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Prolific British Writer Reveals He Has Been Diagnosed As A Workaholic & Says The Addiction Is “No Different From Drink, Drugs Or Sex”

Prolific British screenwriter and playwright James Graham has revealed he has been diagnosed as a workaholic and described the addiction as “no different really from drink, drugs or sex.”

Graham appeared on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs yesterday and opened up about the problem, which he said led him to seek help from family and friends and eventually attend Workaholics Anonymous meetings.

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“I knew something wasn’t quite right in my late 20s,” said the Sherwood and Brexit: The Uncivil War writer. “I would go into periods where I would be far too isolated or would self-sabotage relationships as soon as they became intimate and important. I was working around the clock continually and not looking after myself.”

He added: “The moment I realized I had a problem was when I had started to lie to family and friends about stupid things like I’d say I got up at 8 a.m. when actually I had woken up at 5. Or I realized I wouldn’t have eaten for a day.”

Graham said he took himself to meetings during a winter when he was speaking with “a woman who probably saved me” and she suddenly said: “Why aren’t you wearing a coat?”

“It was winter and cold outside and I had a flimsy paper thing on as I hadn’t had time to go out and buy a winter coat,” he added. “I brushed it aside and was getting frustrated with her but to her that was symptomatic of an inability to look after myself. I took that on the chin and went to a group.”

Graham described the problem as “not an actual sickness” but said it is an addiction “no different really from drink, drugs or sex,” although it is not taken as seriously.

“I realized [in meetings] that it is a pattern of behavior that is slowly killing you. People spoke of the people they had lost due to it.”

Graham is undoubtedly one of the most prolific British screenwriters and playwrights of the past couple of decades. The 41-year-old’s TV work includes The Way, Sherwood, Quiz and Brexit: The Uncivil War, along with an episode of The Crown. He has written around 30 plays over the past 20 years, including Joseph Fiennes-starrer and soon-to-be-BBC drama Dear England, and at one point had two plays on in London’s West End at the same time.

He continued: “Having two plays on at the same time well 90% of me was happy and proud of that but 10% looks up at the lights and thinks it’s part of the problem. Then everyone is saying how amazing it is and that feeds into the cycle of self-validation and you just go, ‘Well why don’t I have three plays on at the same time, why not four?’.”

Although he feels he now strikes a better balance, Graham said he faces everyday dilemmas because being a writer “gives me such joy, value and happiness.”

During the extended Desert Island Discs, Graham also opened up about being “very intimidated and scared” when meeting Rupert Murdoch on opening night of his West End play Ink, which told the story of the Australian media baron’s ownership of The Sun newspaper.

“I was scared in the build up to that meeting but as often happens it’s quite vanilla,” he added. “You hope to come away with quite a good dinner party anecdote but actually he was a particularly studied case in not giving anything away.”

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