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I met a woman who’s in recovery from working too much. She attends a twelve-step program called Workaholics Anonymous.

At first, I was incredulous. Workaholics Anonymous? Come on, give me a break. I’m sure these meetings are filled with people who say things like, “I can’t help it, I care too much.”

Her story is a doozy. She’s a hard-charging primary care physician with additional degrees in public health. She’s a mom, a volunteer at a local health clinic, and a yoga teacher. In her spare time, she enjoys doing research and running. But mostly she feared being quiet, staying still, and having intimate relationships.

Her addiction — work — was a mechanism to avoid confronting feelings and situations that brought about pain and anxiety.

I was like, whoa, that’s serious stuff. Hadn’t considered work as an addiction. Makes me wonder how many of you invest yourselves in your careers because you’re avoiding other areas of your life that are uncomfortable.

My first instinct was to judge the woman who admitted her work addiction, and I was wrong. Addiction takes many forms: the internet, tech, phones, alcohol, drugs, hobbies, social media, work. If you’re struggling with an addiction, my heart aches for you. Work is an important component of our lives, but it shouldn’t be the only aspect of our lives that matter. 

The clinical threshold for “work addiction” varies. I’d love to diagnose you, but that’s not my job. If you want to stop working but can’t, you may appreciate the Workaholics Anonymous website

If you’re not addicted to work but looking for more balance, you’re not alone. Find a mentor or a coach to help you explore other avenues of interest in your life.

I’m rooting for you.