Last Friday was a kind of light bulb moment. I think your statement that the alcohol is a red herring is really true. I feel like I’ve recognised the pattern that now I see it is absolutely obvious. I’ve used over work from school to university to my career as a way of:
- Overcoming anxiety, about not succeeding, the feeling that I need to do much more work than anyone else to get the same results, overworking makes the anxiety disappear.
- Getting a pay off/buzz feeling cleverer or more successful than others because inevitably if you overwork to such an extent that you neglect other areas of your life, you are bound to be successful at the area you’re focusing on. If you spend four times the amount of time revising than the average kid you’re going to do better. The same would be true if you’ve spent four hours a day throwing darts at a double 20 on the dartboard — you’d end up better than an average person scoring well in darts. Is this a molar memory? The hidden pay-off?
- Overworking becomes a legitimising form of avoidance. It legitimises avoiding things that have really presented a lot of fear for me in the past and in the presence — social interaction/dating/intimate relationships/friendships etc. I never went on any school trips, never joined any clubs or societies — I was too busy in the library. Workaholism then became the giant cuckoo – if you got rid of it from the nest, what else would I have left? It becomes terrifying to contemplate life without it – so it helps maintain the addiction.
It was probably true that I modelled a lot of my socially shy behaviour on my parents- both of whom are only children too and pretty shy with pretty small social circles. I definitely started using alcohol as a way of overcoming social anxiety
Since Friday I feel like I’ve got a completely different attitude to socialising. I recognise a clear new pattern even if the thought is initially scary. I know it will make me genuinely happy. I’ve started filling up my social diary like never before. I’ve even booked tennis lessons and looked at dating agencies. I now need to work on a way of giving or finding some voluntary work.
Thanks for your help.