Workaholic’ was something my family and friends had always called me and, to be honest, it was a label I wore almost with pride. My career was everything to me. Coming from a fairly humble background I was determined to succeed from a very early age and seemed to excel in the corporate world, earning promotion after promotion until I was running a substantial business, responsible for millions of dollars and thousands of staff.
I first started to realise something was wrong during a routine medical check-up when my doctor commented on my blood pressure and said that I was well on the way to Type 2 Diabetes. He started asking questions. Was I sleeping enough? Was I eating well? Was I having difficulty concentrating? Was I drinking more than usual? At first, they all seemed insignificant and unrelated, although soon I also started questioning my performance at work. Was I doing enough? Was I responsible for a lost contract or failed project? Was I simply not good enough? Not working hard enough?
Before I knew it, I was on anti-depressants and yet nothing was getting any easier. I was sleeping less, drinking more and feeling less and less in control. People were commenting on my appearance, my attitude and performance in meetings. I felt like everyone was questioning “is he still up to the job?”.
After one particularly difficult client meeting, I knew something had to give and went to my bosses to negotiate some time off, to recharge. To my amazement, they not only supported me but suggested I spend some time at a place called the Phoenix Retreat, which had a great record in helping executives dealing with ‘burn out’. At first, I hated the term. I wasn’t ‘burnt out’. How dare anyone suggest that? Although, during my stay, I came to realise that admitting that I needed some time out wasn’t a weakness. I was also helped with my drinking which, although I hadn’t realised it, had become a problem and was adding to my mental and physical ill health.
What made my time in treatment possible – and why I agreed to go! – was the fact that I was provided with an office in my accommodation which, although access to the outside world was strictly controlled, meant I could keep in contact and made my eventual return to work much easier and more effective. I am now back at work and enjoying it more than ever. My work/life balance is a hundred times better. I’m still putting in long hours but I’ve learned when and how to switch off too.