Fetching Water, Chopping Wood

My sponsor on the left, me ready to do his next task
My sponsor on the left,  and me, ready to do his bidding

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.

These women knew the value of a job well done
These women knew the value of a job well done

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.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. sherryd32148 says:

    That is one of my favorite sayings.

    Oh the horridness of waking up and realizing you’re late and you’ve missed an important meeting. Even now if I oversleep, my first reaction is to panic…then I think through it and calm down.

    I guess old habits really do die hard.

    Great post.


    1. Thanks Sherry. Old habits…dang, why can’t I just wish them away? No dice! That’s the “progress” part, I guess. Sigh. 🙂 Cheers, Paul.

  2. runningonsober says:


    Enlightenment itself is the water and the wood. Funny, what so many of us search for has been in our possession the whole time.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Christy. The very things we seek outside of ourselves have always, always been within. Wise words…thanks so much for your comment…loved it!

  3. Katie says:

    Wow. I admire the way you were able to share and write all that, telling it like it was/is, and not making excuses. Really awesome. You sound quite strong, probably from all the fetching and chopping.

    1. Thank you, Katie. I gave up making excuses a long time ago – that was my whole life…pointing the finger at others and coming up with reasons not to look at myself. Made me laugh at the strong part…I certainly *do* feel stronger by doing the work I need to do to stay connected and just do what’s in front of me. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Lilly says:

    This is so lovely. Awesome sauce. Those are the keys that count.

  5. Thanks Lilly for the kind words! Awesome sauce…need to use that one. I promise to give credit for that ditty. I appreciate you stopping by…means a lot!

  6. miakrita says:

    I love this. I used to be into Eastern Philosophy and this saying really struck home with me. I used to carry it around with me. But I guess I’ve lost it. thanks so much for he pertinent reminder 🙂

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