Addiction, in a way, is what happens when self-care goes wrong. We all have treats, luxuries, and indulgences we use to nurture ourselves; whether it’s journaling, walks, or spa treatments, the point is these rituals help us stay balanced mentally as we navigate the ups and downs of life. These rituals boost our sense of self-worth and re-polarize our emotions towards the comforted and the positive. Addiction is what happens when we look for a false kind of comfort in the wrong place. Rather than boosting our self-worth so we have the motivation we need to live our lives fully, addictions make the promise of filling the void where our self-worth is supposed to be. This is what develops the co-dependency of addiction; the belief that the only way to feel okay is through the habit, substance, or ritual upon which the addiction is centered.
Addiction is tricky, and can sneak its way into any number of things. Probably the most-discussed addictions are substance addictions, and it’s plain to see why; when someone is feeling unworthy, the temptation of numbing or altering or escaping from your emotions is a difficult seductress that can be challenging to resist. But addiction can arise without substances too. An addiction to theft can provide an adrenaline rush, as well as a feeling of power or control. Gambling addictions are also discussed fairly often, and provide a similar hit of adrenaline to go with the promise that a huge win could bring you from rags to riches at any moment.
But addictions aren’t always as obvious as that. They can be so subtle that they work themselves seamlessly into our lives, becoming such a natural element of our daily routine we’d never think to label them as an addiction. One of the most common manifestations of these hard-to-spot addictions is overworking.
Let’s unpack that. As discussed above, addiction usually stems from the avoidance of fear or from feelings of being lesser. What better way to circumnavigate those unfriendly feelings than by pouring ourselves into our work? If we’re completely consumed by a task, especially one that feels urgent (got to get this done right or the boss will be mad), we provide ourselves an escape. It may not be the most joy-inducing escape, but that’s not what matters; addiction isn’t running towards anything, it’s running away from something. Furthermore, finishing work makes us feel worthy. In our ambition-driven world, we’re conditioned to equate the entirety of our worth with professional achievements. So, when we’re feeling unworthy, doing work gives us something to latch on to. I finished a project, I did it well, I am a worthy person.
These ideas are fabrications; we are worth so much more than what we do as our job, and believing we aren’t keeps us from identifying what will actually make us feel fulfilled. As with any addiction, the key to overcoming the urge to overwork lies in concrete strategies.
Be Honest About Your Fears
This is an essential step in overcoming any addiction. Very often, people suffering from an addiction are hiding from something. The best way around that? Expose what it is you’re hiding from. State it in a clear sentence: “I work too hard because I am afraid of…”
Being useless, not being good enough to live out my real dreams, instability, etc. Monsters are scarier when they’re in the dark. Once we bring them to light, we can face them for what they truly are. This simple step can bring incredible clarity, and can even spark the motivation we need to take proactive steps in overcoming the struggle. Knowing why you’re doing it is half the battle. Simply put, we cannot and will not change what we don’t acknowledge.
Sure, it sounds hokey, but the importance of strong self-care can’t be emphasized enough. Addiction can’t enter out lives uninvited – it slithers in wherever it perceives a gap. Usually, that gap can be filled by the routines that reinforce how valuable we are. So, if we’re hooked on overworking, then those self-care habits are probably lacking. When we are taking proper care of ourselves, then overworking becomes obsolete. Overworking is useless when it can’t give us the illusion of feeling good, and once we know what actual self-worth feels like it becomes that much easier to separate ourselves from what we mistook as validation of our worthiness. Good self care of restorative sleep, healthy eating , regular exercise and regular leisure forces a balance that forces out the overworking!
Lean On Others
You can’t go at it alone. When self-doubt strikes, call up a friend. You don’t even need to spill your heart and soul to them if you don’t want to – just the presence of a person who respects and adores you can be enough. Knowing that someone we adore wants to spend time with us validates that we are worthy, and can get us back on track when we’re feeling low.
Have a Solid Relapse Prevention Plan
Work with a therapist to identify your unique cycle of addiction including the high risk situations, feelings, thought distortions and planning activities that support the addiction and build detours off the cycle at each stage to ensure you reach the healthy goals you have established for yourself!