(Un)Scheduled maintenance…

The hangover from the big one year of sobriety has subsided. I started writing this on Sunday, my 14 month anniversary, and the only way I knew that was I was switching stuff to my new phone and my little day counter app showed my time “in”. No more colorful chips and I promised to ease up on those monthly pats on the back but sheesh, I should probably keep a little better track of things. Thus the picture above!
It has been a long winter. Dad went on vacation December 5th and the Elves (my friends Mike and Nancy) left shortly after. The Big Three of my recovery here in Northern Michigan. I thought winter would be a good time to buckle down and focus on writing. Quit my job and went to work in a factory, 2nd shift. Brainless work that would leave me free to write during the day with no distractions.

FAIL!

I barely wrote a damn thing. Thankfully I got called to go to work at an old haunt. Still a factory atmosphere but day shift and with some great pals. Then I watched groups of people start getting laid off each week. People that had been with the company for many years were getting let go. It was just a matter of time before it was my turn. Anxiety much? March 2nd at 3:00 I was politely asked to take a break for a few. Weeks. Thanks to my friend Dot, I had an interview two hours later and have been working one of the coolest, most profitable projects since that day. 60 to 70 hours a week for this old dog! Not much time for meetings or gas in the tank for writing. But… 

I’ve started this post quite a few times but now I can honestly write it and for the proper reasons. This post was originally started as kind of a middle finger to someone that I allowed to take up way too much of my precious thought time. Now I write it with release and empathetic understanding.

A big part of my program is being able to give in, let go and accept that I am barely in control of myself and have ZERO chance or business trying to control others. Turns out that if I honestly focus on continuing to get better, everything else falls into place. It sounds like total bullshit but it continues to prove true again and again. There​ are steps and promises and rewards and tokens and even donuts on one Saturday a month but there are a couple catches: 1) You have to put the work in and 2) You have NO idea when the good stuff is going to happen! Frustrating as hell for a person that likes to have a plan and execute said plan on schedule. The nice part is the good stuff seems to happen when you least expect it and oddly enough, when you are ready for it. Like these AA people know what they are doing or something!

Last fall, one of my Saturday morning coffee pals shared a very cool story. He told us about a guy he worked with and couldn’t stand. If he could have gotten away with it, he would have run him over with the heaviest truck he could find because he disliked him so much. Shocking stuff coming out of this gentleman’s mouth. John is one of my favorite people and I never expected such talk from him. He hated this guy and was constantly thinking about how much this guy pissed him off. His sponsor have him this advice. “For two weeks, instead of saying goddamn him, say God bless him.” Can you imagine doing that to the person you detest the most??? I couldn’t either so I applauded his strength but instinctively knew that such a technique could never work for me.

New Year’s Eve came a few months later. John told that same story as one of the ladies picked “resentments” as the cheerful topic to start the new year off. Again I heard it, but called bullshit. 

During our February “Extra Credit” meeting we were doing our psychological band aid ripping and he told it again. This time I heard AND listened to him. John is a smart man and if it was so important to repeat that often, then it meant something. So I tried it.

One of the dirty tricks of AA is how each lesson or technique or step is intertwined with another one. When I tried the god bless you thing, it didn’t work. This person deserved every amount of negative energy I chose to send at them, right? Was holding on to built up anger and resentments healthy and more importantly​, was it that sense of self that was rearing it’s ugly head? Mind you, this person did EVERYTHING in their power to destroy me (as if I hadn’t done enough on my own) through social media, word of mouth, through friends and family to hacking my private messages and trespassing. It got to the point where I was finally forced to call the police. The pressure exerted by this individual in my first few months of sobriety was intense. Jumping everytime I heard a car door slam. Wondering if that person was snapping photos of my car at work or pics of my home. Truly living in constant fear on top of drying out. If not for my friends and family AND the program, I would have gone back to booze just to get some peace. How does one simply let stuff like that go??? One doesn’t. Not simply.

This is where the unscheduled maintenance comes in. I “tried” the god bless you thing and it didn’t work. Must not apply because this person REALLY deserves to get it and get it good. Maybe it was because I wasn’t REALLY trying and maybe it was because I was on cruise control after twelve months. I could feel myself becoming more edgy. Part of it was from the stress of the new job, part of it was realizing my free time was gone, part of it was guilt from not working on the book and another part was for not going to “enough” meetings. Maintenance time for sure!

One of the bazillion things I’ve learned this past year is that there isn’t one exact way to get and stay sober. Gotta quit drinking, figured that part out, but the rest is a complex mix of what works best for you. I’ve chosen the ala carte method because of my schedule and personality. Some nights it’s reading books that my mom sends me, some mornings it’s listening to some good tunes and sharing songs with my friends, writing this blog helps a ton because writing bullshit takes longer than speaking bullshit so it forces me to consider my true motives more carefully.

God bless the person that has spent every waking moment hurting me and mine??? Yep. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. It takes effort but not nearly as much effort as it does to stay angry. Pulling apart their behavior helps understand and modify my own. Those of you that know me well, know I am not a religious man. Spiritual yes, religious no. The wording want as important as the meaning.

I wasn’t seeking revenge when I went to the police, I was trying to protect myself. Partially true but mainly I wanted this person to feel pain like they caused me. That constant fear I felt from being stalked? I can only imagine this person was feeling the same fear from being contacted numerous times by police and not being able to respond. I don’t want anyone to feel that fear. It’s debilitating. God bless you…

Wanting someone that doesn’t want you? Even though the divorce was final, I still held out hope that maybe someday my ex wife would want to reconcile and we could put our family back together. It was unfair to my ex as much as it was to myself. This person wanted more than friendship even though I was CRYSTAL clear that it would never go beyond. I know how rejection feels whether it is legitimate it not. It’s awful. God bless you…

Living a life of conflict. I was in constant conflict with myself before getting sober. Putting on a show externally while never quite feeling good enough inside. It wears on a person. God bless you…

The longer I’m in this program, the lighter my burdens become. Relationships are healing and getting stronger. Being able to stop, think things through and realize that other people are fighting demons of their own helps ease my own mind. We truly aren’t alone and hopefully sharing some of my mistakes help others see that.

Last Friday I got to take a pretty girl on a date to an AA speaker potluck. Yep, asked her to dinner at an AA meeting on a Friday night. Never in a million years did I think that would have been an option much less a reality. That meeting recharged my batteries and gave my soul the maintenance it needed. So many amazing people in that room. Confirmation of the god bless you technique right before my eyes. So many good things happening right now, I can hardly wait to see what’s next!

Stay sturdy, beautiful people!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nikki says:

    That was beautiful.., choked me up a few times . As you said my friend , we ALL have our demons, you’re not alone. Never ever would I have guessed you to be taking a date to an AA potluck. Never! That makes me so happy and smile. God Bless You is very very hard with people that have wronged us., but, it works. Free yourself of hard feelings for YOU. I’m so proud of you Derek Chowen! Love you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Derek Chowen says:

      Thank you, Nikki! It’s easy to say but damned difficult to say, that’s for sure. I’m a pretty hot date taking a girl to an AA potluck, eh??? 🙂 Love you too, Nikki!!!

      Like

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