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Ask the LifeQuake Doctor

Column

Fifth Annual Addiction Leadership Conference

Dear Dr Toni,

Is there truly such a thing as workaholism? My partner, who’s a healer in the addiction field, is convinced I’m a workaholic. I’m a gay man in a long-time partnership. We own a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, my parents are in their eighties and need my financial assistance, and I’m the primary breadwinner in my marriage—I have to work a lot in order to take care of all these people.

I don’t think I’m working a lot to self-medicate. I assume that’s 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 sent to a hospital in England where I got the right antibiotics and within weeks was back to normal.

I went back to work, but recently 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 four months? I’m interested in your take on this.

Warm Regards,
– Ad Man

Dear Reader,

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, and physically and spiritually bankrupt citizens. It is an addiction that is so easy to justify why we would sacrifice our well-being for compulsive behaviors.

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote about the prevalence of people operating in corporate workplaces where they are expected to work sixty or more hours a week in his book Dying for a Paycheck (2018). The forty- 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. The infection and recent cold are trying to tell you something. When we do not pay attention to the tap on the shoulder (or the two-by-four), the third incident can be a deadly hit from a truck, either figuratively or literally.

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote about the prevalence of people operating in corporate workplaces where they are expected to work sixty or more hours a week in his book Dying for a Paycheck (2018). The forty- 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. The infection and recent cold are trying to tell you something. When we do not pay attention to the tap on the shoulder (or the two-by-four), the third incident can be a deadly hit from a 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? 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. All you need to know is your next step. Just ask humbly to be given a next step related to your work life that will support your physical and emotional well-being. You do not need the five-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!

Toni Galardi, PhD, is a licensed psychotherapist and transitions expert in Marin County, California. She works with people by phone and Skype all over the world. She is also the author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval. She can be reached through her email address [email protected] or at her office at 310-890-6832.