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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