I've been a workaholic for nearly a decade now. It all started years ago while working for my Uncle Sam. There was no such thing as a 40-hour work week and weekends off was a luxury that neither I, or my nearly half million brothers- and sisters-in-arms, could take advantage of very often.
Our addictions were encouraged and often praised. "Dedication" and "commitment to duty," Uncle Sam would call it. The harder we worked and the less we slept, the more praise and pats on the back we received. Eventually addiction becomes habit, and habits are hard to break.
Then my addiction to working carried over to my career. A journalist's schedule is anything but consistent. Days and nights, weekdays and weekends, are all irrelevant, really. We measure time by deadlines.
But everyone needs a break now and then, right? Even a self-proclaimed and proud workaholic like me needs to relax sometimes.
In fact, I should be on vacation right now. Should be ...
The one trait nearly all workaholics have in common is we take horrible care of ourselves because we're just too busy. There's always something that needs to be completed right now, this minute, and all else can wait. Even though we are aware of the strain placed on our bodies without regular (and healthy) eating schedules, adequate sleep and personal time off, we still ignore the basic rules of physiology. It's not until our bodies quit that we remember the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
I was reminded of this recently - the hard way.
I scheduled vacation more than a month ago. It was intended to be seven glorious and beautiful days of sipping bourbon in my pajamas while watching the afternoon edition of SportsCenter. I was looking forward to avoiding all forms of media and the only newsworthy events in my secluded little world would have been choosing between Alaskan Amber or Stout while watching the Olympics and pre-season football.
But this is merely what I envisioned.
Instead, I ended up with pneumonia a week before my vacation was to begin and had to use my vacation days prematurely to recover. I healed just in time to return to work the following week.
So much for my relaxing week. I'll try again in another six months.
The reason why I got sick is painfully obvious, even to me. I didn't take proper care of myself. On days when I work late, it's not OK to call beef jerky and Red Bull a dinner meal. Humans need more than just coffee for breakfast. And working two half-days on the weekend don't equal a full day off.
I knew all this but still chose to ignore common sense. And I paid for it - again. This isn't the first time I worked myself into sickness. But hopefully it will be the last.
To all my fellow workaholics: We can be cured. The road to recovery won't be easy, but I have a 10-point program to help. Post these suggestions at your workstation as a permanent reminder of what not to do.
1. Coffee is not breakfast.
2. An afternoon pot of coffee is not lunch.
3. Red Bull is not a substitute for sleeping.
4. Don't "catch up on work" every weekend.
5. Sleeping 16 hours straight on the weekend isn't really "catching up" on sleep.
6. A lunch break is more than 10 minutes.
7. Eating fast food in the car between appointments doesn't count as a lunch break, either.
8. Cigarettes are not a food group.
9. Typing is not exercise.
10. Spending a week in bed sick recovering from doing all of the above is not a vacation.
Charles Westmoreland is managing editor of the Capital City Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.