My Addiction and How It’s Hurting My Daughter

For various boring reasons, I am currently in the process of reorganizing our entire house. It’s hard, tiring work, but I love it.

I’m going mad shuffling things from here to there, throwing out lawn bags full of discards and donations.

I am getting things done!  I am decluttering with the best of them!

And I’m even getting my daughter, Rachel, involved in the process, just like all the experts say a parent should. She has helped me unpack, organize, sort, go through, and label almost every item in our home.

And she seems to really enjoy it. The other day when Rachel came home from pre-school, I said, excitedly, “Oh, you have to go check out the playroom!” Her face lit up and she asked, “Did you get a lot done while I was gone?” It was one of my proudest parenting moments. “She gets it,” I thought. “My daughter has felt the joy of rearranging and organizing. I’ve succeeded!”

Later that same day, Rachel very purposefully pulled a chair up to the kitchen sink and began scrubbing all her doll dishes.

Shortly afterwards, she refused to play a game until we had picked up all the toys from the living room floor.

Throughout a two-week period, I noticed little things like this happening with growing frequency. Rachel spent more time doing dishes than cooking in her play kitchen. She asked several times for wet rags so she could clean random things (I admit I really liked that, especially when she got the lower parts of the coffee and end tables). Whenever she returned home from an outing with Grandma or her dad, she would ask what I “got done” while she was gone. She even turned down games, movies, and snacks, choosing instead to help me reorganize bedrooms and closets.

As Rachel’s “get ‘er done” actions have increased over the last couple of weeks, I have grown more and more uneasy about the message I am sending her, not just about what’s important in life—she does know she is more important than a to-do list!—but also about expectations. I see my perfectionist tendencies rubbing off on her and I know that isn’t a road I want her to go down—it leads to nowhere but a clean house lived in miserably. I also don’t want her to think that the only quality time she gets with me is when we’re doing chores together.

Psychology Today defines addiction as “a condition that results [from drug use] or [when one] engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.”

Yep, that’s me.

I’m addicted to getting things done and I’ve just introduced my daughter to my drug of choice.

I have never understood the “let it go for today” mentality of putting off a task. In fact, I have adopted a rule I once read somewhere, which is if something takes two minutes or less to do, do it NOW. While others may enjoy living in the moment and completing a task only when necessary, I simply cannot enjoy life until all of the day’s (self-imposed) chores are done. That habit has finally caught up with me, and not in a good way.

Consider:

“In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples liking something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it. That is, this process motivates us to take action to seek out the source of pleasure.

People who develop an addiction typically find that, in time, the desired substance no longer gives them as much pleasure. They have to take more of it to obtain the same dopamine “high” because their brains have adapted—an effect known as tolerance.”

(http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm)

In other words, drawing that thin, straight line through an item on my to-do list lights up my brain’s rewards system like the Vegas strip, but now, unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry won’t cut it. Instead I have to clean out the attic, detail the car, and alphabetize files dating back to 1996 to reach my desired high.

Frankly, I’ve been pretty shaken by the realization that I have an issue that puts family, friends, social activities, work, exercise, and even eating on the back burner. So now what? My plan thus far includes giving myself stern lectures, praying about it daily, and trying to live intentionally in even the minutiae of life.

 What about you? Are you addicted to getting things done? How have you overcome your addiction?

 Advice and thoughts are always appreciated!

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8 thoughts on “My Addiction and How It’s Hurting My Daughter

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  4. In every generation, parents, then their children, fall into routines driven by current social conventions. That’s not quite the same phenomenon as an addiction, unless the person has the underlying physiology that produces addiction. Addiction occurs when the brain stem (primal urges) become linked with other activities, e.g., the normal sense of thirst with the right-brain states of consciousness (escape from rational reality) produced by alcohol.

    As with sight (which we routinely correct with glasses even for very young children), even slight alterations away from the ideal of excellence or perfection in hearing have strong effects on the person’s essential perceptions that build concepts of social “reality” into the nervous system.
    Your daughter’s perception of you can be altered to some extent when you change your routine behavior, as you doubtless have in regard to housework. But if she has audio deficits that force her to attach stronger-than-normal emotions to those behaviors she imitates, it is not as easy to redirect her. She may have in her hearing apparatus an inherent capacity for developing addictions. Addictions are not usually “learned” in the way your writing implies; children in a family imitating the behavior of their parents will have utterly different outcomes in their own behavior depending on their individual capacity for learning self-control. Two of our children have good self-control over alcohol and two developed serious addictions before they began the long struggle to gain self-control. Self-control is a function of right ear-muscle strength.

    If unusually strong emotional attachments characterize many of your daughter’s learned behaviors, she carries an unusual emotional burden at all times that will intensify all of her reactions to her environment. She will have greater difficulty, therefore, using her left brain to overcome those emotional attachments: she will have a greater tendency to losses of self-control.

    In our family, that escalating problem, of which I had no understanding in its early stages, created catastrophic instability as well as serious physical illness in four of our five children by the time the children were in their teens. In what passes for “common wisdom” in many circles, the mother is chiefly held to blame for the personality disorders that result from audio deficits that may be hereditary (nevertheless treatable) or may have been caused accidentally (by flying in airplanes, being exposed to loud machinery, contracting infections that harm the ear, etc.). Audio deficits have played havoc with their ability to learn self-control. We have run the gamut of parental agony that, I believe, has been ameliorated primarily by what can be accomplished through prayer and by the beliefs we tried to instil while they were very young. Although they have been physiologically unable to enact some of those teachings — the ability to achieve certain states of consciousness I now think depends on a person’s ability to control speeds of cerebral integration by “listening” in the mental posture we call “prayer” — they have put those ideals into practice as well as they can in their various circumstances. The earlier a child’s audio deficits are treated, the better because the vast majority of people expect behavior from others within the range of normal, even if they have no idea how, physiologically, those types of self-control are achieved.

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  5. Oh sheesh, this is so convicting, this is me and the internet. My son plays “daddy working on his computer”, and my dAughter delays obedience “so she can quickly send this email.” Thanks, Jamie.

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    • Ohmygosh, I could write for years on the internet suck. The most common phrase in our house (from both my husband and me), is “just let me send this email, and then I’ll (fill in the blank).” It’s terrible! Let’s work on it together? I don’t have an accountability group, but I’m in desperate need of one!

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