Houston… we have a problem


Numbing, Sabotage and Entitlement – There’s always more to the story, this one just played out.

How many times have we said this to ourselves?! I know I have done it lots!! As I age, it outnumbers my “Here, hold my beer!” statements (I am too old for those statements and I don’t drink enough beer). I will admit to having struggles adapting to FIFO life, particularly when it comes down to work-life balance. As a contractor in the beginning, I was very cognizant that I had no job security per se and very much followed the old adage of “Make hay while the sun shines”. So, I was very work and career orientated vs home life orientated, I made a good living so this allowed me to develop some coping habits that may not have been the best long-term solutions.

I’ll start with a numbing habit of mine, which is retail therapy! I don’t do it too often but when I do it, it makes up for all the times that I didn’t do it, and then some.


‍Let’s talk about what numbing behaviors are, our brains are hardwired with coping strategies that act as escape switches when we encounter great emotional or physical distress. This stress could be personal life related, work related, health related, financially related etc. These strategies can protect us from harm caused by internal and/or external stressors. There is a fine line between using a coping strategy in a positive way and in a way that sabotages your wellbeing or even your future. We numb sometimes to, so we don’t have to feel something or use the numbing behavior to replace the feelings we have for what is really bothering us (substitution).

This is real life for me, I am feeling like crap because of one reason or another but mostly it’s that life is not going the way I had hoped for or expected. Then I go buy that widget or thing (can you say truck), I get that dopamine hit and feel that good sensation from the purchase and I forget about what’s bothering me in that moment, it fills the gap… Then WHAMMO!! Guilt, shame and that “Ah shit! What have I done!” moment soon as the novelty of the purchase wears off, and you go into damage control mode. I am asking myself “How do I pay for this? How do I explain this to my partner? What have I sacrificed down the road for this? Can I return it?”. There is no turning back now! Am I the only one that has done this?! If I am, damn, I got some issues!

This numbing or coping strategy sabotages my future in many ways:

1) It creates a financial obligation that puts a strain on my finances because it is an emotional and impulse purchase vs a rationally or logically thought out purchase – Want vs Need and can I afford it?

2) Creates relationship stress because as with most impulse purchases it lacks any sort of communication with other members of the family (transparency – if you are married or living with someone). Her take on this is different than mine as she is a money coach and speaks to emotions and money daily with her clients.

3) Creates additional work performance stress because now I am more aware of how much I need to work, work more. What happens if I lose my job? Will I have to forego vacation time or downgrade a vacation I had planned, etc. The answer to this is YES (inserted by wife.) When you say yes to something now it means you will need to say no to something later – think dominoes effect. Choices have consequences good or bad.

These stresses I know are a big distraction and obstacles to me living out my life the best way that I can both at work and more importantly at home. The crazy thing is that I know that one of the main reasons I do this kind of FIFO work is because of the financial benefits that come from above average income yet this is an area that often gets sabotaged by my own behaviors that keep me in what I have heard called the “Golden handcuffs”. Whether we are just keeping up with the Jones’s or just numbing or filling a gap the effect on us is real.

The other part of the equation that helps me rationalize this kind of behavior is the part of me that says “I work away from home, I sacrifice all the good time with my family, I miss important days, I work long hours and I don’t get to sleep in my own bed or eat home cooking”. Honestly, I basically kind of feel sorry for myself and feel like I deserve or am entitled to “excusive” perks. Now don’t get me wrong, we do need to reward ourselves but the reward should never punish the present you or future you in any way, everything within reason and try to find that balance (easier said than done). Numbing is a habit that can harm the present and future you so be wary of the rationalizing and make sure that you try to see the positive of FIFO life. Often, when we are stuck in a negative space we don’t see the positives aspects that are “When I am home I am home for a stretch at a time, I can dedicate time to family, friends and hobbies, I get to participate in all the activities that I want, I have a good paying job that affords me luxuries within reason”.

The FIFO life gives us a lot to be grateful for, great opportunities for career growth, financial security if we are good stewards of our money and if we are communicating with our families we can thrive. It’s trying to avoid the pitfalls and going in with eyes wide open to the fact that it will be hard dealing with isolation or disconnection from family, it will be hard missing important dates and it will be hard getting used to the changing environment that is FIFO life. It’s not for everyone and it might not be forever for some of us and yet for some it will be the best life imaginable. Just do your best, reach out to mentors, family, friends and be honest with yourself and others as to where you are in your journey, this might not be the solution but it will help.

– Signing off Fran