or not, the 12 steps are not enough. You won’t get anywhere without a good sponsor. If you want to go even deeper there are a great many organizations that can help, and if you want to avoid drinking from the firehose, I can vouch for the life-long effectiveness of the following programs: The Woman Within (women only), The ManKind Project (men only), Taking It Lightly (co-ed), and The Warrior Monk. This page offers links to those programs and more: http://womanwithin.org/links/related.htm.

Of course, these programs are not one-size-fits-all, and they won’t work for everyone. If they hit a chord for you, go! If you don’t get help here, get help somewhere.
–Lara Coutinho