What I'm Learning As A Recovering Workaholic
Have you ever noticed that you are usually the last person to see your own areas of brokenness and weakness? I don’t know the reason for it. It might be fear, it might be pride, it might be simple ignorance, but these past couple of weeks, I’ve had to deal with this reality personally.
I’m a workaholic.
For years (actually...probably decades), when people would casually, often humorously, describe me this way, I would scoff and push it to the side. No, no, no. I’m just ambitious! I just really like to stay busy! I’m super passionate about my job. I’ve got that old German work ethic. I’m a Type A personality. I’m….. I’m …...I’m…..
I’m a workaholic.
No more excuses. No more trying to rationalize or ignore. No more waiting until I’m in a “better” place to deal with my own fragility and weaknesses.
The term “workaholic” didn’t seem that bad. There’s a lot of other ‘aholics’ that society considers far more detrimental. That might be one reason I haven’t addressed this issue, but things changed last week. Here’s what made the difference for me. I made a mental leap in understanding what this condition actually meant for me.
Work was my god.
Work controlled my every move. My daily activities and routines were dictated by work. I hid it well. I had fun stuff scheduled in, but never in place of work. Work always came first. Always. When asked what I would do if I didn’t have work to do...I would start tightening up inside even at the idea. I felt the fear there. What would I be without work? It was terrifying. It would leave a huge void. Would there be anything left of me? A god is something to which you bend your will. Something to which you worship and surrender. Something you love more than anything else in the world. If you want to identify your god, just consider how you would react if it was taken from you.
I had to come to grips that my god was not the one I thought it was. It was work.
So, what now? As a believer in Jesus, I knew this was wrong, morally, but it would also eventually destroy me. The god of Work doesn’t know anything of balance, self-care, relationships or fun. It will just keep driving you until you can’t go anymore. Leaving you utterly broken along with everyone else you care about. This god was no good for me or those I loved. I saw that now. And it was time to make a change.
The first part of my recovery from workaholism was already done. I acknowledged the problem. I named it. I was completely and utterly honest with myself. All the evidence was there, I just had to agree with the diagnosis. It’s a hard step, but it must be done. You have to own it.
The next part for me was repentance and seeking forgiveness. That might seem silly or unnecessary to some, but it was vital to my ability to move on. Not only because my offense was not only against myself, it was against the God I had betrayed by bending to another. But also because I couldn’t solve this problem in my own strength. No way, no how! I needed help and the only one who knows me better than anyone else is my God. I can’t expect help if our relationship isn’t right.
I knew from the start of this journey that it wasn’t going to be a once and done deal, but that removing workaholism from my life would be many, many small, daily actions. First being that I give my day to God and ask Him to direct it. I go over my list of things to do with Him and let Him plan it. This way, I’m not dictated by the work that “must” be done, but I’m guided lovingly by the One who knows my days. Now, let be clear. As a mother of two young boys, this is not a long prayer or journal entry. It’s usually done in about two breaths, but it is very intentional.
Another part of my daily help comes from a couple things I’ve started to practice each day: gratitude, remembering God’s goodness, meditating on who God is. These things all set my mind on the right path and help me embrace and hold fast to the God I was meant for rather than running after lesser ones like work. It’s kind of like marriage, when you spend time getting to know your spouse and thinking about all the stuff that makes him/her amazing, your eyes don’t start wondering….
Finally, I’m telling people about my inner work. Why? I need accountability. I think we all do. It’s really scary telling people about the work you are doing and there are times when it’s best to keep your confessions to a few trusted friends. But do tell someone. You need good people in your corner because heart and head work is tough and a long journey. I’m choosing to share more broadly because I feel called to do so (I’m simply obeying, it’s still utterly terrifying) and I also think that there’s probably a lot of people out there also dealing with unattended workaholism.
So, today, I can say:
I’m a recovering workaholic.
I’m not my work.
If you have ever dealt with workaholism, please feel free to reach out. I would love to pray for you, talk to you and support you.