If It Looks Like Work, It’s an Opportunity

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison, American inventor and businessman, best-known as the inventor of the light bulb, among many other inventions that revolutionized modern life (1847-1931)

If we’re like many in early recovery, the advice we hear about the next stage of our lives being where the real hard work begins may not be all that welcome. We just got through rehab, for goodness sake. We hoped that the hard part was behind us. What in the world did we get ourselves into?

Fear not. It isn’t as bad as all that. Perhaps the recommendation should be that this is where the really exciting work begins. For the truth is that recovery, while it does entail work, is also an exciting new beginning, a chance to start over from scratch. Who can’t get behind that concept?

No, the clean slate doesn’t absolve us from responsibility for our past actions – particularly the things that we have said and done that have brought harm or pain to others. We will need to deal with those issues during our working of the Twelve Steps. Not only will we need to take a full inventory of our lives, but once we have identified where we have harmed others, we will be working on making amends, where and when we can.

But let’s get back to the idea of work in recovery. In fact, let’s approach recovery work as something other than onerous and distasteful. Let’s put recovery work in the context of a benefit, a gift, something that we do because we want to improve ourselves and increase our happiness and productivity in life. This should be easy enough, right?

In fact, whether we realize it or not, we are always making trade-offs in life. Why should recovery be any different? The reality is that we need to make choices every single day of our lives, and a lot of those choices involve work – as in, work that we choose to do. Okay, so some of the choices are necessitated by our job or career, our duties at home or at school, our religious obligations, those mandated by participation in various organizations or societies, and so on.

Changing our point of view even slightly to accept work as an opportunity that is just waiting for us to take advantage of it doesn’t require a new wardrobe or an infusion of cash. It doesn’t mean that we have to talk things over with a psychiatrist before making our decision to be more proactive and forward thinking. It doesn’t even mean that we make any drastic changes whatsoever.

But this single shift in our outlook can be enough to set us on the path of being able to recognize opportunities. We do want to take advantage of all the positive developments that come our way, don’t we? Of course we do.

If all this really takes is a willingness to put on our overalls and get to work, figuratively and literally speaking, that’s not too great a price to pay, is it? Most would say it’s a bonus in disguise. That’s a pretty good description.

There is no doubt that most people in recovery have a lot already on their plates. There’s so much to do every day that it is all too easy to get bogged down with schedules and not be able to see the big picture. When we’re too confined in our outlook, we also may be unable to see beneath the hurdle that’s come our way, one that we need to deal with, to detect or creatively figure out what, if any, opportunities are hidden within. All we can see is just a lot more work added to our already filled schedule.

As always, it will be to our benefit to take it slow. We shouldn’t just dive into an opportunity, no matter how much or how little work is involved, without first analyzing what else we have to do to satisfy our daily recovery tasks and duties.

Say that we have a little air in our schedule, and we’re thus able to take on a few more tasks or challenges. It only needs to be one to get started broadening our horizon. And, keep in mind that it may take a while to get used to the additional work we’re taking on. Still, how long before we’ll be able to see if there are any opportunities in this challenge, or are we spinning our wheels and wasting time and effort? This is a very personal decision, one that we’ll have to make based on knowing ourselves, our capabilities at present, our energy level and how much we are motivated to accelerate our progress in recovery. Certainly we need to take care of the basics before we jump into adding things to our daily to-do list – no matter how good they sound or look at first glance.

If we find that we are exhausted at the end of the day and begin to resent the extra work we’ve taken on, that’s not a good sign. Maybe we should back off for a bit, just so that we can get our bearings and not shortchange anything involving our recovery. That’s the last thing we want to do. After all, we’ve come all this way by taking it slow. There’s no sense in jeopardizing what we’ve achieved thus far just for the sake of additional opportunities. There will be plenty of time for that when we’re stronger and more firmly established in recovery.

For now, look at where we are and how we feel. Do we feel up to adding more to our daily schedules? For this is generally what’s involved in taking on a challenge. There are usually one or more elements that will be added to what we already have to do. Again, if we’re already buried (in our own minds), this is a no-brainer. Put it off until some future time when we don’t feel so pressed for time and energy. If, on the other hand, we’ve gotten to the point where we are accommodating our daily recovery tasks and duties and are eager for something new, maybe this is the time to add something else.

What are some of these challenges that may hold opportunities? The list is almost endless, but some that may hold promise include going back to school or finishing a degree – involving many classes, semesters, and a certain amount of work – in order to secure a better job or embark on a different career; learning how to overcome a physical handicap and still make progress toward career or personal goals; repairing fractured or damaged relationships within the family or circle of close friends, and so on.

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