Work and Recovery
I am not one of those alcoholics who managed to build a life for himself before pulling it down in a fit of drunken uselessness. I was useless from the start. When, in my mid-twenties, I realised that if I didn't get a job I would run out of money and not be able to drink, I smartened up and walked into the first job I applied for, a sales assistant in a local Hi-Fi shop.
For a while I was great, enthusiastic and good at my job. Never mind the fact I owed all my first paycheck (which I couldn’t believe was so low, considering my efforts) to other people – I was on my way to being a useful member of society.
It was about a month before I didn’t make it in to work one day because I was so hungover. I didn’t wake up to my alarm clock. When I stumbled blindly in the manager told me that if the owner smelt the alcohol on me that he could, I would be for the high jump. I nodded gravely, apologising profusely and determined to do better.
The paychecks weren't helping anyway, I never had any money. All I could think about while at work was: am I going to be able to drink tonight? If the answer was yes; I was Mr Happy Go Lucky. If the answer was no; I was a moody and uncommunicative. I would be obsessing about how to borrow money off my mates and work-colleagues and skiving off whenever I could.
The lies to explain why I hadn’t got in to work became more and more extreme, culminating in me telephoning in some distress to say my dad had been seriously injured in a car crash and I would have to go home to see him. As fate would have it, my gran chose that day as the one and only time she would ever ring me at work to be promptly told the bad news about her son by my boss. That didn't go down well with anyone.
On the back of all this I asked for a pay-rise, which I didnt get. Eventually, after a customer complained about my shoddy, sweaty TV installation technique, I stormed out of the shop in a fit of huff and swear words. That was the end of my first ever job.
Although I managed to lumber on in various jobs after that, it never got any better; as my drinking progressed, my shaking hands and nervous disposition made any work a challenge. Each morning I would stagger to work, terrified of the day ahead and wondering how much drink I could get away with taking that day. Worse than that though was the utter awfulness of someone else being able to tell me what to do. I just couldn’t wear it.
Eventually it all came to a head, or a halt; I couldn’t do it anymore and stumbled into my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I realised pretty quickly I was in more that just a little bit of trouble, or just going through a bad patch. I was obsessed with alcohol and completely obsessed with myself. I identified strongly with the alcoholic traits described in the Big Book and was totally won over by the positive crowd I found at the first AA group I went to, which was to become my Homegroup.
Things happened pretty quickly for me, once I got a sponsor, someone who would take me through the 12 Step recovery program, and started taking actions that got me taking a less self-centred approach to life, my attitude began to change. As I went through the 12 steps my obsession with alcohol disappeared and I began to see a new world come into view. The real world!
After a few months it was time to start looking for work. Once again, I walked into the first job I went for. This time I started enthusiastically and stayed enthusiastic. As the weeks progressed to months, I was never late, never had a day off sick, always did what my boss asked and was quickly given more responsibility.
A lot of the structure I found within my AA Homegroup translated very well into the world of work. Time keeping, responsibility, being asked to do something I might not want to do. And of course just learning to deal with other people!
After a good year or so of getting back into work, I had an amicable parting with that employer and started a 'proper' job in a busy office. There I quickly became known as someone who 'got things done' and could be relied upon to do as I was asked. Because AA had taught me that the best way to be is honest, I never skived off work and tried to be as good an employee as I could be.
Within a very short time I was promoted, a big deal was made of the fact that no-one had been promoted in this area as quickly as me before. I am convinced this was a result of me simply doing as I was asked. I was no 'high-flyer' and possess no great intellect, that’s for sure!
Eventually my ambition got the better of me and I started my own business. The spiritual principles I have learnt in AA have enabled me to have the courage of my convictions and discipline myself sufficiently to forge a flourishing enterprise. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how overwhelming the pressure can sometimes feel; I never feel as bad as I used to before I took the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I know that the turmoil is only in MY head!
Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth, Dec 2010