Grapevine Online Exclusive

From the October 2011 magazine.

Web Exclusive: Toys and Resentments

A feud over Mr. Potato Head brewed at work until he realized that his sobriety came first

"One day, I was very proud to be the current holder of a potato with a pair of eyes."

Recently, I passed the one-year mile marker on my road to recovery from alcohol. In early sobriety, I committed to myself to not make any major changes during the first year. This included relationships, careers and geographical changes. I didn't question the wisdom of the old-timers. I knew I had only one "first" time and thought I owed it to myself to try.

I had started a new job just prior to my last drunk. Several times in this job I found myself riddled with anxiety and wished I could quit. In retrospect, it was always minor. As with many sales jobs, competition is a vital part, as well as sales incentives. A few months into my sobriety, an incentive was introduced involving Mr. Potato Head. For each product sold, the salesperson would get a piece of Mr. Potato Head. You then took your arm, or lips, or whatever, retrieved the toy from whoever had him, and added your body part.

He was yours until someone else sold another product. There was an added bonus if you were in possession of Mr. Potato Head when the vendor rep called: you would get $25 gift check. One day, I was very proud to be the current holder of a potato with a pair of eyes.

I was proud and happy, until a coworker came to me "looking for the tater" with news he had sold something. I explained to him he was suppose to have an ear, or glasses, or some other vital part of a potato, and then he could have Mr. Potato Head. He took him anyway! He said the manager had told him to get him and then get his body part. And wouldn't you know it! Not even five minutes later, the announcement came over the PA system, "Whoever has Mr. Potato Head, please pick up line 2. The vendor rep is waiting to speak with you."

Being an alcoholic in early sobriety, my mind raced. I thought about how all of the people I worked with were out to get me and none of them wanted me to succeed. I was new, and an outsider, and was just filling a spot until someone they really wanted was available. I thought about all of the sales they were secretly stealing from me. I was certain they were saying bad things behind my back. Most importantly, they were trying to keep me from my $25 bonus.

It didn't take too long for me to realize that I was fairly safe in my job. Everyday I suited up and showed up. I didn't come to work late or back from lunch late. I had good sales numbers. And I realized how insane my thinking had been. And, more importantly, even if someone was trying to keep me from $25, my sanity was worth far more than $25.

I tried to call my sponsor. He was in a meeting. I tried to call someone else in the program. It went straight to voicemail. I could have left a message and either one would have called me back as soon as they had gotten the message. Instead, I called a new guy in AA who had less time than I did. Not to talk about me, but to talk about him.

Getting out of my head to help another alcoholic then and now has been the best medicine for my alcoholic thinking. I have also realized that HP is taking care of me. He will see to my finances so I don't have to be anxious. If I had quit AA during my first year of sobriety, I could have missed out on the lesson learned from a potato.

-- Greg P.

Charlottesville, Virginia

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