[Sober Living] Your Altruistic Donations

I don’t believe in the power of donating to companies to provide for my community. After throwing myriad items into the trash compactor, some better than what I own, and watching these kind-hearted gestures from you and me become destroyed for no other reason than because these items were old stock or didn’t sell, while I may still donate and buy from thrift stores, it’s with all altruistic façades removed. Sobriety is like that, too.

I reached a mental roadblock in my moving adventures today.

It was a day full of promise, where I was going to donate some items to a local thrift store to clear up some space until I looked over a piece of furniture that I was going to donate. I got this two-drawer dresser from a local garage sale for free as they were closing it up. It still looked nice, but as I looked at its sides, I had flashbacks to working at a corporate thrift store some years ago. I remembered how the furniture lead, “James,” told me his strategies for turning his department around into one of the best-selling furniture departments in the company.

They’d throw out anything that wasn’t the highest quality.

Into the trash compactor went anything cheap or broken. It was effective. But there was always something moral and ethical that really bothered me about doing all that. We donate to these companies, let’s be real, not completely out of altruism. We’ve got too much stuff and we need the room back. We assess what we don’t want, figure out who might want to buy it, or who within our family or friends group might use it, and if there are no takers, we’ll donate it.

We want to believe in their store signs about helping out others.

In fairness, it does help, because I wouldn’t have had a job to get me out of that particular rut if it weren’t for the donations we all provided. But at the same time, it felt like they could do so much more to help the community than just help themselves. As I saw more and more of this, I finally got fed up and left. In a way, that’s like how it was like when I sobered up: I was tired of not experiencing life. There are ups and there are downs, but they’re mine to experience.

But still, there are times I don’t want to know.

It would be nice if I could have taken that little dresser with a little veneer damaged to a thrift store and exchanged smiles with the donation receiver. To really feel like it would have made a difference might have kept me in good spirits today. Instead, I just remembered the many pieces of furniture I threw into the compactor. Couches, tables, chairs. I saved myself the effort and destroyed it myself. It didn’t feel good. There was no satisfaction.

Why do I share all this? Why ruin your fun as well?

There might be some journalistic reporting to be had, to really determine if there’s more that these companies can do to really help out our communities, but really it’s part of this whole excess that we buy into daily. Why do we need new furniture or technology? Why do we need to keep pace with our reality to the degree we seemingly must? This laptop I’m writing on is slow to the point where occasionally words I type will lag behind a few seconds.

Is it time to get a new computer? It still runs.

I guess that’s where the move hit me today. As I was destroying this piece of furniture, and really thinking of how pointless it was to do any of this at all, to have aesthetic furniture, or even to work so hard to get everything moved out early, it was like experiencing my mortality with such intensity that it’s like, no, I want to believe in everything I donate. I don’t want it all to go to shit. Thrift store dumpsters should only be for the garbage accidentally donated.

Instead, thrift stores are like a scrapyard shortcut.

Our worn out and neglected buddies should get new homes. That’s what our sponsors teach us as we become sober. We’re still valuable as people, even though we don’t think we are, but the thing is that it’s a rough world out there and objects don’t have our same resilience. We rarely physically break down. It’s the mental and psychological defenses that cause us to break down and yet they’re the hardest to mend. It’s the same as a piece of furniture with internal rot.

If you can’t see it, is it still there?

Maybe I’ve reached a point in the move where I’ve got to face the facts: I’ll be downsizing significantly. I can’t afford to keep it all. I have to be even more decisive than I currently am, so everything that doesn’t have multiple purposes or a single purpose done well must go. It’s similar to that Winnie-the-Pooh bear I photographed moments before it, too, needed to be destroyed. I couldn’t save it. But that, like destroying that dresser, is a little bit of a lie, too.

It’s that no one wanted it to be saved. We’re different.

This hoarder mentality posits that everything I own is a piece of me. That’s a lie. They’re just physical objects we own that insidiously take over our psyches. The dresser isn’t some little buddy that I had from childhood that helped me through some stressful moment to which I am forever indebted. No. It’s just something someone else was getting rid of that I thought I could use, never did, so there’s some guilt associated with that, along with feeling a little sick today.

Nothing more.

Donate if you want or need to, and I certainly will. Let’s just not pervert the waters by considering these altruistic actions. We’re not changing lives with donations.

Let’s improve ourselves instead.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal and professional experiences.
Inspirations: Besides what’s outlined in the essay, I was just feeling terrible a few hours before I wrote this essay. This will be the first in a series of essays about our donations because of that terrible sensation I felt while destroying that dresser. Maybe I feel bad because I know it could have been useful to the right company or family? Time to move on. Tomorrow’ll be better…
Related: Other Sober Living and Moving Zeal essays.
Photo: Trash compactor.
Written On: December 14th [30 minutes]
Last Edited: First draft; final draft.
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.