The Trouble With All Work, No Play

My phone rings. Reluctantly I look up from my computer where I'm editing my latest shoot, and see that it's a close friend that I haven't seen in quite some time. She wants to know if I'd like to have dinner the following night. Without even thinking, I give her my usual answer — one I've been giving far too frequently as of late: "I can't, I'm working."

Since the start of 2009, I've hit the ground running. I decided to branch out and start my own business this fall, and since November up until now I've been shooting and working nonstop. I still work for Suze.net full time, and trying to launch my own business on top of that has proved to be just what I thought — overwhelming and exhausting.

Going into this new venture, I knew I would become overworked, and that my friends and my social life would be compromised. And I was OK with that, because I had a career to fashion — but most of all I had something to prove.

Almost two years from my last crash and burn from alcohol addiction — two years away from 10 years of a destructive lifestyle that slowly destroyed me physically, mentally, and spiritually, I was in full sprint mode. I thought that by throwing myself into work and by building a successful career, I was going to redeem myself from the pathetic human being I once was, and I would thereby ensure that I would never go back to being that person. But what I didn't realize was that I had simply transferred my addiction from alcohol to work.

Cross-addiction is something that is overwhelmingly common in recovering addicts — in fact, it's pretty much textbook. Some become addicted to food, some to lovers, some to shopping — the list goes on. My rationalization is that my work ethic is respectable. As I work on building an image and a company, I'm working on building up my self-esteem, my sense of responsibility, and a secure financial future. Besides, photo prepping images until 2 a.m. is far better than staying up until the same hour drinking vodka and watching "Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail" for the 58th time. Isn't it?

But when you look at it, my workaholic ways are not too far from my alcoholic ways. Both obsessions rely on my need to control things — alcohol was a way for me attempt to control how I felt, and work is just another path I take to try and reach the same goal. I can't control the world and my surroundings, but I can, to some extent, control work. A good photo shoot, a new business deal — these things give me a sense of self worth that alcohol did, though the effects of a bottle (or three) of wine was obviously very temporary and entirely fictitious. But these good feelings, whether they are derived from business or booze, are built upon an unstable foundation of false ego.

But I didn't really think about any of this until last weekend, when I finally dragged myself away from work to have dinner with several of my non-porno friends. We crowded into a tiny booth at a small and quiet Thai restaurant, ordered food to share, and talked about everything from books to politics. There was some talk of our fears due to the current economic crisis, but there was mostly lots of laughter and I felt love and affection all around me. I forgot about work, I forgot about my problems, and I suddenly remembered how much I missed these people. I left dinner that night with a full stomach and a profound sense of companionship with my friends. As I drove home I began to reevaluate my priorities and wondered if a wildly successful career and all the money in the world would really make me as happy as I seem to think it will.

Don't get me wrong — I love my job. I love having a career, I love promoting myself; I love building an image. Are such things ego-based? Of course, especially in the adult industry, a business built entirely on selling sexual fantasies. Is that going to stop me from doing my job? Not in the least. But to maintain a healthy attitude on life I need balance. I need to remember how important the love and company of the people in my life is to me. I don't believe that anybody lies on their deathbed and wishes they'd spent more time in the office — I think that one always wishes they'd appreciated the people in their life more, and had let them know that.

Since then, I haven't exactly slowed down on work. Things will be a little crazy until my site launches, and until I can finally start making some revenue that can pay for an assistant, I won't have much free time. But what I try to do each day is to stop and experience moments of deep gratitude for what I have.

The other day before I walked into my parents' kitchen, I spent a few moments paused outside of the doorway watching them preparing dinner. It gave me the time to be thankful to have both parents still together, still alive and healthy, and that they are two wonderfully generous people who love me no matter what. And when I drive to work along the Pacific Coast Highway in the morning, I look out the window towards that sparkling blue ocean and clear skies, and I am grateful to live in a city with beautiful weather and gorgeous beaches. And when I climb into bed at night, and my dog Bonnie stands next to my bed and rests her head on my mattress for a good night pat on the head, I am grateful to have dogs that I love in a home with a garden I can grow my vegetables in.

All of these things may sound cliché and silly, but I find that I feel less afraid of the future if I can appreciate and live in the present. And if my business fails, and all the hard work I put into it comes to nothing, then at least I haven't lost myself in the hustle for the career that never was. I know that my friends and family will always be there for me, whether I build an impressive porn empire or all fails and I end up working the register at Trader Joe's.

As long as I don't forget that the next time my friend calls me for dinner plans, I can make the time for her. And now I know a good Thai restaurant to suggest, one that I will be able to afford, even if I am working at Trader Joe's this time next year. Some of the best things in life are free — or at least cheap.