The Fruits of Your Labor Aren’t Always for You

In early sobriety, I was really focused on one thing: myself.

I don’t think this is abnormal. I had a lot to work through, and I was feeling a lot of new things. New emotions, new sensations, new discoveries. All new, at least to me. I felt like my journey was unique, that the people around me couldn’t comprehend what I was unraveling in my brain.

It was unique, to me. The tangled mess of my brain was my mess alone, this is true.

In the two years since my last drink, I’ve still made plenty of things about me. It’s hard not to. I am the only one living in my brain and body. I am the only one who has to inhabit this internal space. I am alone in that regard.

I started graduate school to become a therapist about six months before going sober. Much of my graduate school experience has been focused around myself, too—my personal and professional growth, my blind spots as a mental health worker, my strengths and limitations, my own emotional well-being and self care.

Before this, there were the many short-lived relationships that followed my divorce. A lot of my process in dating in post-divorce-land focused on my own ways of being within a relationship: who am I, what kind of girlfriend do I want to be, what kind of partner do I want, where are my red lines?

I’d say that the past 4 years have been a process of inward-looking, navel-gazing revelations. Divorce, graduate school, and sobriety all compounded that process. It’s been invigorating and exhausting. I’ve learned so much, and given so much, and gained so much.

But recently, I’ve been confronted with a somewhat painful but necessary and obvious fact: not everything is about me.

Duh, right? Of course. Intellectually I’ve known this for years. But emotionally, it’s a bit harder to wrap your heart around. As I’ve progressed through my 20s—arguably the hardest decade of my still-young life—I’ve had to slowly reorganize my ways of thinking about the world and how I interact with the people in it. The combination of sobriety & graduate school has hastened this reorganization. I’ve come to realize that while I’ve enjoyed the hard-earned fruit of many of my labors, there are some fruits that simply aren’t intended for me. My labors have produced fruits for others. This is actually a really cool thing to realize.

I’ve written here several times about the creative writing group I organize & host. It was my first attempt at cultivating a creative community for myself after I got sober. And, for the most part, it’s been really successful.

It’s a source of pride for me to know that on any given Saturday, I can somehow convince 10-15 strangers to gather in a library somewhere and write together for an hour. More than that, I can convince most of them to share their writing with each other, even though they might not know each other. I usually convince at least some of them to hang out afterwards for coffee and conversation. And even more, people enjoy the experience enough to keep coming back, Saturday after Saturday, to write and share and listen. It feels pretty good.

I was talking with my therapist about the group a while ago, and my intentions of continuing to host it for the foreseeable future. He noted, “what an awesome thing you’ve done—you’ve created this safe place for people to connect with each other in the community.” I laughed and said, “yeah, it’s pretty cool I guess,” to which he replied, “you sure are modest about it.”

Which, you know, he’s right. I feel modest because it feels like something selfish I did for myself. I wanted to create my own group because none of the others interested me. I wanted to be in control of the process. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to have a place for myself to get creative and find friends. I wanted it for me.

But, still, he’s right: this group is a prime example of something I originally did for myself, which has turned into something that is undoubtedly for the benefit of others in the community. I’ve had multiple members message me and speak to me in person about how much they enjoy the group—how much they value being able to write with other people and connect with fellow writers. They thank me for the work I do. They form friendships with each other and feel more connected to the creative community and themselves, because they come to my group.

I usually stop myself from minimizing or brushing off their gratitude, but I often feel odd and sheepish when receiving it. It makes me happy to hear these things, for sure—but to fully acknowledge that I’ve played some small part in making the world bigger for others is really invigorating, and weird. Even if I don’t benefit directly by the connections they’re making with each other, it’s cool to know that connections are formed and friendships are developed as a result of my work.

I dunno. This post feels like a “humble brag” and I tend to shy away from that kind of thing. But it’s been powerful for me to be able to see the connections being made in my group—connections that sometimes involve me, but not always—and know that my positive actions will yield positive results. Whether those positive results directly impact me is yet to be seen, but they’re there. And for right now, that’s all that matters.



6 thoughts on “The Fruits of Your Labor Aren’t Always for You

  1. cat h bradley says:

    I think the longer you stay sober (and keep working on yourself) the bigger and bigger your world is going to get. You’ll have even more examples like your writing group.
    It used to annoy the shit out of me when i first got sober when people at meetings would say “I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.” Now years later, that couldn’t be more true for me. I literally could not have ever dreamt of what I have now–cause my life when i was drinking was so fucking small and all of the things i wanted–money, a boyfriend, to be thin–were really basic and largely unimaginative.
    Who knows what the next thing will be that will come into your heart? And who knows all the people that dream might touch? Pretty cool! x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Robert Crisp says:

    I don’t think this is a “humble brag,” though I understand how you would feel that way. I think it’s great you have a creative writing group. I was part of one years ago and still stay in contact with some of the members.


  3. Cristal Clear says:

    I’ve realized that almost everything we do and accomplish is for someone else . When we make everything about ourselves it tends to stress us out. It’s really not about us and I think that’s the beauty of it all. We get better to help others and others get better to help us. I love community !

    Liked by 1 person

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