Blurred Boundaries – The Life of a Workaholic

“You become what you think about all day long.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“…an obsession is a way for damaged people to damage themselves more.”
– Mark Barrowcliffe

overworked, workaholic, stress, Betrayal of Trust, B. B. Wright

In the following excerpt from Betrayal of Trust, the reader is first introduced to Edward Slocum’s struggle with work addiction: an obsessive-compulsive disorder. His self-imposed demands and overindulgence in his work had almost cost him dearly:

He had worked the last 15 years to develop a new filtration system that screened out harmful pharmaceuticals from contaminating the water supply. His preoccupation with it had almost cost him his marriage. Their careless indifference could jeopardize my project, his mind screamed. Goddamn them!

Still, as seen in this second excerpt, there was a cost to him:

The last thing Karen had to have heard was metal hitting metal, he thought in anguish. And the baby! God! How could I have not known she was pregnant?

Edward not only lost his wife in an accident but he learned later from the autopsy report that she had been pregnant as shown in this excerpt:

Two years ago today, Karen’s car had been T-boned by an oncoming truck at the same intersection the young couple had just crossed. She had died instantly. Two days after the autopsy report, he had learned that she had been pregnant. Five days later he had buried them in the same plot in St. James Anglican Cemetery in Priceville.

Karen’s untimely death created a personal hell for Edward as he not only had to live with trying to resolve this deeply hurtful, interpersonal conflict but accept responsibility for his choices that emotionally separated him from her. Fraught with guilt because of his choices, the following excerpt gives the reader some sense of Edward’s on-going struggle:

Putting his pen down, he rolled his chair back and looked up at the picture of Karen on the shelf above his desk. He wondered, if he had worked from home more often, whether it would have made a difference in their relationship. “Maybe she would still be alive if I’d stayed home that evening,” he whispered under his breath.

Unable to resolve his emotional needs, he struggles with intimacy issues especially over his rekindled attraction to his teenage sweetheart, Charlotte Bradley. And, like most workaholics do, he throws himself back into his work.

The reader quickly learns about Edward’s need to play the control game especially when it came to who controlled the rights to the patents for his filtering system. He has a tendency to over-plan and over-organize because he is most comfortable when things are predictable and consistent. He hates to wait and his impatience often led to impulsive action. Though all of these are characteristics for a workaholic, the reader learns of another characteristic at the beginning of Chapter One. Namely, that Edward has given  little or no attention to his physical needs like nutrition, rest and exercise:

At 42 years old, he had only lately seen a roll developing around his 32-inch waist. Though he had a gym at home and went to the executive gym at KemKor (one of the perks of being an executive vice president), he had barely used either of them in the last two months.

Work defined Edward’s identity and gave his life meaning supporting the philosophy: “I work therefore I am.” His life lacked clear boundaries and his blurred boundary thinking often meant sacrificing his own needs. When it came to his wife, Karen, his obsessive-compulsive disorder distanced him from really knowing her. And, it was something he regretted deeply. The following excerpt may give you some idea of how disconnected he was from Karen:

Edward never understood why she was out so late that evening. When he had spoken to her earlier that day from the Canadian Standards Association Conference in Toronto, she had told him that she was up to her neck in work, trying to meet a deadline for her drawings, and she expected to be up working on them when he got home.

With the help of Charlotte, Edward begins to change his thinking about himself and to break his workaholic habits by learning to identify and accept his feelings, his limitations, and to work smarter not longer. Once he learned to accept his feelings and please himself first and not others his life changed to accept that less is indeed more. The final sentence in the last chapter is meant to convey this idea:

“Time will tell whatever time will tell.” And he took her in his arms and kissed her deeply.

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