I’d had 3 hours sleep. An energy-sapping day networking at a conference loomed large in my consciousness. I was fairly confident that I would be fine and get through the day. How did I know that? The benefits of having two young children have taught me that adrenaline will get me through these tough situations – regardless of the amount of sleep that I have had that night. In effect, I am self-medicating to get through my day.
Using (and occasionally abusing) adrenaline is just one of the ways we self-medicate to get through the day. Caffeine is another popular soft drug of choice. Do you routinely need a large cup of coffee in the morning to get going? This is self-medicating. This doesn’t become a problem until you HAVE to have caffeine or you can’t function properly during the day. I was speaking to a young partner at the conference who was regularly working 70-80 hour weeks. A normal day for him would start at 09:00 and he considered an early finish to be 20:00. As we talked, he enjoyed his espresso… and the penny dropped, he was self-medicating himself with caffeine to routinely put in the 12-14 hour days. No wonder he was a lousy sleeper and always tired.
Very often we push our concentration to the limit, just to be seen as a player at work. We expect that we can still be at the top of our game, 10 hours into a 12 hour working day. And we do this, day after day, after day. It’s no wonder that we need caffeine and adrenaline to keep us awake and alert, and tobacco and alcohol to help us distress and unwind at the end of the day.
Now, I’m focusing on ways in which we legally self-medicate to keep in the game at work. I am aware that it’s not unheard of for professionals to use harder and illegal drugs to maintain their hectic lifestyle. If your medication of choice has turned onto illegal substances, then I urge you to seek professional help for your problem.
Next time you rely on adrenaline to get you through the day, or caffeine to wake you up, or alcohol or a cigarette to relax you, ask yourself what you could do differently to prevent the need to self-medicate?