There I was, in a spa gazebo in the country, having a fabulous relaxation treatment and Bam - I had an “Aha moment”. I love it when that happens. This moment consisted of the thought that I should write about my experience creating purpose and meaning in my world of work; creating my dream job and share it with others.
It happens for me that on this journey of spiritual progress when I am balanced and grounded and feeding my spirit I get the most wonderful ideas (though I was on a therapeutic massage table and not literally grounded but you get my drift).
These ideas are usually very creative, reasonably concise and as clear as if directly sent from a higher power just for me. Later that day, I wrote down my idea and carried on with my spa retreat.
Shortly thereafter a request came from Renascent's Alumni Coordinator to submit another article to their weekly newsletter at the time called TGIF. I have put together my experience to share with you.
I have spent most of my recovery 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 become a respected member of my community and society as a whole. I have participated in many mutual aid support groups; sought guidance from sponsors, spiritual teachers, mentors and coaches. I’ve sought out, fostered and maintained relationships that add immense value to my life.
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). Clients I work with today, share with me their own personal struggles with finding purpose in life, and I am continually reminded of the 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 (G-O-D).
We find purpose where there once was none at all. WOW -- this reality blows me away every time I think of it.
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 my community 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 as a Board member for many 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 --- 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. Just do it was my attitude.
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, however for my career rather than my program. I just kept doing what I loved to do (counsel people) and the rewards started to come. I participated in a business course with the Toronto Business Development Centre, a wonderful opportunity in learning how to be self employed.
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 the benefits of finding purpose in recovery is that it helps to set out my priorities; like the slogan “first things first”. The purpose changes as our recovery grows and develops; as we satisfy our needs and the needs of our family, our employers, clients or whatever. Sobriety always comes first for me. Once I affirm that, I am free to take on other challenges, seek new experiences. Free to connect to varying purpose in life.
Today I run my own business and work as 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…..
Susan B. Raphael
Sustainable Recovery Counselling and Addiction Services