How “work” can become a drug

man carrying gray pipe
Photo by Yury Kim on

I don’t know if it is new, yet it is the most accepted behavior to “fall into” in the world. It doesn’t matter if it ruins families just as much as chemicals. It is considered a much safer place to hide the real emotions or to channel negative feelings than any other legal or illegal drug.

I am talking about work. It is good to work.

Work gives us the possibility to earn money, pay for the house and car, and all the other comforts we need to have a good and decent life.

Work challenges us to be creative by solving various problems that may occur.

Work gives a good social network and the sense of belonging all humans need since we are considered to be “herd animals”.

As long as we enjoy what we do, it helps us gain more energy than we waste by doing the work.

Work is good as long as it is done in moderates amounts of time, and it does not interfere with sleep, healthy eating, and physical exercise.

Those in relationships, or with families and children already know that all that requires work. It is a different type of work than the one we get paid for in money.

A teacher of mine told me once, “Gabriela, if you love what you do, then you don’t work one day in your life”. Although I do resonate with what he told me, at the same time, I also experience that I need to do something else as well. I also need to spend time with my friends and family, or just on my own, doing nothing. Yes, you have read well: doing NOTHING.

Too much work, no matter how much we like it, can be overwhelming and stressful if we cannot put a limit on it. Unfortunately, this is an issue many immigrants and ex-pats are struggling with.

I am a Sherlock Holmes fan, and of course, I have seen the movies where Benedict Chumberback plays the famous detective. I have recently heard a line there, which says: “Work is the best antidote against sadness”

People tend to “tuck away” or numb their feelings in various ways, especially those less positive. The most common ways to numb feelings are through alcohol, food, cigarettes, entertainment, screens, and games. A more powerful and more expensive list of drugs like gambling, cannabis, heroin, cocaine can continue. In the same line, work can also be a drug to numb feelings we don’t like. If family life doesn’t work, instead of facing the issues with the partner, many people hide in work. It is a way to regain the feeling of self-respect one may have lost in the relationship. Many people don’t even think if they like what they do or if they only like the sense of “identity” the workplace is providing and the feeling of “achievement” that comes up with the company’s results. 

Other people suffer from a huge amount of responsibility, making them think that the world would collapse if they don’t do the job. It comes from a childhood where the adults in their lives have failed them. It felt so awful at the time that now when they are adults, they have promised to themselves not to fail themselves and keep their word no matter what. It doesn’t matter how many sacrificed it implies that they may lose family, friends, and most importantly, health, but they will keep their word. 

Once I had a guest originally from an Asian country. Yet, this person was living in France. Why? Because the working hours were 09:00 to 17:00 and after 17:00 it was time that could be used freely. It was a time for housework, spending time with friends, having a hobby even, and cooking something from homelands. Because in the homelands, it was working all the time. The hours were longer than eight. They could stretch to 12 and 14, which would leave no free time. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner were for work as well.

This is happening in many countries globally, and most immigrants are carrying with them in their “invisible luggage” this behavior. As a result, when they reach a new country in West and North Europe, many of them do not know what to do with the free time they may have in hand.

The democracies in the Western and Northern parts of Europe have a long tradition of fighting for workers’ rights and have unions that take care that the number of working hours is limited. This way, people can also have a life aside from it. Yet, this is hard to understand for people coming from dictatorships and result-oriented societies. What I’ve seen them do is that they stay longer at work, even if there is no need and nobody asked them to, in the hope that their employers would more appreciate them. Some of them are, some of them aren’t.

A couple of years ago, there was some work done on the roads in my neighborhood. One morning, in the middle of the week, I woke up at 04:00 AM to a terrible noise. A worker from the company in charge of fixing the roads has already come to work and started using asphalt breakers with no regard for the people living in the area, especially the children who were having a school day. We found out later that he was an immigrant, and he could not sleep that night. Nevertheless, he thought it was a good idea to go to work.

Many of these people gain “the hatred” of their colleagues from the new country because they fear that the employers will raise the standards and ask them to work more. In our case, the road-building company has got a complaint from all people in the neighborhood as well.

This kind of behavior is happening because the world is spinning around results and money more than leisure. It is a fact that makes many people not have the opportunity to learn that they can have hobbies and that they can also have rights, and they become what we call “workaholics”.

Are you one of those?

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I wish you have a life free from any drugs!


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