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Workaholics Anonymous (WA) – 12 Step Program

What is Workaholics Anonymous and when did it start?

Workaholics Anonymous is a 12-step program for individuals who are powerless over their compulsive workaholism. The fellowship was created for individuals who not only overwork themselves, but also for those who suffer from unmanageable procrastination or work aversion. Workaholics Anonymous is not just for individuals who compulsively work professionally; it is also for people who overwork themselves through housework, fitness, hobbies and volunteering. Anyone is welcome to the group as long as they have the desire to stop overworking.

The program began in 1983 in New York when a financial planner and a school teacher got together to create a fellowship to help with work addiction. Since then, there are over 50 meetings worldwide, as well as over 1,000 active members in the program.

While the fellowship does have its own literature, including the “Workaholics Anonymous Book of Recovery,” it also uses the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book”, with their permission. The program is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, but it utilizes the same 12-step and 12-tradition format because it has been so successful with other 12-step groups.

How does Workaholics Anonymous work?

Workaholism is defined as similar to substance addiction, as it has characteristics like other mental illnesses and affects the brain in the same way. It is a progressive illness that will continue to worsen over time if left untreated. Unfortunately, it is an addiction that cannot be cured and willpower alone cannot arrest it. Many workaholics tend to overwork themselves in an attempt to try and alleviate stress, although it winds up having a reverse effect. For example, an individual will overwork themselves to ensure that they meet a deadline in time, causing severe burnout. When another deadline arrives, workaholics are already so burned out from the previous assignment, that they become frantic and anxiety-ridden trying to meet the next deadline, thus the cycle continues.

When individuals begin attending meetings and hearing others’ experience, strength and hope, they begin to see that this addiction can be managed. Members are encouraged to find a sponsor in the program; a longtime member that has actively worked the steps and can offer guidance and tools of recovery that have worked for them. A sponsor is able to answer any questions one might have about the program, help develop abstinence plans, and reach goals to begin a healthy recovery process. They are also able to help individuals identify and address the three problem levels of this addiction: spiritual, physical and emotional.

Abstinence plans are a crucial part of the program, as they can help individuals properly manage their daily activities and abstain from working compulsively. They also help individuals abstain from compulsive activities, worrying and work avoidance. Individuals are able to identify their bottom line behaviors, to help differentiate abstinence from work addiction, as well as identify triggers that lead to overworking. Abstinence is not only freedom from compulsively working; it is freedom from compulsive worrying. Bottom lines are unique to each individual, as only they can identify what triggers their compulsive behaviors.

Why is Workaholics Anonymous effective?

While workaholism may not seem similar to other addictions, it can have a severe impact on an individual’s happiness and lifestyle choices. Overworking can cause depression, isolation, dissatisfaction and anxiety. Many individuals try to overwork in compensation for other areas in their life where they are feeling unfulfilled, but because this can take such a negative toll on the body, it is never enough to make them feel happy.

Before the fellowship, members often tried to solve the problem of workaholism by not working as much, but this did not address the deeper issues at hand as to why they compulsively work and did not allow them to learn how to manage their activities. When individuals try to solve their problems on their own, they end up procrastinating or over engaging in self-criticism, causing more emotional problems for themselves.

In Workaholics Anonymous, individuals will begin to learn how to prioritize their activities appropriately, and instead of viewing interruptions negatively, they will see them as positive opportunities for growth rather than disruptions. Rather than trying to substitute projects that may feel overwhelming, members can learn how to manage the tasks they already have without putting more pressure on themselves.

Another benefit of the program is that members will begin to learn how to balance out their lives in a more suitable manner, giving them time to grow spiritually, develop personal relationships, and move forward with a positive and creative attitude. Many members have problems finding time to relax in their lives, which is detrimental to their health. In the program, members can learn how to relax and enjoy life, giving themselves the chance to heal and realize that they need to live in the moment, rather than just overworking themselves towards the future.

Workaholics Anonymous FAQs

Does Workaholics Anonymous cost money?

“The program of Workaholics Anonymous has no dues, fees or costs for membership. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop overworking. The group is self-supporting through their own contributions.” While members are encouraged to give what they can, when they can, they are never required to make any monetary contributions.

Where can I find a Workaholics Anonymous meeting?

Meetings are a crucial part of the program, so finding a meeting nearby is important for existing members and newcomers. Workaholics Anonymous has meetings all over the world, but if members are unable to attend a face-to-face meeting, there are virtual and phone meetings available online. The meeting directory can be found on the official website, located here.

How do I know if I am a workaholic?

Making the decision as to whether or not attending meetings may be for you is solely up to the individual. It is not up to members of Workaholics Anonymous to decide if someone has a problem with workaholism. Visiting the official website can help individuals learn more about the addiction of workaholism, but many members share similar characteristics that can help them identify a problem. Some of the characteristics include:

  • Being so used to doing what you are told that you are unsure of what you want or need to do for yourself;
  • Your sense of self esteem is based around how others perceive you, based on your work performance or other areas of your life;
  • You judge yourself by your accomplishments, causing you to always be in the process of accomplishing something so that you can feel good about yourself;
  • You tend to schedule more than you can handle, thinking that others will like you more if you can do more and do it faster;
  • You have an overwhelming desire to understand everything in your life, including emotions; you do not allow yourself to experience emotions you don’t understand because it would mean loss of control.

What are the 12 promises of Workaholics Anonymous?

Like other 12-step programs, Workaholics Anonymous is a program that works for individuals who put forth an honest effort to work the steps and make positive changes in their lives. While the 12 promises may not all happen at once, as individuals continue attending meetings and working the steps, they will begin to see the promises come true for themselves.

1. We are not obsessed by work or plagued by work aversion.

2. Adrenaline seeking loses its hold on us. Excessive worry and anxiety become a thing of the past.

3. We have a daily plan of action that faces the reality of time, priorities, health, and relationships.

4. Fears that there won’t be enough time, money or love leave us.

5. We learn to play and have fun together.

6. We repair broken relationships and form new ones.

7. Health and self-nurturance return.

8. Self-seeking and ego inflation do not drive our decisions.

9. We lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in and compassion for our partners, families, co-workers, and friends.

10. We experience how well the tools of the program help us handle problems which used to confuse and defeat us.

11. We ask for help and reach out to help others.

12. We find that our Higher Power helps us in a way self-reliance never could.


What are the 12 steps of Workaholics Anonymous?

1. We admitted we were powerless over work—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Became entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to workaholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


What are the 12 traditions of Workaholics Anonymous?

1. Our common welfare should come first: personal recovery depends upon WA unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as expressed in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for W.A. membership is a desire to stop working compulsively.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or W.A. as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the workaholic who still suffers.

6. A Workaholics Anonymous group ought never endorse, finance or lend the W.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every W.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Workaholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. W.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Workaholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the W.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

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