by Susan R. (Munro)
I have spent most of my sobriety in fluctuating states of change and transformation, while trying to remain grounded and balanced – another great paradox of recovery. I have gained professional experience and as a result of living a program of recovery have become a respected member of my community and society as a whole.
My life before recovery had very little purpose; purposelessness was more my mantra back in those days. I may have thought that feeding my compulsion to drink was my purpose and in fact it did occupy a lot of my mental and physical energy and certainly a lot of determination on my part. Nevertheless, it was really purpose with very little substance (or much too much substance, depending on how you look at it).
I am continually reminded of another paradox of this program of recovery; we connect in order to be free. We find purpose, become intentional and determined and then the rest falls into this good orderly direction (GOD). We find purpose where there once was none at all. WOW – this blows me away every time.
My experience with finding continued purpose in recovery for me meant working on creating my dream job and finding yet another level of meaningful work in my life. I am not referring to livelihood exclusively, as everyone’s need for work means something different and personal to them.
Service work in AA is has been and continues to be an incredible source of learning and rewarding work for me, as well as my volunteer work with many organizations. It pays well, just a different kind of currency than a salary. I have also served on a Board of Directors for several years now which is incredibly rewarding for me. In addition, this is an honest contribution to my community – far from when I only took from my community and my loved ones, before recovery.
We hear a lot these days about work/life balance. I like to think in terms of living a balanced life, with work as a component of that life. I seek balance and spiritual progress on a daily basis. I also enjoy making a living and I figure I should do my part in order to help provide for my family and our future. I also have discovered that I tend to be good at the things I love to do – my unique abilities.
I started my search by focusing on what my unique abilities are; what do I do that makes me feel really good and that I am passionate about? For me that has always been developing and counselling people. Ever since I can remember I have had this desire, so this seemed like a good place to start.
Not surprisingly, purpose is defined as “intention to act” and “with determination.” This is exactly where I began my journey for meaning and purpose in my life.
First, I set a very clear intention. I did this through writing, sharing, affirming and stating with intention and conviction my purpose, over and over and over. For me it was something like “I want to help others through counselling.”
In addition, I networked like crazy. For those of you who don’t like “networking,” just change the words. For example conduct an expert interview; meet for coffee with someone you admire; inquire into another’s path in life – whatever works for you. I learned so much from talking to others who did something I liked or admired. I made a list of everyone who had ever counselled me and noted what I liked about their approach, technique or methods.
I drew on all of my experiences and academic training (I studied psychology at graduate school, for example). I took as many courses related to counselling as I could and engaged in as much personal and professional development as possible.
Also, very important to me was joining a Peer Coaching group in my community. This helped build in accountability, as we met every other week for years and my dream manifested into a reality. I set goals, created intentions and made things happen. The law of attraction was working in my life.
I volunteered at every opportunity and made great contacts and expanded my connections in the counselling realm. I found a mentor – something I had always wanted to have. I liken my mentor to a sponsor, but for my career rather than my program. I just kept doing what I loved to do (counsel people) and the rewards started to come.
Opportunities unfolded as I put one foot in front of the other, moving ever so slowly forward … much like my first weeks and months in recovery and the rooms of 12-step meetings.
What I have learned about finding purpose in recovery is that it helps to set out my current priorities – as the slogan says, “first things first.” My priorities change as my recovery grows and develops; as I satisfy my needs and the needs of my family, my employers, clients or whatever.
Sobriety always comes first for me. Once I affirm that, I am free to take on other challenges and seek new experiences – free to connect to varying purposes in life.
Today, I run my own business and work as a self-employed private counsellor. I provide counselling and addictions services and also specialize in helping young people on the road to recovery.
My dreams continue to unfold …