I’m a recovering raging workaholic Recovery. It’s completely counterproductive, bad for my health, bad for my sanity, and has a negative impact on my personal relationships especially the one with my kiddo. So how did this happen?
Three Jobs Are Not Better Than One
12 years ago I was a struggling single mother, working 3 jobs to make ends meet. I had graduated with 2 bachelors degrees but the job market was so thin in my area that I couldn’t land a job that paid enough to cover rent, a car, food, and minimum student loan payments.
Usually, here people chime in with, “Yeah, but you could have moved to get a better job”.
Those people have never been poor. Shockingly it takes money to uproot your family and life, good credit to rent a new apartment, money in savings to make a down payment on your new apartment, etc..
Next folks say, “Yeah, but some companies pay relocation costs”.
Back then I was fresh out of school with no experience and no idea how to properly represent myself in an interview. Companies were def not chomping at the bit to move me to cross country to be a part of their team.
So, I picked up those 3 jobs to try to make ends meet. I did IT work at the college part-time and spent nights and evenings working in a daycare and a local gym, toggling back and forth depending on my work schedule. It was not a fun time. And even then I couldn’t fully make ends meet. I found myself on welfare.
The Big “Workaholic Recovery”
The response people often have to welfare recipients is, “Oh, they don’t work hard enough. They aren’t trying hard enough. They’re just lazy,” etc..
Do some people abuse the system? Yes. Do others use it as intended to supplement their situation as they work hard to improve things as quickly as possible? Yes.
Life happens, folks get cancer, people you depend on a die, you wind up in situations you never in a million years expected to be in. That’s what the program is for. I was there. I experienced it. And trust me when I say that many people on welfare wish more than anything that they could get off of it.
The amount of side-eye, eye rolls, and irritation I was on the receiving end of from both patrons and employees at grocery stores when I paid with food stamps was dehumanizing. I had 2 degrees. I was working 3 jobs. I was doing the best I could.
Goodbye Welfare, Hello Financial Stability With A Side Of Panic
So, it sucked. But it got me through until I was able to land a full-time gig that paid my bills. Then I was able to land a full-time gig that paid my bills AND gave me nights and weekends off.
Things improved year after year, until one day I woke up in a financially stable place, with a house I owned, a new car, the ability to comfortably pay tuition for my kiddo to attend private school, 3 wild adorable dogs to keep me company and a salary higher than I ever in my wildest dreams thought I’d make.
This was not a quick process — it took 12 years. I started on welfare and ended up here, and so can you. You just have to keep pushing forward, regardless of what life throws your way.
So, why did I bring up being on welfare 12 years ago to kick off a post about being a workaholic Recovery?
That feeling of being poor, panicking every time an unexpected expense arises, worrying about losing your apartment or not being able to afford heat? That sticks with you.
Even when it’s so far in the rearview that you can’t see it, that panicky “I must stockpile money forever and ever and work myself into an early grave to get by” feeling never goes away. It’s always there, whispering in the back of your mind.
As a result, I continued working crazy hours, even when I didn’t need the extra cash. Then I ended up putting in ridiculous amounts of overtime even when I was in a salary job that didn’t PAY overtime. It was a lifestyle and a mindset at that point. That fear that working non-stop was the only way I could stay in a good place financially was controlling my life.
The team I worked with encouraged disconnecting at the end of the day and promoted a positive work-life balance. They promoted using vacation time, they offered to help out when things got too intense, they offered to increase headcount when needed. I was working 16 hour days because it eased my panic sensation. Not because I needed to. No one expected it. I did it to myself. It didn’t make any sense.
My Kiddo Breaks My Heart (And Saves My Life)
The tipping point came one night when my daughter came into the office and said, “Mommy you’re done with work! Come play with me!”
I turned to her, irritated and said, “I need to finish this. I have to work late to pay for your toys and your video games. I don’t have time to play tonight.”
She got very still, her eyes welled up with tears, and she said quietly, “I don’t care about any of that stuff. I just want to spend time with you.”
My heart shattered into a million pieces. I slid back from the computer, gave her a big hug and left the office so we could play.
The next day I talked to my boss, let her know that we needed more headcount, outlined what I was working on in collaboration with other departments cross-company, told her how many hours I was working (she was very upset that I’d been trying to manage it all myself), and I reset my life.
TIL: How To Take Back Control Of Your Life
I learned some very valuable lessons that day.
1. Work is not life. Work is how you support your life. You need to step away from work to LIVE the life you’re working to support.
2. Ask for help when you need it. Trying to be a hero and doing everything yourself will just lead to quick burnout and half-assed work.
3. Long hours are NOT equivalent to high productivity. In fact, long hours are often counterproductive when it comes to productivity and creating high-quality work.
4. If you don’t have enough work hours to get your job done, your team needs more headcount. If your company won’t provide more headcount you need to outline what you’re working on and ask which projects should be put on the back burner so you can focus on the new thing they’ve requested.
5. You’re only one person, with only one life. You need to live it.
Sometimes I still slip and keep working all night. I was up until 4 am recently working on a project, and there was NO reason for it. I had plenty of time before my deadline, no one was rushing me, I just got in the zone and didn’t want to stop working.
Workaholic Recovery, One-offs like that happen sometimes, whether self-inflicted or company requested. If your company is launching something major you might have a crazy week or two with longer hours than usual. But then it needs to stop. It’s not good for the team, it’s not good for company culture, it’s not good for people’s health or personal lives, and it’s just not sustainable. And it’s very much ok to start applying for other gigs and leave a company that makes overtime a job requirement, even if it’s a widely respected company.
If management puts product before employee health and care, they don’t deserve your talent.
Things To Ponder
So, in closing, a couple of thoughts.
Workaholic Recovery, If you’re a workaholic Recovery, take a hard look at your life and your priorities hit reset and adjust as needed. It takes time to change the behavior, and you’ll relapse, but as long as you commit to changing things, you’ll get there.
Life is very short. Find a job you love, but remember that the job is not your entire life. You need to live the life you’re working so hard to support.