Tag Archives: Work

A General Overview of My Experience with Alcohol

I remember drinking vodka and fruit punch in the basement of my parents’ house in high school alone on a Friday night.  I felt the buzz.  It felt different, as if something uncomfortable was being erased. I liked it.  Throughout High School I would not say I was a heavy drinker.  When I did drink it was at house parties generally.  I remember the first party I went to and got drunk.  I do not think I got sick and I do not think I felt sick the next day.  I felt like I was doing something different that would put distance between the shy, awkward, geeky persona I projected and make me one of the cool kids.

Then there was the time a friend slept over and we drank, played Monopoly and dipped tobacco in the basement.  In the morning I was really hung over.  I think I told my mother I was sick.  My friend went home and I went to sleep in my room. My mother later discovered the half-finished bottles in a cooler in the basement.  She made me feel like I was the worst criminal in the world.  I think she also suggested sending me to a rehab or a counselor, which I refused. I did not think there was anything wrong with me.  I was just doing what kids my age did.  Later on my Dad drove me around in his car and interrogated me about what I had done. I remember him asking me if I had mixed the alcohol or drank it straight.  I remember not knowing why he wanted that information and feeling really embarrassed and frustrated about answering it.

In college I joined a fraternity.  I drank in the fraternity to be one of the guys.  For the most part it was the time of my life. The worst part was getting so drunk that the room spun or waking up hung over.  But there was also something in me that told me the more I drank, the cooler people would think of me.

I did the same thing after college when I worked and went out with friends (although not to the same degree or extent).  When I went to law school I did the same thing, perhaps to the same extent as in college, but I was living in New Orleans so that is probably an exception.

At some point after I got married and was working for a law firm alcohol became a way of coping with anxiety and depression. It switched from something fun and seemingly inconsequential to something I began to be concerned about and had trouble stopping.

The good thing and the bad thing about alcohol is that it obscures feelings.  It is bad in the sense that if my feelings are obscured then I do not deal with them and do not move past them.  It is good in the sense that sometimes feelings are too much to endure.  If there is no escape and no dealing then maybe it is a good thing to have alcohol around to escape.  Of course the danger of that is addiction and damage to health.  It is not easy to control and becomes more difficult if whatever feelings are being obscured by alcohol are never dealt with.  In my case that feeling was shame.

So the answer in the long run is of course to deal with feelings and ultimately that is how to overcome a problem with addiction.  It is a chicken and the egg type of situation (maybe).

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Face My Shame

In order get out of the hell of my job I had to get laid off.  I was too ashamed to quit with all the bills I was responsible for and the family I had to feed and clothe.  If I quit my job simply because I found it unsatisfying I would be irresponsible and undisciplined.  But, if my job could kick me out of our relationship I could tell myself and the world that it was not my fault.  I would avoid the shame of being irresponsible. And so I self-sabotaged until it happened.  I put less effort into my work.  I did not learn the million rules to the document review that bored me to tears every day.

Passive aggression is the primary tool a shame-based person has to get what he wants in the world.  To come out and claim what he wanted would be selfish, childish and undisciplined.  To be honest would risk hurting someone else’s feelings.  To the shame-based it is always better to employ a strategy of plausible deniability.

Once I left my job I found myself in a position where, if I chose to, I could finally begin face the issue of shame in my life.  But, in order for me to finally face my shame I could not do this through passive aggression.  I had to face my shame honestly.  For me, that meant I had to go back to the source of my shame, which is my parents.

This sounds condemning and critical from a shame-based perspective because shame cannot admit its faults.  That is too painful and opens itself to attack.  In a shame-based world there is no mercy or forgiveness.  There may be the pretense of mercy because to be unmerciful is shameful but below the surface were truth resides there is none.  All mistakes, faults and flaws are punished and leave a permanent mark that can never be erased.  So for me to say the source of my shame is my parents is very difficult.  To say this is being ungrateful for all the good they did for me.  To say this is to be disrespectful to my parents, which is something that a good son would not do.  To say this would hurt their feelings and would be selfish of me.  All these moral precepts were instilled in me by my parents.  All these precepts (whether true or not) are my shame’s way of keeping me from facing my shame.  So, in order for me to face my shame I had to see clearly and honestly what my parents had done to me.  In order to do this I had to see clearly and honestly that this shame did not come from a place of love.  That is not to say that they did not have love for me but rather the shame they instilled into me did not come from love.

