An Encouraging Word — A respectable addiction

They are trapped by the work of their own hands. Psalm 9:17

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

In preparation for retirement, I took a test last spring called “Retirement Success Profile for Diocesan Priests.” It measured 15 things such as whether I was financially, spiritually and emotionally prepared for retirement.

I scored pretty high in most areas, but when it came to things like “leisure,” I basically flunked.

Here is a symptom of my problem. As I write this, it is the Fourth of July and I am home by myself writing my fourth column of the day. Even in my first week of being “off the clock,” here I am working.

People laughed when I told them I was retiring, so I made excuses like, “You have to bring the car to a slow stop. If you slam on the brakes, you might go through the windshield.” This habit is not something to be praised as much as it is something to be pitied.

I may be what you call a “workaholic.” Another symptom is the fact that I had been working for Saint Meinrad for about six years before I realized that the word “vacation” was not even mentioned in my job description. It didn’t even occur to me to ask. It wasn’t till I went through my exit interview with the people down at human resources that I knew I was entitled to four weeks a year.

Do you work more than 50 hours a week? Do you feel a need to constantly stay busy? Do you have difficulty relaxing and having fun? Are you a perfectionist? Are you so preoccupied with “to-do” lists that you have trouble being emotionally available to others? Do your peers complain about how much you work? Do you forget conversations or events because you are so preoccupied with planning and work? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you could be a workaholic.

Workaholism is a family disease often passed down from parent to child. Workaholics use work to cope with emotional discomfort and feelings of inadequacy.

They get adrenaline highs from work binges and then crash from exhaustion, resulting in periods of irritability, loss of self-esteem, anxiety and depression. To cope with these feelings, workaholics then begin another cycle of excessive devotion to work. Workaholics are so immersed in work they have little time to invest in friendships and relaxation.

Workaholism is one of the few addictions that society values. While your boss or bishop may love your workaholic ways, they might be the only ones around to love you.

Research shows that husbands and wives of workaholics report less positive feelings towards their spouse and a greater sense of marital estrangement. In the end, workaholics experience more marital discord, anxiety, depression, job stress, job dissatisfaction and health problems than non-workaholics.

There is probably no hope for people such as I! I actually committed myself to a retirement vacation in southwestern France, but cancelled because of sickness. Happy Labor Day!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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