FREEDOM MONTH: DAY 5: “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”― Toni Morrison
I do not presume to know what Ms. Morrison is referring to here, I do believe it is slavery. That is not now, nor has it ever been my experience. So please forgive my impudence in speaking about the kind of freedom and ownership I will refer to in this writing today.
Step 9 has given me a specific type of freedom. The kind that comes with responsibility for the ownership of my life, my attitudes, my behaviors, and yes, my words. It certainly gives me a theme for my way of being in the world.
There was a time when I was in my 10th year of recovery that I was challenged to behave in ways that called upon my deepest beliefs about this. I worked for a woman who was doing her absolute best to get me to quit my job. And I refused to fall into the Ego traps she put in front of me. I was in a high position in a large corporate entity at the time. Her boss really liked my work and over-ran her authority to use me in several projects because he saw how creative I could be in planning and developing them. It put me in her radar as a threat, I suppose. We never discussed it, but I sure got to feel her wrath. Because both she and her boss had given me excellent reviews, she could not find grounds for firing me. So she set about embarrassing me in front of subordinate employees and making me do things that were demeaning and rather cruel. I would just smile at her and do the assigned tasks, such as scrubbing toilets in a 3-piece suit, counting dozens of reams of paper and cleaning the supply room shelves, moving furniture, etc. None of these were in my job description and had to be performed on top of my duties as a supervisor in the therapy treatment team. Okay. I had to wear professional apparel, always pantyhose, high heels, and suits. No problem. I did it all.
And went home every night, called my sponsor, and cried. It was important that I do these things with a smile, a good attitude, without complaining in front of her or coworkers, and not to quit.
The reason? She knew that I was a sober member of 12-step recovery. I wanted her to know that what she heard in meetings, if she ever went, was true. That my work in the steps had diminished Ego, that I could consistently show up, even in unpleasant conditions (without being high or drunk!) and that I would not be a quitter. My sponsor called me Mother Teresa at this time. Haha! I just knew I wanted to show that I walked that path that we talk about. I was clear that I would know when it was time to walk away. I did that for 8 months and was fired for a typo error on a newsletter in the end. And I grew to truly understand the enormity of the job that we have to walk this talk.
There are other examples of this in my life. Today I know them because I have lived them. This one was the best example to me because no one knew why I stayed. They were mostly sad and embarrassed for me. I was not. I got to do some work in the meantime. I prayed for her every day and did for a while after I left. And miracles came to be around the next job I got, the same day I got let go from there. It is an interesting thing, this recovery. But I must know that joining up is going to put me through the paces.