Saturday, February 02, 2008

King of Nothing - Redux

One of the hardest things about ascending from the position of supervisor to the position of “The Boss” is embracing and wearing the mantel of authority – particularly if you’re plagued by insecurity and happen to be a recovering addict.

When I agreed to be the managing partner of our firm’s newest office, I tried to work a deal where I wouldn’t be required to “really be the boss.” I was promised that there were other people in our organization that would handle all of the ugliness and insanity I would otherwise be expected to confront, like tough decisions, making people unhappy, firing slackers, deciding compensation, etc.

I loved this arrangement! In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I agreed to take the job. And it would protect me from what happened before. The last time I owned and managed my own office, I couldn’t handle the pressures of being “the boss.” It was during that three year period that my drinking and drugging got so out of hand that I ended up losing the business and going into rehab. There was just no way that I could let that happen again, so agreeing to be “The Boss” again was out of the question – hence my special arrangement.

However, once I arrived at my new job and opened up the office, I quickly discovered that not only had the special arrangement been just talk, it would have been impossible to effectuate even if the arrangement had been for real. Simply put, you can’t be the boss and not BE the boss. Much to my dismay, I’ve found myself making all of the decisions I feared having to make. Up until now, it hasn’t been the nightmare I anticipated. Though I’ve had to be the bad guy and enforcer many times and set a few people straight, there hasn’t been any bloodshed.

That’s about to change. One of my associates needs to be fired and it’s falling on me to take care of this unpleasantness. I hate him for it and I hate myself for letting myself get back into this position. My drinking is quietly watching from the sidelines, like a coach who must decide whether to keep his quarterback in the game or bench him. And it’s killing me. My preferred method for dealing with this until now has been procrastination. I’ve needed to fire this guy since at least November but I keep putting it off while secretly waiting for a miracle. I’ve been having nightmares about relapse and am terrified of the narcotics I keep in my desk drawer. I filled the prescription given to me by my doctor, following my car accident in December and have been very careful with my dosing. But every pill in that bottle knows my name and when they all sing it in chorus, the sound is maddening. I’ve thrown the bottle in the trash twice only to later fish it out in a moment of weakness, panic and shame. I keep it just in case.

If that’s not bad enough, I’ve started binge eating again and have completely ruined all of my hard earned results following a two-year love affair with the South Beach Diet. My clothes don’t fit, I feel like crap and I’m completely depressed. [The coach checks his clipboard and jots all of this down then checks his watch and looks at the giant game clock hovering over the field of play and whispers something into his microphone.]

Last Monday, my therapist told me that none of this has anything to do with work and has everything to do with my unresolved father issues. He told me that “becoming the boss and growing into your power doesn’t mean that you have to kill or replace your father – that the prince doesn’t necessarily have to kill the king in order to take the throne.” He said that my fear of power is deep seated because my father used his power against me so injuriously, so unfairly and with such venom. He said that it would make sense that I would always feel the need to run away from the mantel of authority should anyone try to cloak me with it. And that of course I’d feel the need to numb out and hide under such circumstances. He also gave me permission to let it all go. And he spent the better part of the hour encouraging and supporting me and reminding me about love.

So in the meantime, I’m vibrating somewhere between two places – one where I perhaps am meant to be “The Boss” – the king of my domain – and the other, a much more familiar place, the king of nothing.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I so get the dread of making responsible decisions. But clearly you've got to fire him before he messes something up and you're responsible for THAT. It sounds silly, but you're welcome to rehearse firing the guy with me.

Loralee Choate said...

Being the boss can really suck. I have a hard time telling people "NO", I can't imagine having to fire someone.

The statement that your therapist made makes sense, but I also have to say that, um, I think you WOULD be having a terrible time with this decision sans "Dad issues".

You are having to do something that you know is going to at least temporarily devastate someone. Even if it is completely necessary and totally their doing, that would lead to plenty of stress and pressure.

And stress and pressure is horribly notorious for making you go back to old habits and coping mechanisms (Like you don't know that. Duh.)

Anyway...I'm rambling, but I just want to tell you that I really think you can do it. You can. Without the chorus of pills and alcohol and cookies.

Like BPLC said, putting it off will endanger you and the company.


Jo said...

wow, Dennis, this is such an intense post, clear, killing prose, so open, so honest. Sadly I have no wise words, but I'll send you a (hug) if I may and say that whatever else you want to castigate yourself about (which I am not saying I agree with, not by any means) you are one hell of a writer. Like the previous commenter I will also say thatI have no parent issues, was/am very blessed in that dept, and I have avoided firing people historically, it caused immense pressure to me......perhaps you're just a decent, empathic guy? Isn't that a better mantle?

Dennis said...

Jo - Thanks so much for the kind words!! I think I'm blushing. In the last few days, I think I've figured out what I'm going to be doing with this firing problem. It won't be pretty, but I'll let the Big-me take care of it. Thanks for visiting and reading as always and YES! All hugs are accepted!!!!!