Thursday, February 21, 2013

What if money was no object?

I watched a video someone sent me via Facebook the other day. The title of the video is "What if money was no object?" and the audio is from a lecture by Alan Watts. The basic gist of the lecture is: What would you do with your life if money wasn't a factor?

This video really hit home with me. I am 51 years old and have been working for the same company for 23 years. When I started with the organization, I was doing something I really enjoyed. But over the years, that job went away and I took a totally different position within the company, which I've been doing for about the last 13 years or so.

Here's the deal with my job: I'm grateful to have it and everything that comes along with it (salary, insurance benefits, paid time off, the ability to work from home, etc.). I'm also extremely good at what I do. So, what's the problem? The problem is that I just don't like the work very much. Changing processes, added responsibilities, cutbacks in staff, and other things have made the job so much more stressful and, quite frankly, almost impossible to do. And that's not a good feeling.

Unfortunately, as a 51-year-old man with a family to support my options are pretty limited. Finding a new job that offers me everything I have now would be, I'm guessing, impossible at my age. So--as Alan Watts says--I continue "doing things [I] don't like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things [I] don't like doing. Which is stupid." I couldn't have said it better myself. Watts goes on to say, "Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way."

I feel trapped, unfulfilled, and unhappy. And when I contemplate the "What if money was no object?" question, I always come up with two things. First of all, I dream of going to culinary school and working as a chef. If I had my whole life to live over again, knowing what I know now, I would've chosen that career path when I was younger. Realistically, though, quitting my current job and going to culinary school--which is quite expensive (there's that damn money issue)--probably isn't an option. Especially at my age.

The second thing I think about doing is helping parents of addicts, and maybe even addicts themselves. Having gone through what I've gone through over the last several years, I've learned so much about what the parent of an addict should and shouldn't do. Granted, I've learned it "in the trenches" as opposed to in the classroom. But I feel I have a lot to offer people who are in the situation I've been through. Strangely, five years ago I couldn't imagine being even remotely qualified to give another parent of an addict advice on how to work on their recovery. But now? I think I have valuable knowledge that would help people.

Once again, though, I don't think a career move to "Counselor for Parents of Addicts" is very realistic. I'm sure a college degree of some sort is necessary to do that kind of work, and I don't have one. I only finished about two years of college before I decided to take a break and get a temporary the company I'm still working for. (So much for "temporary," huh?) But helping parents of addicts and helping break the stigma associated with addiction (and depression) is something I know I would love doing. It would make me feel like I was doing something to help others and supporting an incredibly important cause. My current job just doesn't give me that.

I want to make a bigger difference in this world. I want to help people. I want to let parents of addicts know that things can get better for them. That they can recover and live reasonably normal, enjoyable lives. And that they really have no control over their addicted child's decisions. I never really thought I would ever learn that. But I did. And if I can learn it, anyone can learn it. I want to help parents of addicts reclaim their lives.

When my wife and I attended the Family Program at Michael's House in Palm Springs while my son was in rehab there, we had frequent group sessions with other parents. During one of those group sessions, a woman who was brand new to the whole "my child is an addict" experience remarked, "You two should be the parent counselors." I took a great deal of pride in hearing that. And it's stuck with me ever since. It really is something I'd love to do.

So that's what I'm feeling today. If anyone out there has any words of wisdom or advice on how to make a career change at age 51--with no college degree and no pile of money hidden away somewhere--bring it on. I'm all ears.

P.S. I should add that I have recently had the great honor of being added to the National Parent Network for The Partnership at This network consists of parents of addicts who can provide assistance and support to other parents going through the experience for the first time. I am so grateful to have been chosen to be a part of this group. At least I will be able to get a taste of what I would like to do full time at some point. If money was no object.


  1. Great post. Thank you. Sounds to me like you could help a lot of people. Screw the degree. The people that helped me the least were the PhDs and the people that helped me the most were from the trenches, as you say. I would just hang up a shingle and be a counselor. Do it around the job for a while to see if it works. Get some cards, a web site, etc. People will pay good money for solid advice and wisdom, so charge good money. Besides, the dollar is becoming increasingly worthless so your rates should be substantial. I don't charge money for the time I spend working with people but that's for a different reason. :)

  2. Oh, one other thing about the culinary ambition. Ironic to hear because when I first came home from treatment, I left my old job (real estate in Boston). I've always wanted to be a chef, so I walked right into a high-end assisted living home and applied as a chef with no culinary degree and no experience. I told the guy that I can learn and absorb information fast. They hired me and though it was quite menial, I was cooking full spreads all day long. Very meditative. Not a thought passed through my mind for 8 hours. Probably the best job I've ever had... until I finally managed to become my own boss.