Sometimes, after working at something diligently, you may begin to wonder if you’ll ever get to where you want to go.
When I began working in a clinic, counseling cocaine addicts, I started out being totally ignorant about the substance abuse world. The supervisor who hired me said, “I’m looking for someone with good, general counseling skills. Don’t worry about your lack of knowledge. The clients will teach you everything you need to know about drugs.”
They sure did. I learned the current street price of cocaine, what an 8 ball was, and specific instructions for cooking powdered cocaine into crack.
One favorite client quipped, “Someone asked me how Candy can teach me about drugs when she clearly looks like someone who has never used any. I told them that doesn’t matter. I teach Candy about drugs and she teaches me about living a straight life. It works.” (I didn’t try his life, however.)
When I discovered that the road to recovery for drug addicts is long and difficult, I became discouraged. Client after client would slip up and use. One client who had a positive drug urine test said that he didn’t use, but he’d recently eaten fried chicken cutlets he’d breaded himself. He said that there must have been cocaine residue in his flour canister where he once hid his drugs (an impossibility, I learned. He was trying to save face).
But then there was the client who was about to serve a very long time in prison for his 3rd drug possession offense. I wrote a letter to the judge and he gave my client a last chance for freedom. My client said he’d lived his whole life high and didn’t know what “normal” people did for fun. He was clueless about how to spend his time.
I suggested a walk on the Jones Beach Boardwalk and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. A few weeks later, while walking on the ocean boardwalk with my son, I passed my client strolling with his girlfriend. He gave me a sheepish grin and shrugged. “It’s not bad,” he said, before strolling on.
How did I decide to measure my success in the drug clinic? I reminded myself of this old Jewish saying:
If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world.
I contacted another client years later and learned he had stayed clean and raised two lovely daughters. He told me, “You saved my life.” And his life affected the lives of other people — and those people affected others. And on and on it goes, out into the world.
Sometimes I give up too quickly. When I wrote a novel and was rejected by one agent, I stopped writing for a couple of years. I had to read about authors like Robert M. Pirsig, whose book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times. I decided to keep going.
It’s good to measure your success in small increments. I finished writing a book. Success. I finished another one and had some interest from agents. Greater success. (Not enough interest, yet, as it turns out.)
I finished a blog post. Success.
But in your busy, chaotic life, how do you find the time for your passionate pursuits?