It could cost you everything.

This is a personal story. I am a recovering workaholic. I say that because I still have a tendency to work too much. But I don’t anymore. It almost killed me.

For a long time, it was a great thing. I loved it. Ideas flowed. I had a list of calls to make and directions to hand out before anyone else even got to work in the morning. The day was a satisfying succession of wins, and in the evening, more ideas flowed, lists were made, and I couldn’t wait for the next day to come. I followed my feelings and they led to rewarding results. I could do no wrong, or so I thought.

But I was way out of balance, addicted to work, with no comprehensive plan for a healthy success. Along with that addiction to work, my desires also led me to other excesses, like overeating and smoking. After 10 years of this high-energy ride, I had a lot to show for it. Life was good.

In my late 20’s, at over 300 pounds, I was shocked when the doctor told me not to expect living much past 40. The weight, combined with a heavy smoking habit, was a prescription for a heart attack. I knew he was right, and I took it seriously. I vowed to start living in a healthy way, quit smoking and lose weight (I had failed at weight loss many times as a youngster and stopped trying in my early 20’s). I made a bit of progress, but then, the phones rang, crises erupted, and there were fires to put out. Everything but business took a back seat, had to wait, and nothing changed. Like all the other times I tried to diet or cut back, something got in the way, and weeks later, I was still eating and smoking like I always had.

Every once in a while, I’d be reminded that I was running out of time. Before, in my 20’s, I felt like I was at the beginning of my life. Now, in my 30’s, knowing that the end was potentially 40, I was at the end if I didn’t change, and I couldn’t. As I approached 40, unable to change, I was dying. It never ocurred to me that my worst addiction was my workaholism. Changing that wasn’t even on the radar, and it was killing me.

Then, life sat me down and stopped me in my tracks. I burned out and lost my touch. There were changes in the marketplace I did not respond to properly, and I failed in business. But this dark cloud had the proverbial silver lining. With no phones ringing or fires to put out and no existing work plan to execute, I was able to regroup and set a new course for my life. I took business out of the position of being the number one priority and created a new plan with something else at the center — my health — body, mind and spirit.

I was no longer driven, compelled, to set out on the priority of the business and the tasks that served it. I now set out every day making my health the number one priority, making plans and to-do lists to serve that goal. My plan for health included plans for centering, rest and relaxation, exercise, meditation, healthy relationsips and recreation, along with a healthy business and financial plan. I put what I learned about goal-setting (see my article about “The Wheel of Life”) to better use and broke my addiction to work. That led me to trade my unhealthy addictions to work, food and cigarettes for an addiction to health.

If you are a workaholic, see if you can change that before you hit bottom like I did, or worse, let it kill you. Fortunately, I didn’t break down and die at 40. Something broke, but it wasn’t the whole of me. At 33, I changed. I lost 140 pounds, quit smoking, and set out on a new course, thank God. I started attending to all those important parts of my life I had been neglecting. Today, I am 67 and in far better shape than when I was 25, better than ever.

If you are a workaholic, you need to quit. And you can. Your life depends on it.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He was an obese heavy smoker and workaholic until his early thirties, and burned out, but survived and changed direction. He changed in many ways, among them, losing 140 pounds permanently. Health, in a holistic way, is now his mission. He is the author of The Anderson Method of Permanent Weight Loss.

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