Einstein once said that 38 Weeks of 33 the definition stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting of Wellness! Adrenaline Addiction 06 different results. Sometimes however, it isn’t stupidity that causes this behavior, but something far more insidious and painful: Excerpts from Patrick Lencioni and Tom Heck Compiled By Lisa Schilling RN 55 addiction. Many struggle with an addiction that hurts their jobs, their families, and their personal satisfaction. I’m not talking about the need for drugs talking on their cell phones during every five-minute break, and checking e-mail late at night. They go from one thing to 5 or alcohol, but rather another chemical, of sorts: adrenaline. Adrenaline is: • A source of energy. Humans will go to any length to get the quickest, easiest the next with no time in between for reflection or thought. even panic, to get them through the Always overwhelmed, adrenaline junkies seem to have a constant need for urgency, day. They cannot grasp the race driver’s source of energy. Adrenaline produces motto: you have to slow down to go fast. energy; not the most healthful, but is Instead, they keep their foot on the pedal continually available. at full throttle, convinced that any • A racket. Humans succumb to this drug deceleration is lost opportunity. Like an instead of letting their hearts decide. alcoholic after a night of binge drinking, • A medicant. Adrenaline rushes to help an adrenaline addict will often sit home a person “blast through” difficult times. at night wondering how life became so Problem is, the adrenaline junkie creates chaotic, and vowing to take back control crises just for the rush. When a person is the next day. And then that day begins “on” adrenaline, they have a respite from and their addiction kicks in, giving them pain and feelings are covered up. a sense of comfort even as it hurts them. • A nasty habit which creates a lifestyle. There is something particularly To get the rush, humans do soul- insidious about adrenaline addiction that damaging things: careers, greed, getting makes it hard for many to kick the habit. ahead, winning, keeping self in survival Unlike other addicts whose behaviors in order to have something to win at etc. are socially frowned-upon, adrenaline • A toxin, which keeps healthy people addicts are often praised for their frantic away. Those who are “over” adrenaline activity, even promoted for it during or are not adrenaline-based usually their careers. And so they often wear won’t develop close relationships with their problem like a badge of honor, adrenaline addicts; it is too upsetting and failing to see it as an addiction at all in painful. So the addict is surrounded by spite of the pain it causes. those with broken wings, co-dependents When confronted about their or other addicts. problem, adrenaline addicts will tell you about their endless list of responsibilities The Profile and all the people who need their People with adrenaline addiction attention. And while they’ll often are the ones always pecking away at complain about their situation, they’ll their Blackberries during meetings, quickly brush off any constructive advice from spouses, friends or co- Slow way down, you do have the workers who “just don’t understand.” time. Adrenaline Trigger and Solution The Cost Of course, the first casualties of Over promising results, even a little. the adrenaline addiction are the addicts Deliberately under promise, themselves. As they get busier and regardless of the person’s reaction busier, with no relief in sight, the rush or consequence. from their addiction subsides and their Arriving exactly on time or late. job and personal satisfaction starts to Leave 15 minutes early for every plummet. Activities that they once appointment enjoyed, that they aspired to do for Shoulds and have to’s; someone. years, suddenly become drudgery, else’s agenda causing the quality of their work to drop Get rid of all shoulds, regardless too. When they come to the conclusion Being optimistic during a rough that they’re working harder than ever, time. with less results and personal Surrender to the tough time. Don’t satisfaction, frustration only increases. try to see it better than it is or worse But the addict is not the only than it is. victim of this problem. Those around Doing one thing in order to get them find themselves whipped in another thing. different directions, seemingly at Just do the latter and see if it works. random, based on whatever issue is Having current unresolved matters in causing this persons adrenaline to spike. your life. Strategic planning goes out the window, The average person has at least 100 replaced by reactivity and self-inflicted unresolved matters. Take care of crisis management. No one is spared them. from the effects of the addiction. The people who work directly with an addict Holding back from another, being must respond to – even enable – the nice, being mad, not owing up to addiction, and inevitably pass the panic something you did. on. Of course, the personal life of an Have a heart-to-heart conversation adrenaline addict is not immune from the and become intimate. problem either. Decreased job Not asking for what you need. satisfaction, increased stress and more Be specific and ask before you need time at work affect families in profound it. and painful ways. Tolerations; things you’re putting up with. Recovery Put up with nothing, re-educate So what can addicts do to combat people. this problem? First, they need to Letting people walk all over you. understand what kind of addict they are Expand your boundaries. so that they can get to the root of their Trying to prove something by your problem – because not all adrenaline results. addicts are the same. Here are the four Shift from results to people and types: pleasure. 