Of course I did not know any of this before my wife, our two daughters and I moved in with my parents.  But I was in a position to find out.  I had finally reached the rock bottom of my shame.  I was 39 years old, unemployed and living with my parents in my childhood home.  I was so humiliated that I was laid off and could no longer afford the mortgage on my house.  I was so ashamed that my wife and I were not getting along.  I was so utterly ashamed that I could not afford to buy my kids the things and the lives I thought they should have.

I had hit rock bottom and there was nowhere to go from there but up.  To go up from there, however, required effort and understanding.  Thank God I received the teaching that gave me the understanding.  Thank God I developed the courage to put forth the effort and truly face shame.

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Another Job I Had in the University Office of Housing

My freshman I brought the savings I had accumulated from working in restaurants with me to college and they quickly melted away to nothing in about a month.  I then got a job working in my dorm cafeteria thinking my restaurant experience would translate but that did not last long.  It was dirty and smelly and I did not enjoy getting up early in the morning to work the breakfast shift after drinking the night before.  I also felt embarrassed serving the other people I saw everyday in the dorm.  So I quit.  I am not sure what I did for money the rest of the year.  Somehow I made it through.

My sophomore year I applied to work at the university Office of Housing.  I do not remember how I heard about the opportunity. I guess I saw it listed somewhere.  I remember showing up for my interview with a girl I had been dating.  The people in the office made fun of me for that once I got the job.

The Residents Services Office was on the second floor of the University Office of Housing. I worked in the Key department responsible for organizing and distributing the keys to all the dorm rooms on campus. The worst part was filing returned keys. Each key was engraved with a serial number that matched up with a specific lock.  The keys were filed according to the serial numbers in little envelopes in little library card catalog drawers. Key filing was tedious and everybody avoided doing it.

Sometimes we were sent out on errands to various dorms.  One of the perks of the job was the “P Slash” sticker on my student identifications allowing me access to any dorm at any time.  Students without the “P Slash” I could only enter their own dorm.  Otherwise they had to be signed in and only during certain hours.  This made it much easier my senior year when I had a girlfriend living in one of the dorms.

When we were not filing keys or out on errands we mostly sat around desks pushed together answering the phones and making fun of each other. All the other offices in the building looked down on us.  They called us the Romper Room. We had a reputation for goofing off and not doing any real work.  I would say that was about 80% accurate.

The people who worked in the office are what I mainly remember.  Betty ran the office.  She was a tall, older woman with short, coifed white hair.  She wore business suits and closed the door to her office when she ate lunch. I remember one time I was filing keys.  Betty came in the key room and asked me to sign out the master keys for a specific building.  I did not know how to do this task because I had never done it before.  She yelled at me because she thought I should know how to do that given the amount of time I had worked there.  I felt ashamed and pouted for the rest of the day.  Paul had my back but it still put me under, like the time my fifth grade math teacher yelled at me.  Disapproval and criticism always hit me hard at the time.  I guess she was right that I should have known how to do that task.  It was one of those things where someone explains how to do it but I forgot because I did not have to do it right off the bat.  As time passed people assumed I knew it and I was embarrassed to ask anyone because I should have known it (like when I forget a person’s name after I meet them).  So I avoided the task for a while but eventually it caught up with me.

My immediate boss, Paul was gay man with a Freddie Mercury haircut and mustache.  Until that point I never had much interaction with gay people.  I don’t think I handled it very well but I did my best and I was learning.  He was a nice guy most of the time.  One time Paul invited me out to lunch for my birthday.  This was something he did for other people in the office as well.  I remember feeling really awkward about it.  I guess he could tell because he said my friend Rod who also worked in the office could come along.

Every once in a while the reputation of our office would trigger Paul.  He would storm into the office with an angry look and say he was implementing a new management style.  He would send us in to file keys.  That would last a day or so.  Sometimes this would get to him and he would get angry and make us work.

Paulette came next in the hierarchy.  She had a thick Boston accent and a really loud voice.  I remember laughing at her a lot.  She would sometimes become sensitive about that.  My friend Rod and I went to this bar called the Dugout with her and her friends sometimes.  One time I interviewed her roommate about her menstrual cycle for a psychology of women paper.

