The hideous animated thing my kids love to put out every Halloween. I keep it in a bin until October 31. It gets packed up again on November 1.
Once again, it’s Halloween. This is my favorite time of year.
And once again, I’ve become burned out.
This time, it isn’t about Emmett and the research. It’s because I over-volunteered myself on several projects. And you know what? I saw this train wreck coming wayyy in advance. I could have stopped it.
But I’ve come to recognize in recovery that even with almost 11 years of sobriety, I’m not really 100 percent sober. I still have drinking thinking.
In other words, I’ve substituted being busy — workaholism — for alcoholism. The workaholism is a placeholder for my lack of honesty with myself, and my fellows. I’m throwing myself into a flurry of activity and busyness because I’m avoiding facing something that needs doing.
And that’s not good. The placeholder can easily segue into drinking, if I’m not careful. It happened once before.
Granted, here in D.C., being a workaholic is not a vice. In fact, you get plaudits for nearly driving yourself insane with productivity. But for this alcoholic, the need to avoid doing the hard work, to find the easy way out/around rethinking things or relearning things is to procrastinate by doing something else.
I’ve figured out that something else is a need to feel achievement.
I don’t always feel like I achieve much with Emmett’s book, either. I am making progress, yes, but I’m a long way from a publication date, and so after four-plus-years of shuffling papers and organizing myself, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much.
I turned to something that would give me a sense of gratification and accomplishment: I volunteered to teach catechism to 7th graders at my parish Sunday school once a week.
For the past three years, I’ve taught that one class. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a great bunch of kids to work with. Most participate in the lessons and activities without complaint, and I have a good rapport with both the parents and the school of religion staff. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve gotten a lot out of it — so much so that in 2016, I was named Catechist of the Year, an unexpected and wonderful honor.
Catechist of the Year, 2016. That cold breeze you just felt was Hell freezing over.
Obviously, this gave me a great sense of accomplishment. The downside of recognition, though, can be a loss of humility, if one isn’t careful.
The recognition was sweet, and psychologically intoxicating.
Of course, I wanted more.
So, this past summer, when the Director of Religious Education asked if any of the catechists would consider teaching a second class — a new high school program — I raised my hand.
Like the alcoholic that I am, I thought that perhaps more volunteering would mean more accomplishment, more plaudits. It would fill the hole in my soul where I felt I wasn’t making progress with Emmett’s book. It would be a useful placeholder.
The problem isn’t the second class; the problem is that the teacher is now overwhelmed trying to save a pilot class that was too small to run in the first place (less than four students enrolled; and now only one or two are showing up). The DRE knew it, and decided to run the class anyway, despite advice to the contrary. She said I’d be great, the students would love me. And because I enjoy a challenge, and bought into that flattery, I jumped right in.
Three months later, it is foundering. There’s only one student, and today, I’m putting too much time and energy into trying to save an unviable situation, which is not my situation to solve. I’m only a volunteer, and it has taken over my days.
Rather, I’ve let it take over my days.
I have to have an honest conversation with the DRE that this class/situation isn’t working, and why. Something inside of me resists, because I may lose the chance to win that damn recognition this year. She may not think as highly of me anymore.
I’ve forgotten one of the main sayings in our program: What someone else thinks of me is none of my business.
And damn it, I don’t volunteer because of flattery. But somewhere in the past six months, I’ve forgotten that, and used the privilege of being of service into something else, that makes me feel sick, and I’m near burnout over it.
I’ve lost humility and gratitude.
And the end result is that I am getting sick about it.
Today, I’ll have an honest talk with my DRE, and I will offer several suggestions for success. The DRE will need to resolve this problem, because it is hers to manage.
Today, I’ll work back towards resolving the central issue behind all of this distracting, over-volunteering crap, which is to focus back on Emmett’s research in a meaningful way.
Today, I’ll call my sponsor and get to more meetings, because that’s how I stay grounded.
And, hopefully, I’ll remember this lesson going forward.