The Impostor Syndrome and Self Destructive Behavior

Things are better on the job this week. A coworker who was not present during last week’s toxicity parade greeted me on Monday morning with cheer and warmth. I was able to get to the actual work, rather than orientation/HR stuff. There are a lot of good things there.

I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about why I drank wine last Friday. While there is a very simple truth at play (I like the numbness wine used to provide), I’ve been contemplating a deeper understanding of Why Now? What was the trigger?

I’m pretty sure it’s Self Destruction. As so many of us have written in our posts and comments, one of the major hopes in Not Drinking is to “have more energy to devote to my goals for my life ahead” (thanks Debbie) and that “not drinking gives me the space and capacity to address” how to be happier (thanks Lilly). 

While this job has come with unforeseen challenges, a much bigger issue for me is that this job really IS one of my goals. A career really IS the one of those things that I think will make me happier. … I got what I wished for and now, well, WTF.

I am afraid of failing at this job. I am afraid of being FOUND OUT as an impostor. While many women in the workplace wrestle with this “Impostor Syndrome“, my decision to leave the workforce for 10 years heightens this fear for me. Almost all of my new colleagues are in their late 20s/early 30s. So while I LOOK like I should have institutional knowledge and focus, they’re the actual rock stars. I’m the impostor trying to distract them with a tone of certitude and an air of wisdom, all the while desperately running to catch up.

I attributed getting this job to my sobriety. If I drink, I can attribute failing at this job to a lack of sobriety, rather than what I’m really afraid of: I just wasn’t up to the challenge.


A Better Day

Here are Four Things to know before we get to the thing that you are most interested in:

Thing One: I am a Military Wife. My family has moved nine times in 16 years, and two of those were international moves. I understand how to adapt for the short-term. I can suck it up, grit my teeth and dig in.  The cubicle is my new “home” and I understand that I need to reconcile myself to it.  I brought in a lamp, a picture. I moved the computer so my back is not directly to the opening. I asked about moving to other empty cubicles that have access to natural light or are off the main hallway (and therefore not so confined) and was told by HR that my cubicle “is the designated space for your position.”

Thing Two: For my happiness, I WANT to work. For our finances, I do not HAVE to work. My paycheck makes our life comfortable and affords a private school for my son, who has a disability. But, my working is not a deal breaker for my family. Because of Thing One I have not had a traditional career trajectory. But now that the children are a bit older and we are no longer moving every 1.7 years, I am very committed to making a career for myself, rather than piecing semi-random jobs together. This new job was meant to be IT. Yes, it has long hours and yes it is in a cubicle. But God Damn It, I am no longer mucking about in part-time situations. Instead, I bellied up to the Big Girl Bar and took a Big Girl Job. I AM NO LONGER DICKING AROUND. I am all in and this is IT.

Thing Three: I am a judger. I judge other people against Who (i think) I Am vs. Who (i think) They Are. I have never had to be a full-time cubicle dweller. Up until last Monday, Cubicle Dweller was not Who I Am. So, while the tall grey walls are undoubtably restrictive, especially for 8.5 hours a day, I am wrestling with whether it is the confinement of the actual cubicle that I have the real problem with, or just the idea of being a Cubicle Dweller.

Thing Four: The new company is a nightmare. It is a poorly run, highly toxic, very unhappy place. As part of my first week orientation, I met with almost every single employee – either in small groups or individually. Ostensibly, these meetings were to help me understand what each department/role is and how my department interacts with them. Without exception, these conversations almost immediately devolved into workplace tales of bitterness, frustration and disappointment.

Last night, Thing 1+2+3+4 = 3/4 bottle of wine.

I specifically went and purchased this bottle and was very intentional in my drinking. I was not interested in being social, or enjoying the taste, or thinking I could moderate. No, I wanted the wine to numb MY bitterness, frustration and disappointment.

It did not work. I drank three glasses and felt pathetic the entire time.

And the wine didn’t stop my ruminations. Not even for one second. Instead, it just made them worse, because now I was ruminating on my job/history/circumstances and ruminating on my drinking.

So, this morning I threw the rest of the bottle away.

I don’t know what I’ll do about the job issue.

But I do know that while I drank wine last night, today is not a new Day One. I don’t think of December 15, 2013 as the day I started Not Drinking. Instead I think of December 15, 2013 as the day I knew I was better than that wine bottle – I am better than what life inside that bottle has to offer me. Last night I was lucky enough to remember that.