Jason and Ron were two people that made the office unbearable sometimes.  Jason was this muscular, athletic tough guy.  Ron was this sycophantic, closeted homosexual who idolized him.  They would bust everyone’s balls in the office but they would do it in a really vicious way.  Everyone hated them but also feared being on their radar.  I remember talking back to Jason (just like that bully, neighbor family I mentioned in a previous post).   He got angry with me.  He threatened to beat me up.  I remember feeling a strong adrenaline rush.  That doesn’t happen to me anymore.  But now that I think about it happened quite a bit when I was threatened with violence as a kid. I remember being made fun of and my ears would become hot and turn bright red.  That doesn’t happen to me anymore either but it also used to happen quite a bit.  Working in the Office of Housing was the last time those things happened to me as far as I can recall.

There was Heather.  I went to see a movie with her. I think her boyfriend did not like me going to the movie with her. Later Rod and I went to a party at her apartment. I brought some pot.  We all smoked it and I passed out on the floor. When I woke up I found out that Rod had stolen the pot from my pocket while I was asleep and let Heather’s roommates (including her boyfriend) draw on my face with a magic marker.  I felt humiliated and angry with Rod for letting that happen.  Rod told me it was my fault.  That was funny though.

The job was good and bad.  Good because it gave me enough of an income to go out to the bars.  It was not very difficult.  The bad parts were the nastiness of some of the people working there and how judgmental they could be.  Even though I was in college I could still be threatened with violence for sticking up for myself (albeit in a passive aggressive way).  I could be robbed and humiliated and it was all in the name of goofing around.  If I felt bad it was because I needed a thicker skin or so I thought.

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The Grounds Crew

One summer I worked for the grounds crew at my high school with some other kids.  I attended (as a day student) an all boys, private boarding school.  The campus had these impressive, old, stone buildings built in the 1920’s by an eccentric Ayn Randish woman.  I worked with this kid named Sean who was a year behind me but my but much larger and muscular.  We hit it off because we both listened to Pink Floyd. I remember one time I was assigned to work with the little Vietnamese kid.  I wanted to work with Sean.  I felt like I was stuck with the nerd group.  It felt humiliating.

The permanent employees were a bunch of older guys.  There was Rodney (an anorexic Irishman), Lou (a seemingly semi-retarded Frenchman). The maintenance guys call the lunch truck the “garbage truck”.  “Garbage truck is right!” Lou would always say anytime someone mentioned it as if he had just come up with a new joke on the spur of the moment.  There was Paul, a large gray-haired man Sean and I called ‘Cerebral’ which was short for cerebral palsy.  Their leader was some big, tan, muscled douche bag with a bushy mustache.  He took a liking to Sean but seemed to not respect me.  I assume because I was not a muscular kid like Sean.  I remember there was one younger guy with the buzz cut who talked about drugs all the time.  There was also a teacher from my school who worked there. I forget his name but he always seemed embarrassed to be working with us.  I think his wife had left him that year which was a common thing for faculty wives to do at my school as I recall.  I guess the all boys environment was tough on marriages.

The older crew members were not that motivated. One time I walked past a classroom and saw one of them just sitting in a chair in the dark.  He told me he was riding out the clock until our next coffee break.

Much of our work involved the sewage filter area.  There were two big square areas filled with sand.  A large white pipe emerged from one of the corners of each square which extended to the middle of the square.  Every so often sewage would come out of the pipe and pour out onto the sand. The sand filtered the water out from the sewage.  After it dried, we shoveled out the sand with the shit on it into a wheelbarrow.  We would then push it up a ramp and dump it in the woods surrounding the squares.   That never seemed like a great system to me but I might not be remembering it correctly.

I remember it was hard to get the wheelbarrow up the ramp.  I had to get a running start, which was difficult pushing the wheelbarrow through sand.  If I had enough momentum by the time I hit the ramp I could make it to the top.  If not, typically the wheelbarrow would tip over and all the sand would pour out.  Then the other kids would laugh and ridicule me.  I remember feeling very humiliated when that happened. Sean was able to do it every time.

Most of the time we were assigned to go to the shit squares we goofed off and did not do anything.  Sometimes we would sit around and dip chewing tobacco.  We would listen to Sebastian (a local Howard Stern clone) on the radio.  We would whip crab apples at each other.  We even constructed a crab apple city we named Crabappolis.  It was a boring job.  The days seemed to drag, especially down at the sewage area. Working in restaurants certainly involved more pressure.

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