I’ve always had an addictive personality, of course when you’re a child it doesn’t get called that; in fact, it’s seen not as an emotional weakness, but a personal attribute.
Every sport I got involved in, club I joined or subject I became interested in was approached with a high level of enthusiasm, often bordering on obsession. In stark contrast, as is common with extreme personalities, I excluded everything that I wasn’t directly a part of, or didn’t have an interest in. Subjects in school that I found pointless were ignored at the expense of daydreaming about things I cared about, and cultural obligations — while fulfilled — were done so with the minimum possible effort.
The results were predictable, as teachers and fellow students saw the enthusiasm I put into my chosen subjects, and became confused as to why this didn’t translate into other areas, often assuming that I was lazy, or under-stimulated, once resulting in me being placed in an advanced class I was neither capable, nor interested in, being a part of. The truth of course, was much less exciting and had my teachers at the time found out I was apathetic due to my focus being elsewhere, I doubt I would have received a significant amount of sympathy. Besides, there were always the teachers there to defend me — those supporting my addiction through history, English and classical studies.
As I got older, the positive and negative aspects of having an addictive personality became more apparent. There are the obvious areas, such as being prone to drinking too much, and I assume drug addiction also, although I’ve never tested this. On the flipside, as work became more focused, and move away from diverse subjects to specific areas of expertise, I was offered the opportunity to feed my addiction in new and exciting areas. Of course, managers wouldn’t always see my addiction as positive, and in my first role as an appliance salesperson, I was reprimanded for trying to explain to a colleague the value of including psychology in sales tactics. In retrospect, this was taking something very simple and overcomplicating it, and then overcomplicating it again.
Work became my drug of choice, and as I fed my addiction, justifying it through selflessness and a solid work ethic, I came to use it as a means of personal identification. I was the guy who worked hard, long hours and was highly committed, I felt lost on weekends, spending time with my family, or coming home from the office early. I became frustrated at times spent unproductively and found myself unable to enjoy holidays, wind down or not think about work.
The books I read were business books, and motivational texts, I didn’t see the point in reading something that wouldn’t help me learn, inspire me or give me an advantage in the workplace.
My addiction had taken over my life, and it was time to re-evaluate the identity that it had helped me forge.
As with any form of addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Intervention is a powerful means of doing so, and my family were all too eager to point out that I was working too hard and say it in such a way that I wouldn’t confuse it with being a compliment. Importantly, it was pointed out to me what I was losing as a result of my actions, and that it was not too late to rectify my actions and change my life.
Of course, it’s not as simple as slowing down or stopping — I have an addictive personality and require something to occupy myself, something to love and cherish. I needed a replacement addiction, but one that is more inclusive of others and impacts my life in a positive way.
For the first time in… I don’t know how long, I started writing for myself. I began with writing in a journal each morning, half a page which inevitably turned into a whole page and then into a couple. I then wrote a book — not a very good one, but a book nonetheless and following that, I wrote another one.
The great thing about writing, is that it involves interacting with other forms of humanity, and every experience I had, be that spending time with my family, or sitting outside under a tree eating an orange, was something I could consider a life experience, and an insight into the world — something I could write about. In other words, my life was a part of my addiction, not a distraction from it.
Meanwhile, my professional writing was also improving. Previously limited by my style of writing, I began to experiment in different voices, which gave me the ability to take on far more varied clients. Work became satisfying, and not simply an outlet for my addiction.
As with alcoholism, my addiction can only be managed and never overcome; but by pointing it in a positive direction, I have, for the time being, obtained a sense of positivity and balance. There is always the chance that my addiction will be transformed once more into an obsession, but when that happens, I think awareness will be my ally, along with my family who I have no doubt will fearlessly point out my shortcomings.
Originally published at medium.com