The Company You Keep

Instead of binging on Grey’s Anatomy and jelly jars of Chardonnay, I spend my nights reading.

(I’ll spare you the part where I talk about how I used to love reading and how I got away from it and how, now that I’m sober and have some time on my hands, I’ve taken it up again. You know all of this already.)

Unless I’ve come across a really special book, such as Vincent Deary’s “How We Are,” I don’t limit myself to reading one book at a time. (Again, sparing you commentary on my dislike of moderation.) Instead, I have a little book buffet on my nightstand and each night I choose a book based on my mood, how tired I am, stage of the moon, whathaveyou.

After a few weeks of humming right along in my sober reading ways, this week I found myself thinking about jelly jars and how are effective they are at helping me Zone Out. On Wednesday night, instead of pursuing my book buffet, I was instead in my kitchen eating a brick of cheese and feeling very sorry for myself.

Why? Why now?

I could just toss it up to the notion that “these things happen” but really, no, there is something going on here. So instead of picking up a jelly jar, I went back to my books and found a nice little Overlap. (Overlaps are, quite simply, my favorite. They offer some meaning in the chaos. A once-hidden pattern now brought into bold relief. In my experience, you cannot find Overlaps if you’re hung over all the time and just trying to get through the day so you can trash yourself again that night. Overlaps require some attention and quietness – two things lacking in a life of overindulgence and self-loathing.)

In her fantastic essay “How to Be Friends with Another Woman,” Roxanne Gay provides 13 suggestions for success. Item number 13: “My mother’s favorite saying is “Qui se resemble s’asseble.” Whenever she didn’t approve of who I was spending time with, she’d say this ominously. It means, essentially, you are whom you surround yourself with.”

In her book “Stitches,” Anne Lamott writes: “If we’re pressed for an answer, most of us would say that most of the time we find plenty of significance in life as it unfurls in front of us like a carpet runner – at least when it goes as expected, day by day, with our families and a few close friends.”

And finally, at the AA meeting I drug myself to on Thursday afternoon, there was Isaac, a weathered and optimistic black man, sharing on his seventh sober anniversary, talking about “my drinking associates” and chuckling at his own dismay when those “associates” ended up drifting away after he got sober.

The overlap: it’s the company you keep.

The company I keep, the company I work for, is coming apart. A chronic lack of leadership has a left us adrift and directionless.

We are a charity. Charities attract a certain kind of employee. We love the underdog and want to help her. By seeking and accepting a job at a charity you have to be, in some ways, attracted to brokenness.

When the company, as well as the company’s clients, are both broken – well, that is a lot of suffering. My coworkers are smart and tired and all done. A malaise has taken over. It’s not an actively toxic environment. It’s more like Stepford Wives in Haiti. We’re going through the motions, but our hearts aren’t in it. And this kind of work is all about heart.

For me, newly sober, this environment is actively toxic. The malaise seeps into my thinking, which starts to go something like: “This is stupid. This isn’t working. Being sober is stupid. Being sober isn’t working. Why try so hard? Just forget it. Let’s get the fuck out of here and fire up a jelly jar.”

Hence Wednesday night and a brick of cheese.

Here is where I want to write that, armed with this powerful insight, I am quitting tomorrow or that, better yet, I will single-handedly rally the troops and set the ship back on course.

Alas, no. Extremes no longer suit me. Armed with this powerful insight, I am going to begin to make some small, incremental changes to get me to a better place, in better company. I want my next destination to be somewhere specific, not just somewhere else. I want my next company to be worth keeping and worthy of me.



5 thoughts on “The Company You Keep

  1. Hi Lucy! Yes, it’s new job time …. but not tomorrow, or even next month. I don’t want to jump into the abyss without looking around for a more sensible side path. Hope all is well!

  2. Hello eedoubleu! I’ve been wondering how it’s going with you. I know what you’re saying about the charity work. For seven years I worked in a community centre that catered to people who had multiple problems, and in many ways I loved the work, but I eventually got a bit burnt by it all, and reading your post I think I can see that the attraction to brokenness was a part of that. I’ve always thought being drawn to what’s broken as a good thing, but it does have a downside and can be dangerous. Many thanks to you for helping me see that in my own life. Isn’t it interesting how we think of ourselves as being the people we are, and yet the people around us have so much effect on what we do and how we are. Really interesting stuff to think about! I like your plan to take it slowly and make a plan for a change. It sounds so wise and sane, so much better than leaping at the first glimmer. Also, thanks for the Vincent Deary book rec. I had read mixed reviews a few months back and promptly forgotten about the book, but now I’ll read it for myself and see what I think. Glad to hear you’re keeping well and reading lots and sober and sane. Big hug to you! xo

  3. This is the first time o have read your blog and it’s really hit home with me! I’m on and off the drink at the moment but when I’m off it I surround myself with self help books, currently 21 days to a new you and 30 days stopping drinking g plan. I forsook all that last night for a bottle of wine and a TV binge ( couldn’t tell you what I watched) . I think work can be toxic at times especially when you get annoyed with others. I’ve tried the be nice to everyone approach ( even those I can’t srand) !it works till I forget to take my prozac !! I’m starting again today so no lease kept blogging I need all the help I can get x

  4. Hello again! I have been wondering about how you are doing. If you would like to say so, email me at thirsty dot still at gmail dot com. If not, no worries. But I hope you are well. xo

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