1. The Accomplisher – this is Driving faster than the speed limit. the classic type of adrenaline addict, the one who has an almost innate need to These types of adrenaline addiction, stay busy and cross things off a list in though different, have some elements in order to feel productive. They like to be common. Certainly, many addicts will able to measure daily progress in terms see more than one type in their own of what they have completed, even at the behavior. expense of the bigger, longer term view. Accomplishers are most susceptible to What others will say or think about developing an adrenaline addiction the Adrenaline addict: because they are prone to take on more • Boy, is he on all the time. How can his and more work. spouse take it? 2. The Personal Deflector – this • I know he listened to what I said, but I is the type that uses their addiction to don’t think he heard me. keep from assessing themselves and • You can count on Karen to be late; reflecting on their situation. They often that’s just her. have problems in their personal lives – • Jerry is always so busy. What is he or no personal life at all – and the last always doing? thing they want to do is face up to that. • Susan works too hard. What’s with So they convince themselves that they her? have no time for their personal lives; • Why does Michael put himself through which, sadly, only exacerbates the all that stress? I think he likes it or problem and prolongs the pain of dealing something. with it. • He always said he works best under 3. The Organizational pressure, but he’s including us, too. Deflector – this type is like the previous one, except that the issue being avoided The Recovery Process is trouble within the organization. Often • Stop the triggering behavior. a boss of a struggling company • Be willing to be very bored, until your convinces himself/herself, as well as new energy source kicks in (3-6 others, that he or she is too busy to stop months). and take an honest look at the • Speak truthfully and completely to company’s situation. As the business everyone and yourself in order to let go spirals, the adrenaline addict only works of the residue and heal. harder, trying to be convinced that the • Hire a coach, therapist, or experienced problem can be solved by working more consultant. hours at breakneck speed. The • Install a Strong Personal Foundation to organizational deflector will do anything keep you well and adrenaline-free. to avoid confronting the real problems which are often more complex and Adrenaline addiction is a recoverable require real change. condition 4. The Dramatist – some • Adrenaline addicts can recover usually adrenaline addicts get a degree of by simply changing select behaviors. satisfaction from their addiction because • Recovery can be helped along by it gives them an opportunity to draw identifying the top 20 personal “triggers” attention to themselves and their plight. which start the rush and then eliminating They complain about and describe their the triggers (see “Adrenaline Triggers” overwhelming situation, seemingly above). seeking admiration or pity from those upon whom they unload their problems. • Adrenaline addicts recover faster with Recovering addicts enjoy and the help of a therapist or adrenaline- understand the need to take a breath recovered coach. from time to time, to step back from • Adrenaline addicts will go through a their daily grind to assess and reflect withdrawal period of usually 6-12 where they are professionally, as well as months. personally. And just as importantly, they prevent their peers, their co-workers and The Treatment their families from having to deal with But how do they overcome their the secondary effects of their addiction. addiction? Like any other addiction, the first step is acknowledging that Adrenaline Addict Self-Test they have a problem, and that it is one Yes No they want to change. Until that happens, I drink caffeinated coffee or drinks to there is little or no hope of improvement. get or keep going. The second step is for them to let I eat sugar to calm myself down. their peers and subordinates know that I tend to over promise and then rush they are trying to kick the habit, because to get it done at the last minute. many of these people have become I find some way to sabotage myself enablers over the years and have learned or a project, yet usually pull it off. to play to the person’s addiction. Those I tend to take on more than I really people must be given explicit permission want because I feel I can. to stop enabling the behavior. I react strongly to the unexpected. Finally, an adrenaline addict I find myself getting very upset or needs to confront whatever issue irritated (whether I show it or not) underlies the problem. For when people let me down, miss Accomplishers, it may be a false need to deadlines or do less-than-optimal prove that they are worthy of their jobs. work. Sometimes I take it personally. For the Personal Deflectors, it will I arrive at work rushed or already involve having the courage to look at “on”. their lives holistically and honestly, I get grabbed by surprises and maybe with the help of a counselor of disturbances and then I can’t calm some kind. The Organizational down for a day or more. Deflectors need to embrace the real facts I feel an inner rush or lack of about their situation. And the Dramatists stillness or peace much of the time. probably need to address a deeper issue I am clearly winning at work, yet in their lives, one that involves their self- working very hard. esteem. They need to disconnect their I’m the kind of person who tends to personal needs from those of the find the toughest way to get business. something done. What are the benefits of kicking I drive more than 5 miles over the an adrenaline habit? People who are not speed limit, tailgate or criticize other adrenaline addicts make purposeful drivers. decisions about how they spend their I tend to run or arrive late, even if time and where they give their attention. it’s not my fault. They may be wildly busy at times, but I find that I attract more problems they choose to be that way for limited and disturbances than I feel I periods of time because the situation deserve. truly warrants it. Money is currently tight and I have been working on getting ahead, but haven’t. It is difficult to focus on any one thing for more than 10 minutes at a time. I don’t give myself plenty of time during the day for the things that are likely to come up. I talk a lot even after people have stopped listening. I please people to the point of feeling compulsive, regardless of appropriateness or cost. Scoring: If you answered yes to 5 or more of these, welcome to the club. When you’re ready, willing and able, invest in outside counsel to get through this addiction.
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