So whatever day I may be on, Day One or Monday or Birthday, I am always on a Better Day than I was December 14, 2013.

Day Three of the Cubicle, Day 130 of Sobriety

Day Three of the new job. It’s going well. The work of the organization is amazing and my assigned tasks are incredibly exciting.

But, but oh my God. The Cubicle. Three gray walls. My back to the entrance. Overhead lighting.

It’s feels like a cell. I find myself taking deep breaths and talking aloud to no one in particular. (Not the best way to make a good impression on new coworkers.)


The Fears

If it wasn’t for The Fears, I would be drinking. Currently. Right this very minute.

But, just about four months ago, my anxieties got the better of me and I became undone one too many times by fear and shame. So I got sober.

Before the sober time, alcohol worked to slow down The Fears, but only for the first three/four glasses of wine and three/four hours of “sleep.” Then The Fears would rush in, shaking me awake, amplified and pissed from my efforts to contain them in a bottle of unoaked chardonnay. (Apparently the quality of my wine was lost on them.)

Since mid-December, we’ve been working a new relationship, The Fears and me. I don’t try to force them into a bottle and they don’t get worked up beyond a slow simmer.

Most of the time this detente plays out well. But not today. Today, The Fears are at a slow boil and I am wishing for a glass or a bottle or a box of chilled numbness.

I have a new job, you see. My dream job is now my real job. It is wonderful and I am lucky and excited and scared shitless.

So much is going to C-H-A-N-G-E. Along with worries about new work responsibilities, I am anxious about the changes this full-time job will bring to my family. I have not had a full-time job since the birth of my first born. Sheryl Sandberg can pack a lot of what she wrote in seabag and chuck it, but my own “Lean In” truth is this: I love my husband and I love my children and I am the kind of mother that is made a better mother by working “outside the home.” (Whatever the fuck that means.)

I tried flex work and part time work and consulting work and intern work and working from home. I have personally tested the professional limits of a smartphone. If you can imagine an alternate work environment, I’ve probably given it a try. For whatever reason (and there is a wide variety of reasons) those alternatives did not work for me. And so, exhausted by a decade of alternative job drama, I have now returned to the exact spot I started from, with a proper job and proper hours. (As Mary Karr might say: “And that’s how hard that was.” Ha.)

I am doing what I can to put some fancy domestic solutions in place around these new hours. And I have started my dance of attraction (a long-held tradition in my family, passed down from mother to daughter) to win my husband over to some new responsibilities for him, as well as for the boys.

I understand, on some pre-K level, that my Fears are totally normal. All this C-H-A-N-G-E naturally brings about uncertainty and creates a buzz of fear that I can either indulge or choose not to indulge. But even that pre-K understanding is exhausting and, in another life time, would be reason enough to drink.

But this job, and that Pre-K understanding, and my fancy domestic solutions are all being made possible by my Not Drinking. Of this I am 100 percent fucking certain.

If I want the good things to happen, I have to actively get out of my own way so that they can happen.

Just don’t touch it, right? Just keep doing what I’m doing, don’t fuck with it, and let the miracles happen, right?

A Shock to the System

I am lucky to live a lovely neighborhood with many wonderful friends just a door or two down/across the way. The proximity is wonderful. We stop by and drop in, sometimes unannounced and always welcomed. The “Pop In” is one of my favorite things.


This evening, across the street, many of the dudes on the block gathered to watch the basketball game. The kids were running amuck in everyone’s yards, armed with Nerf guns and swords. I was sitting on my couch, window shopping on the Internet.

Pretty much perfect.

And then my dear friend/neighbor Popped In.  With her wine. An unstemmed glass of merlot.

And I was really taken aback. Totally not prepared. Shocked at my reaction of shock.

We sat on the couch and I pretended not to be noticing her drink. She seemed totally unaware of its presence on the coffee table. Every now and then she would pick it up and maybe take a sip or maybe not. She would start to bring it up to her lips and then forget about it as she started talking again.

I vacillated between noticing the drink and screaming at myself (in my head) for noticing her drink.

The entire thing was ridiculous and pathetic and totally unexpectedly sad. I’ve gone to dinners. I’ve gone to parties. I’ve gone to dinner parties. Sure, sometimes I have moments of self-pity or doubt, but I have never had such a shaky moment in the presence of alcohol since I quit drinking it.