A Day in an Addiction Recovery Center
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”
These and other “coffee mug” career-based philosophical quotes never resonated much for me.
Until the other day.
There was a mess in the back bathroom. The kind of mess a person’s body makes when it’s coming off 5 grams of cocaine used daily for 5 years interacting with detox meds. I calmly walked to the supply closet, found the plastic gloves, bleach and a bucket and set about cleaning up. The clients were all having lunch. Heads turned as I made my way down the hallway sliding into my plastic gloves like Dustin Hoffman applying his Hazmat suit in Outbreak. As I emerged 10 minutes later, I overheard one client say, “Wow, I have a whole new respect for him!”
When the report surfaced with my co-workers that I’d cleaned up the mess comments ranged from, ‘What! I can’t believe Tony went and did that, ‘Tony deserves a raise’. While I couldn’t agree more with the second line, I was confounded by the number of positive comments people I respect were making about me. Confounded that is, until I remembered a conversation I had with a friend from the 12 Step Community a few short days prior to the mess.
He asked me if I knew the difference between being thankful and being grateful. I thought I did, but I also thought I’d let him amuse me by telling me what he thought the difference to be. I still regularly employ the ancient manipulation tactic of using my intellectual superiority to trick me into learning something new. He said, “Being thankful is easy, it doesn’t involve changing anything. If I give you something, you’re ‘thankful’. It involves nothing more than expressing thanks. But being grateful. Being grateful is an attitude. It’s action. Gratitude is measurable through action.’’
It was then I connected the proverbial dots of all those career-based philosophical quotes. I didn’t see cleaning up the mess in the back bathroom as anything outside the scope of my job description. I just did my job, the one I am grateful to have. The job that isn’t a job. The greatest job ever.
Have you ever met someone and said to yourself, “Oh, she’s a teacher” or “Oh yeah, he’s a hedge-fund manager”? People who have those almost innate qualities that seem to make them pre-fabricated for their profession. I worked with a couple of those ladies last year at a school. They seamlessly navigated the murky waters of private, personalized education with an ease and a grace that stupefied me. It was as if they inherently knew how to handle groups of 15 children, meet all their educational, emotional and psychological needs without missing a step. They were efficient in their work; tireless, always on point. While most afternoons by 3 pm I was calculating how fast the bus would have to be going for me to walk out in front of it and end it all!
Toward the end of the school year, the calls started coming in. “How’s it going over there? You ready to come back and do what you’re supposed to be doing? You know 7th graders are not your target audience.” I knew. My 1-year foray back into education confirmed what had been reverberating inside of me for some time now.
and I’ve been back for some time now, but I haven’t been working. You see, I don’t work. I show up physically at Costa Rica Treatment Center 5 days a week and I provide a service, but it’s not work. My job is what all those coffee mugs refer to. It is the giving of myself, of what I’ve learned, how I came to learn it and apply it. It’s what works for me, what doesn’t, what I’ve seen work and not work for others. It’s accumulated knowledge. It’s delivery. It’s packaging. It’s vocation. It is passion.
And one day, not too long ago, it was cleaning up a mess in the back bathroom made by a young man who was as lost and lonely and desperate as a human being can be – a young man who is an absolute joy to be around today.