Work has always been fertile ground for my alcoholism to grow. People telling me what to do (how dare they?), clashing personalities (how dare you oppose me!) and the availability of alcohol (they gave me, an alcoholic, keys to the liquor room)…these were a few of the reasons that work and I didn’t mix well. No matter how many places I worked, there always seemed to be that one person who rubbed me the wrong way…as if it were the same soul body-shifting and then tormenting me at work. Why couldn’t everyone just leave me alone?
Needless to say, I could indulge under the guise of work-related functions and tasks, and no one would really question my state. Remember, I had keys. But of course, like all good alcoholics, I went too far. Uneven efforts, calling in sick more and more, running late, more and more unreliable…all started to cause my superiors concern. Policy changes were made because of me. Keys revoked to all but a scant few. Got fired. Not being asked back to places I used to be welcomed. No one said anything, but what wasn’t being said I heard loud and clear. My alcoholism was affecting my work considerably to the point of being unemployable. Cue the depression and further anxiety, and fuel that with more booze.
Alcohol, on it’s own, gave me great ideas – the type you drunkenly scrawl on scraps of paper (back of beer label, cocktail napkin) – but killed the ambition to follow through with them. If they made sense the next day, that is. I thought I could come up with killer ideas for work while in the midst of a vodka fugue and save my career. But those moments of inspiration were obliterated by my own oblivion. And as the shine faded off my old career and started to sharpen on long term career of drinking, I started to feel useless. Utterly useless.
The feeling of usefulness is inherently strong in us. No one likes to feel useless. And I had sunk into that well of being unable to perform in any way. But it wasn’t until I started in AA and began to work the steps did I start to get that feeling of usefulness again. And wow, I was actually working on something that I didn’t fade halfway through. There was a sense of accomplishment (something also that had gone MIA while I drank, unless killing a 30 pounder vodka is considered an accomplishment). I had become well, and that ambition that had been buried knee deep in fear and resentment, started to bubble back up. I actually started to take interest in simple things like my appearance (showering! shaving!) and worked my way up from there. And I started to look for a job. And got one. I still have that job today and they know about my past. I am so very grateful to them.
The great thing about work these days is that I am able to practice life there. I get to practice creating and sticking to boundaries. I get to practice spiritual principles. I get to do things for others outside my usual tasks and objectives. I get to practice patience. I have talents and skills that were God given, and I get to use them properly. I have pride in my work and I have passion again. I actually enjoy work. Work for me is almost like a walking meditation at times, it’s the physical act of being at times. There is a Buddhist saying:
“Before enlightenment, fetch water, chop wood.
After enlightenment, fetch water, chop wood.”
So no matter where I am in my recovery, in my feelings, in my spot in life, I need to remember that I still need to fetch water, chop wood. But the most important thing to remember is that work is where I make my living, and recovery my real job.
I still have keys.