Though I’m not in AA, I find some of the concepts useful, and one I’ve been thinking about is the idea of not making any major life changes in the first year of sobriety. Honestly, this was easy in my very first weeks, when being sober was the life change and all I had the mental room to think about. But in the last month or so, I’ve been finding myself so unsettled, impatient, even crabby about so many things, and I don’t quite know whether to trust those feelings. Part of me says ‘Trust them! After all, you’re sober now and have much more clarity than you used to. It’s time to shake things up a bit.’ But then another voice says ‘Yeah, maybe hold your horses a bit, missy. There’s always time to make changes down the road–acting rashly now might just be a new way of creating excitement for yourself now that you are no longer starring in your own booze-fueled psychodrama.’ The second voice is a bit of a smartass, but I also suspect she’s right–which doesn’t make it any easier to sit here feeling frustrated and stuck.
And the potential change I’m mulling over really is a pretty big one–whether to leave my job. I work at a company famous (or notorious) for the intensity of its culture. Burnout and short tenures are not at all uncommon, but I’m going on Year 7 and have overall done pretty well–I’ve worked with brilliant, awesome people on a number of interesting projects; have gotten to a place where I have lots of autonomy (albeit also the responsibility that comes with it); and am more than fairly paid. I’ve made lifelong friends at my company and even have a reasonable work/life balance most of the year, at least by tech-giant standards.
And yet, I can’t deny that since I got sober, the place has begun to seem more and more–what’s the world–clusterfuckish. The pace, the endless meetings, the whiplash-inducing shifts in strategy, the fact that seemingly everything is top priority, the tendency for criticism to far outweigh praise, the need to coordinate decisions across four different time zones…it all just seems increasingly ludicrous. And rather than continue in my way to try to change the culture from within, or learn some new ways to cope, my impulse is to say ‘Enough, time to blow this pop stand.’ And I probably could, with the right preparation–I’m very fortunate to live in a city with a growing economy and healthy job market, and there are lots of opportunities for people with my skill set. And who knows, maybe it’s really time to move on to something new. Voice #1 in my head says ‘Your newfound and infallible sober clarity has woken you up to the fact that this place kind of sucks in a lot of ways, and you don’t need to tolerate it anymore!’ But then killjoy Voice #2 says ‘Infallible clarity? You got sober–you didn’t become a god. And you’ve always been a grass-is-greener thinker. Better to take your time over this, and try resetting your expectations before you go running away.’ And though I (again) suspect Voice #2 is right, how do I know it’s not just fear talking?
Through writing this–especially that last sentence–I’ve realized that maybe the problem is I don’t know how to discern truth from lies from excuses from disguises yet, and that’s why I can decide in the space of a day that I hate my job and have to quit and love my job and want to stay. And I can see that my black-and-white thinking is coming into play, too–my career situation is either miserable or wonderful! Maybe the real work right now is to learn to recognize what’s true, and act on it with intention, and maybe make small changes that either help me (like hiring a career coach as a sounding board, or reconnecting with some people in my network) or at least make my day-to-day experience better (for instance, oh, take a real lunch now and then). Maybe if I can wait a bit, and do it with a modicum of patience, when it is time to make my next move I’ll be doing it with real clarity and not just this sudden excess of nervous energy.
Think patient thoughts for me, friends?
A postscript: I’ve been wondering when I should stop counting days, now that I’ve been sober for over five months. But I’m going to keep listing my days (or approximate days!) in my blog entry titles for a while for two reasons. One is that it’s a powerful reminder for me of everything I’ve accomplished, but at the same time of what a relative newbie I am to being sober–a reminder that I should tread carefully and cut myself plenty of slack. And the other is that when I first got sober, reading blog entries from people who were 100, 80, even 40 days sober just boggled my mind (’40 days?! How is that even possible on this space-time continuum?!’) and inspired me. So now that I’m one of those on the ‘other side,’ as I thought of it in my earliest sober days, I hope knowing exactly where I am in my sobriety might help other newbies to see not only that yeah, it really is possible, but that it’s also really, really worth it. Even if being sober just means in some ways that you have a better idea of everything else waiting to be figured out.