Detox. Now there is word with a lot of different meanings. For a drug addict it means a lot of pain to give up their drug of choice. For the health nut it means cleaning out the toxins from your body. Then for the early retiree, detox means getting all those side effects related to your job out of your system.
If you read enough blogs and forums on early retirement the detox phase is typically the three to twelve months after you initially leave work where you adjust to your new life of freedom from your old work life. The theory is your work life has usually left in with an excess amount of built up stress in your life and you need to learn how to relax again so you can find out who you really are before turning to building a new life without work.
In my case, I’m a bit different since I’ve been reducing my stress at work for years already with staying out of upper management jobs and keeping very clear boundaries between my work and home lives. I already spend most of my weekend not even thinking about work so I would say I have a health distance to it. Also I’ve been asking myself the question: who am I, for years now. So I’m fairly familiar with myself. I know what I like, what I don’t like and what I just don’t care about. So in short I don’t expect a very long detox period for myself. In fact, I’m only planning on giving myself around three months or so as my detox period.
Yes, I know that is short, but like I mentioned I don’t expect I will have as much as an adjustment as some others. Yet to be fair I’ve developed some rough ‘rules’ to help guide me to my new found freedom.
- No Long Term Commitments – This might be obvious but let’s state it for the record. I will not get a fun job or commit to a multiple year term as a volunteer for my detox period. This does not prevent me from doing fun things, but I should avoid adding to my life until I work out my post work looks like.
- Leave the House Once a Week – This might seem odd until you realize I could very easily become a hermit and never leave my house for weeks on end. Give me a stack of books, Netflix and a pile of computer games and I might not go anywhere for a month. So to avoid that fate and to give my wife some time of her own I plan to do something outside the house at least once a week. It may be just writing in a coffee shop for a few hours or seeing a movie by myself, but the point is to see the world outside my house.
- I Don’t Have to Be Productive – This one is going to be a bit hard for me to adjust. I’m a ‘to do list’ type person so learning not to be productive every second of every day is going to be difficult. For example, I can manage about three hours on a beach before I feel the need to do something else. So to meet in the middle on this I’m going to do something every day, but that something could be a quick a five minute task like paying my Visa bill. That way my mind thinks I’ve been productive if it is was only in a tiny way. The point is to learn how to take a day or two off and realize the world won’t end if I am relaxing for a while.
Then I have one last item on my list. After my initial detox period I plan to review how things are going. How do I feel about my new life? What do I want to do more of? What do I want to do less of? And of course, I will give myself permission to extend the detox period if I want. The point is to get used to my new found life of freedom until I feel like I want to go explore the world again and get involved in new things.
So follow early retirees, how long was your detox period? Did you have any ‘rules’ for that period? What did you enjoy most about your detox? And for everyone else, any other suggestions or insights into the detox period that you have read about and want to share?