Let’s face it, being sober sucks sometimes. It’s not sobriety’s fault. It’s just life with it’s great ups and bummer downs. I paraphrase the Buddha when I say, “Life sucks sometimes and you just have to deal.” But I have to admit, when I stopped drinking, I had a fantasy that in return all my dreams would come true. I’d heard that sober people get “a life beyond our wildest dreams.” Remember in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker told Han Solo he’d get more wealth and power than he could imagine? He said, “I can imagine quite a bit.” Me, too. Life beyond my wildest dreams means Oprah is asking to borrow money from me.
That hasn’t happened. But what has happened is that I’ve been fired four times. Guess how many times I was fired when I was drinking? Zero. So it extra sucks. This was not my wildest dream at all. Being fired doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not a slacker. I was never a stoner. I was a straight A student in high school—13th in my graduating class. I loved extra credit and was a foreign exchange student my junior year. I starred in a TV show in my 20’s. I’m published in three books. I’m almost always in some kind of class for my craft. The good news (and the reason I’m writing about it) is that I got through it sober. It looked like my world was ending, but it didn’t. It felt like I’d never get over it, but I did. Sober.
The first time I got fired was horrible. I didn’t see it coming. Like any tragedy, I never thought it could happen to me. I was writing on a TV show. It was the end of the day and my boss walked around to offices giving out assignments, “Barb, I need you to work on the second scene, John, you work on the third scene, Laura, you don’t need to be here.” And he kept walking. Then he circled back and walked into my office, head hung low. He closed the door behind him and sheepishly said, “Yeah, uh, you don’t need to be here…” I was getting the talk! The “you’re fired” talk! It was awful. I was mortified. I thought I wanted to die.
I live in LA and this stuff happens all the time in the entertainment industry. They don’t call it getting fired they just don’t renew your contract. They need something else, a new flavor. You’re a great coconut cream, but we’re going to bring in some cherry vanilla and see how that goes. It’s not meant to be personal, or rejection. But guess what? Everybody else still works there on Monday and you don’t, so it feels a lot like getting fired. I had been sober two years when it happened. How are you supposed to deal with that? It seems like a perfect reason to head to a seedy bar and drink at everything. But I didn’t. I did the deal. I called people and cried and wrote about resentments—a lot of that. I kept living a little bit every day and, eventually, I was past it.
I worked on a few more projects, which went pretty well. I started to think maybe losing that job was just a glitch in the Matrix. Everybody gets fired once, right? Then it happened again. The second time, I was caught off-guard but not fully surprised. I had not quite been in sync with the rest of the office. The boss and I had a nice relationship, actually. He teased that we could still be best friends. I wish the job had been as pleasant as the getting fired conversation. Then it hit me. On the walk to the car I was trying not to cry, then once I got in the car I let it rip. I called a sober friend. She said, “You’re a writer, you can’t get fired. No one can keep you from writing. I’m a nurse, I actually have to be employed to do what I do, or there are legal consequences. But you always have pen and paper.” That was a helpful reframing.
But this time it hit me harder. One time is a fluke you can dismiss. Twice is like, “What is wrong with me? Is this my life now? Will I just fail from now on?” Classic alcoholic thinking—extreme, globalized, zero to a thousand. But I didn’t realize that at the time. They seemed like reasonable questions. Like after the first time, I put my focus on my life instead of my work (or lack of it). I meditated, prayed, saw friends and did the sober stuff. I called people, went to meetings, tried to help other people, wrote about resentments. I wrote a lot about resentments.
The third time it happened, it was a relief. Maybe I was just getting used to it, but mostly it’s because I was working for a monster. Okay, not an actual monster, but I was working for someone who screamed at her staff every day and had an amazing gift for making life worse for everyone she encountered. She’s possibly mentally ill or just a dick or both. Regardless, this job was not pleasant for anyone. Also, everyone at that job got fired eventually—even the monster. I was in the first wave, then the rest of the team, then the whole show. Obviously I’m a good person and would never root for anyone to fail, but I did feel vindicated by this. I was happy she failed. And still am.
Still, getting fired weighed on me. This was too much. Why did this keep happening to me? I felt victimized by the institution of employment. What was I constantly doing wrong? I really didn’t know because each situation was different. I wanted sobriety to give me success, not take it away. I wanted my sponsor to tell me how to fix it. I wanted to know what I could do to never be fired again. There wasn’t an answer. The fourth time it happened, I’d become an expert. I worked for someone who is notorious for firing people. It’s almost expected, though I was hoping that ironically it’d turn out to be the one job I kept. That was not to be. People were fired and I was one of them and good night, moon.
Every time I got fired, I wanted to self-destruct, but I didn’t. I walked toward my future instead of wallowing in the problem. And it helped. Can you believe it? All that crap we’re supposed to do actually worked. Writing out resentments and praying and letting them go, forgiving myself, helping others and staying in solution. It worked. Work-wise, I’ve gotten lots of ups and I’ve ridden out some awful downs. And that’s all they are. They don’t define me, I’m more than that.
The biggest thing I learned from getting fired four times is that it doesn’t matter. When I was going through it, I couldn’t imagine feeling this way. But it’s true. I’m a whole person, not just my job. I have value whether I’m employed or not and I can be happy regardless. That’s something I could never even imagine feeling before I got sober. In that sense, I guess this life is beyond my wildest dreams.