Addiction can take many forms…


Dr. Michael J. O’Connell, Barrington, New Hampshire, stated, “I am clearly addicted to my work and rock climbing.  If on vacation, I want to be back at work almost as soon as I leave for my destination; instead I stay in constant communication to satisfy my cravings for work. When I haven’t been rock climbing in more than a few days, I find myself fidgety and ill tempered in the evening for no particular reason. This is as much an addiction as to food for the obese, pencil thinness to the bulimic, heroin to the junkie, amphetamine to the high powered executive or high performance medical student.”

What is the common denominator?  Studies would indicate that dopamine, a chemical in our brains is that commonality.  The dopamine release is so pleasurable as to make us do ‘crazy’ things (subject to interpretation) to get more of it.  Whatever, it doesn’t really matter.  All the above activities that we would readily call addictions, are really pleasures for the addict.  It is rather easy to understand the pleasure of an addiction to rock climbing (for me)…it is thrilling, daring, athletic, and enticingly dependent on solo performance, the attraction is understandable (for me).  However addiction to work?  How is that attractive?  Addiction to vomiting and purging after a meal, how is that attractive?  More difficult to comprehend is the pleasure there.  However, remember that all of us are genetically and socially somewhat different.  We have preferences whether they are the hobbies we like, the beer we prefer, the foods we eat, the companions we hang out with.  Why on earth would we all find pleasures in exactly the same activities?  Our life experiences are all different.  My family and upbringing had a heavy influence on me, supportive of hard work and ‘getting ahead.’  Ambition was considered a vitamin.  Pathological perhaps, but true.  So my ability and desire, nah, my longing to work 12, 16 sometimes 20 hours a day, constantly thinking about work, how to improve my business…is a distinct joy for me, not a labor, or if so, a labor of love (and addiction).  But tell that to my closest friends.

The bulimic is famished all of the time, enjoys gorging much of the time, but above all prizes a very slim silhouette.  This latter desire above all, is the driving force.  The few times I have had to consume opioids, I have been nauseated, constipated, dizzy and just all around miserable.  Pain relief?  Yes.  Pleasure, not in the slightest.  It is not my drug, not my source of dopamine perhaps.  But for many others, narcotics, whether morphine, heroin, or valium is just the ticket.  Many drug addicts say the first time they consumed their drug of choice, they knew they had found nirvana.  The first time I did an ‘overnighter’ in med school and aced the anatomy final, I was hooked.  So is it dopamine or some other naturally occurring chemical in the brain that links us all together?  Is it also something else?  Who knows?  Doesn’t matter for now.  What does matter is that an addict is an addict is an addict.  Only the outcomes are truly different.  Hard work usually ends up earning more money (and sometimes an early heart attack), buliemia a slim profile and equally early demise, heroin Hep C and sometimes AIDS, and the stories go on and on.

The key is to live a balanced life; to strive for a mix, and not an obsession.  Easier said than done for many of us…

About Dr. Michael J. O'Connell, New Hampshire
Dr. Michael J. O'Connell of Barrington, New Hampshire, has forged a distinguished career spanning over three decades, as entrepreneur, physician, businessman, philanthropist and healthcare consultant. As former owner, administrator and CEO of a 225+ employee multi-specialty medical practice, Dr. O'Connell has dedicated his entire professional life to helping patients with family medicine and especially those experiencing chronic pain and all aspects of addiction. Since selling his family of healthcare businesses, he has never once contemplated retirement despite his rich and fulfilling journey, but instead has turned his focus to consulting in an industry starved for courage and creativity. Having weathered many political, technological and legal challenges, there is hardly a storm he has not confronted, a tempest he has not quelled, an urgent need he has not met. While the talking heads and self-proclaimed experts in the field have assumed the conventions and standards of the times, Dr. O'Connell does not believe in merely reflecting the herd mentality, but rather in leading the charge. Eschewing political correctness, Dr. O'Connell says and does what needs saying and doing, and not what the mindless masses expect. In addition to the continual education afforded by his variegated life experiences, Dr O'Connell earned his BS in Biochemistry at the University of NH in 1975, his Medical Degree from Dartmouth College in 1981, interned at Walter Reed Medical Center in 1982, Residency/Fellowship at UCSF in1986, and finished his Masters in Healthcare Administration at UNH in 1995. Dr. O’Connell enjoys many outdoor activities, including rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking, and golf. Through the decades Dr. O'Connell has supported many non-profit charities to include the St. Charles Home in Rochester NH, the Tri City VNA and Hospice, Hyder House, and Cocheco Valley Humane Society. To the latter organization alone Dr. O'Connell has donated over $180,000 and pledged another $250,000 in the “Bring-Us-Home” campaign for a new building. His “Matching Donations Christmas drive” has generated over $175,000 in charitable giving from the community. In addition Dr. O'Connell has participated in many dozens of other volunteer and donation efforts locally as well as in Africa and the Dominican Republic. For a listing of how I gave back to the community during my career and continue to do see:

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: