I promised this post a week after the last “firing” post. It took me another 3 weeks to get it done. That’s how hard this stuff is to write about. Ugh.
The second time I was fired was far uglier and complicated than the first. This happened a couple years ago and is still painful for me, even after I have done a lot of work in counseling and in my recovery program. Sometimes, whether I like it or not, wounds do not heal in my time. Emotions and trauma are often subconscious and triggered by things that are in the limbic brain, from the past. Things that take far longer to let go of. Things I can’t control…
I will be leaving out a lot of details about this job so that I do not disclose too much about the employer. As much as my ego and anger would love to retaliate and get revenge, I know this is not who I am today and I am not writing this post for that purpose. I am writing as part of my healing and, hopefully, to help another person who may be in a similar situation.
Have you ever gone into a work situation the VERY BEST version of yourself and left a completely different/broken version of yourself? That’s what happened with this job.
I was ON FIRE when I started at that place! I knew my shit and I was so excited to share it with the people I would be working with. I felt that I would be of service and I would have the opportunity to share all of the things I’d learned in my long career. I even helped to write a grant that would fund an additional role for myself. This was a dream job for me and I was beyond excited to see it all coming together!
In some circumstances, I can be short sighted. I get lost in what I’m doing and I don’t see the bigger picture. This job was a perfect example of that. I was VERY busy doing work that was new to me so I didn’t see a lot of the red flags that other people would have seen much sooner than I did. Looking back, it’s been hard not to beat myself up over this. Even after doing a *4th Step (see description below), these kinds of things stick with me.
For example, I was doing A LOT of my supervisor’s work for her. As mentioned in a previous post, I’m a People Pleaser. So, not only do I love helping people – genuinely – but I also will do this to the detriment of myself and others. Someone with healthy boundaries…HELL, ANY BOUNDARIES…would have seen this gross abuse of power and nipped it in the bud in some sort of appropriate, professional way. Not me. This went on FOR YEARS before I woke up, got a clue, got the guts, and handled it.
Here’s where I tell you some negative things about the job to give you a picture of what I was dealing with. MY PART is in bold red letters throughout this post, so that you see I haven’t forgotten who this is really about ;-).
My supervisor was miserable and took it out on me, and anyone else who had the misfortune of being her subordinate or, God-forbid, someone she didn’t like. She was all sunshine and roses to her bosses and people who had something she wanted. She yelled; threw something at me; undermined my work; questioned me in front of others; outright told others I was wrong and that she was right; told me to do things then later said that she never told me to do those things; yelled at me more; denied me a position that I was MORE than qualified for; lied to me constantly about very important things that I needed to know (regarding benefits, job security, position requirements, etc.); and MOST IMPORTANTLY, only focused on what I was doing wrong and did not tell me what I was doing right, or well. In the 8 years I worked for her I NEVER received a performance review…ever.
You may read the prior paragraph and think,”You’re a COMPLETE idiot for staying in that situation for 8 years. You deserve every single thing you got!” I agree. At some point, I stopped being a victim and started being an accomplice to this insanity.
The problem with all of the 4th Steps I wrote, praying I did, talking to my Sponsor (and any poor sap who would give me their time), is that I DIDN’T LISTEN. I ALLOWED MY FEAR TO KEEP ME TRAPPED IN THAT HORRIBLE SITUATION!
Now, my friends will tell you that I wasn’t a COMPLETE idiot/victim/whatever. They will remind me of a few things I was going through during those 8 years:
- I had to have a hysterectomy, then months later an oophorectomy for severe endometriosis and cysts on my ovaries that would burst and cause internal bleeding (and one hospitalization);
- My husband was diagnosed with a rare incurable cancer and had to have surgery. Then a brain tumor, and had to have surgery. Then a heart valve had to be replaced through open-heart surgery. He was in his 40’s;
- I broke my back…when I went on a trampoline with my niece and nephews…while I had osteoporosis…but didn’t know it;
- Then, I had to have my gallbladder removed. This was the result of the medication I was taking for the osteoporosis that I had as a result of the hysterectomy. I was also in my 40’s.
Were my physical maladies the result of my mental and emotional stress? Hmm…
You would think all of that kept me out of work a lot. It actually didn’t! The nature of my position gave me gaps where I could schedule surgeries and recoveries at certain times. At the time I thought I was such a good little soldier for working while I was in pain and sick. I thought that I would earn my supervisor’s praise. That never came. And today, I realize this was one of my GREATEST defects. In hindsight, I could have taken every bit of time off that I had earned to take care of things that were far more important than work.
This leads me to the next reason I didn’t leave: I thought I HAD to stay. My husband was double-insured with me staying at that place. If I left, his insanely expensive ($16,000 per month) chemo wouldn’t be double-covered (I thought). I felt that our financial lives were at stake.
This is what I was led to believe by my supervisor. It was, in fact NOT TRUE. As it turns out, only a small fraction of his medical expenses were being covered by my insurance. BUT I DIDN’T BOTHER TO CHECK OUT THESE FACTS FOR MYSELF! I CHOSE TO BELIEVE SOMEONE WHO HAD PROVEN TO BE UNBELIEVABLE. That was my part.
Then there was my EGO. I helped write the grant that funded most of my work. I started a program that was going very well and had garnered a great reputation in the community. I was making connections with people I had respected in my field for 15-20 years. I was playing with the “big boys” and I wasn’t going to give all that up because some miserable troll of a woman was being mean to me!!
Yup…there’s my ego. Isn’t it lovely? MEAN, NASTY, JUDGEMENTAL, isn’t it? All about APPEARANCES. What OTHER people will think. How things LOOK on the outside.
It didn’t matter that I was – literally – falling apart, on the inside.
The final reason for staying there 8 years was good ole pure, unadulterated, FEAR.
I was afraid to confront her. I was afraid of all the things that were WRONG with me (the illnesses) being used against me. I was afraid of financial insecurity, being able to get another job, the way she would trash me in the professional community, the way I would LOOK if I quit to all the people I had started to build bridges with, if I was doing either the spiritually fit/adult thing or the immature/addict thing. FEAR, FEAR, FEAR!
Somewhere in year 5 or 6, I went above my supervisor for help. This was a complete waste of time. Not only did upper management NOT help me, they would schedule meetings for her and I to meet with them and they wouldn’t follow through. As a result, my supervisor’s behavior/anger toward me only grew. It made everything worse. Eventually, she convinced them that I was the problem and those meetings stopped altogether. My requests for help were ignored. This completely dysfunctional organization was doing to me what it had done to so many others before me…it played favorites and didn’t follow its own rules. I would have noticed this if I hadn’t been so self-absorbed, short sighted, and full of fear and ego.
Meanwhile, professionals in other departments saw the work I was doing and gave me the opportunity to help on other projects. They believed in me and saw my supervisor for what she was, and I was immensely grateful to them. This gave me a big enough boost in self-esteem to know I was still employable. At the same time, I was so broken down mentally, emotionally, and physically by the time these kind people intervened, I didn’t know what direction to take my career next. I knew I had changed. The job and life had changed me. I was finally ready to admit defeat and started to apply for jobs outside the organization.
Then, a completely different job offer came from a different part of this same organization from a woman who had been very kind to me during all of my personal and professional difficulties. She was also someone who always made me feel…a little uneasy. She was the type who would come and sit in my office and want to talk for hours, about other people, when I just wanted to work. She was nice…but off.
She kept telling me the job was coming, over and over. When it finally came she told me exactly what I needed to do to prepare for it and apply for it. I did it all and then, just before hitting the “send” button I started to feel panic. Something in my gut told me not to take the job. Part of the job meant dealing with my current supervisor. HELL NO. The job was in the same dysfunctional organization that I was currently working in. HELL NO. And, this woman gave me the heebie-jeebies for some inexplicable reason, in addition to breaking several ethical and actual rules to get me this job. HELL NO. So, I didn’t apply.
Oh people…I want to tell you that sobriety will not challenge you and that your professional life will not have painful lessons for you to learn. That would be a lie.
You see more words down below the picture because this saga continues…
She came to me and told me that all of the applicants failed the screening process and they were re-opening the position. Fuck. And she would like to know why I didn’t apply. Fuck, fuck. When I told her, she said that she would make sure I wouldn’t have to work with my supervisor, she would deal with upper-management, and everything between us would be great. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Coward to the core, people pleaser du jour, I went through with applying.
Would I say this was the biggest mistake of my life? No. Would I say it’s one of the top 3 the biggest mistakes of my life? YES.
In this new position, something happened that I didn’t think was possible: THIS new supervisor was even worse than the last! Her mismanagement was epic and I was left holding the shit pile when she decided to quit almost a year later. Worst of all, remember those fears I had about quitting the job with the first supervisor? A lot of those came true. Why? Because I decided to take a BIG, HUGE DUMP “where I ate”! I pissed off the last supervisor, who was buddy-buddy with upper management. So, now they’re all mad at me and are trashing my reputation in the organization and professional community. Oh yeah, and the new supervisor realizes that I have discovered her very expensive mismanagement. So, on her way out the door, she decides to jump on the “hate Liz bandwagon”. Now, the people above me are not wanting to support me, I’m still trying to clean up the 2nd supervisor’s mess, I’m working 60 hours a week, I’m not making any extra pay, and GUESS WHAT HAPPENS?!?!?
I got fired!
They didn’t call it that. They called it something else, and they gave me a severance package. I’m not going to say any more about that.
Here’s what I want you (and me) to get MORE THAN ANYTHING…I get that all of this was about them AND me. I wasn’t a victim and they weren’t innocent.
Also, if you think you can jump from a boiling pot of water into a frying pan (from one job to another in the same dysfunctional work environment) and things will “change”, I’m living proof that the odds are AGAINST YOU.
A few other points to note as a person going through a traumatic firing in long-term sobriety:
- The day they told me I was fired, I went across the street to a gas station and stood in front of the alcohol. I thought about drinking for awhile. I read somewhere, recently, that “thinking through the drink” is bullshit. That cracks me up! I stood in that gas station and I did just that. I thought about what would happen if I drank. I thought it all – the – way – through. It ended with me alone…then dead. That is not an exaggeration or a joke. That is a fact. I didn’t drink that day. All of my fear and rage and sadness and confusion about what just happened after 9 YEARS at that MIND FUCK of a job was not going to go away with a drink or 10 drinks or 100 drinks. And, I sure as fuck wasn’t going to die for that stupid job! So, I picked another poison and bought a pack of cigarettes instead. Judge me later. It was a great choice, considering. (Today I have 1 year, 7 months without cigarettes.)
- I worked my Program, went to counseling, cried my ass off, went to meetings, cried my ass off, went to one of those places where you can pay to break office shit, cried my ass off, and depended on my amazing friends and husband to get through ALL of it.
- I write this to you today KNOWING that those two supervisors, and their supervisors, were all going through their own shit. HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE. The kind of mess that place was going through, the huge amounts of people that had quit and were quitting, and the constant problems with upper management were impacting everyone. I was just a little cog in the machine. Who was I to think that I was going to change anything? The people at the top were stressed and that stress was rolling downhill. By the time it got to me, that ball of shit was HUGE! I was bound to get squished!
- The work I’ve done has helped me to forgive all of these people and myself. Did I mention I found screws and nails in my tires? These people didn’t like me! The last supervisor wanted me to change things. She had not changed anything or held anyone accountable in years. She wanted me to do that. So, I did. That did NOT go over well. And, apparently, they did not like the way I did it. See? We all had a part in this mess. THAT is the blessing of my recovery: Seeing that I’m not at the top of the heap or the bottom of the heap. I’m just a human…being.
If you’ve actually read this all the way to the end, I commend you. And, if you have a work situation that is in any way similar to what I went through at this job, I’m sorry…and
GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!
If you want to chat about it, please connect with me through the “Comment” section below or send me an email through the “Contact Me” page.
I wish you all the best, in life and Love.
*4th Step – “Made a searching a fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”