Thursday, September 19, 2013

6 Month Review

I met with Chef to do my 6 month review. It's a great opportunity to provide feedback, receive feedback and ask for a raise. In other places I've worked, my review was always more formal, bland and with my immediate supervisor as opposed to the owner. They were always just standard procedure and a waste of time. But there's a reason I still work where I do. I like being on a first name basis with the owners.

Reviews in an office are such a pain in the ass. You have to fill out a form reviewing yourself, practically defending your employment. You do all the work for your manager, really.

"What are areas in which you feel you have excelled?"
"What are areas in which you feel you could improve?"
"Where do you see yourself in 6 months?"
"Don't you think there is something more important that you could be doing instead of this questionnaire, like checking Facebook again? Or even Reddit?"

I've worked really hard for 6 months. I did my best every day because of a renewed work ethic...because I'm a professional, dammit. Also, because I was recommended by my old boss. Chef told me when we met, "I've never had a recommendation for a dishwasher before. This is a first." I was not going to disappoint. No way.

This was what Chef told me in regards to "areas of improvement":

Chef: My advice to you would be, never stop learning. Don't let yourself become stagnant or routine.

Me: Avoid complacency.

Chef: Absolutely. You've told me about the path you are on, and you are a pleasure to work with, John. This is a really hard job that you do, and you keep us going. I want to see you continue to grow during your time with us here, and I want to help you in any way I can. And I want to help when your path takes you some place else.

Well, shit. Is there any question I'm in the right place at this point in my life? Way to give me life advice, Chef. Definitely needed to hear that.

Then he said:

"And, you'll be getting a raise."

Okay! Well, looks like that about does it. And I didn't have to fill out any paperwork. Now THAT is a review.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lesson Learned

I was in no mood to get up today. I slept for 8 hours, but every bit of me wanted just one more hour. In my head, What I Want To Do began debating with What I Should Do. "We don't HAVE to get up right now...sure, we'll miss the staff meal at work, but we're not hungry, are we? We're fucking tired." I remember thinking, Okay, fine...let's learn a lesson here. I'll sleep until the last possible moment then rush to work. I will then have a bad day because of it. This will teach me to get up on time.

What a crock of shit. I just lied to myself to be comfortable with going back to sleep. Eh, whatever. Zzzzzz...

Sure enough, I had to rush to get ready...rush to the bus, which then showed up late...skate like a demon to work and start my shift without even taking a moment to prepare myself. But then everything went just fine for the first half of work. I was well rested and in a decent mood. Some lesson I taught myself, eh?

Then something happened. The prep work I was going to do during my shift was not going to get done because we were busy and dishes needed washing. Anxiety hit me, and my mood turned sour. I started giving dirty looks to servers and the busser as they brought me more stuff to wash, and I shouted, in my head, Not now, assholes! I have to finish up green beans and potatoes! I began to freak myself out.

And then this occurred:

You don't have to believe your thoughts.

Yes, thank you, brain. I'm quite aware of that. I've read that in several books related to Zen and Buddhism and even during treatment. I have that down, thank you.

Why are you upset? Let's break it down.

Gee, I'd love to, but I'm a little fucking busy.


Okay, fine. I don't think I'll be able to finish prepping that big box of green beans AND cut all the potatoes AND wash everything. Oh, and they're almost out of plates with paper for the burgers and fries. I have to do some of them.

Well, what are you going to do?

I'm going to do the most important stuff. Prioritize. We'll get through it, but this still sucks.

Why the anxiety?

Because I can't do what I wanted to. I'm afraid they'll run out of something they need for an order.

But you're doing your best. And you're being mindful of what they need immediately.

Well, yeah...

So why are you beating yourself up with fear of something that probably won't happen?

Because...I don't want to let them down.

If they run out, will they yell at you?

No...they'll just tell me they need something as soon as possible.

So, you're making yourself feel bad worrying about something that probably won't happen, all because you're not as in control of everything as you thought?


Quit trying to control everything...

...and just let go. Thank you, Tyler Durden.

Hey, I'm just your brain, what do I know? Bet you feel better now though.

Yeah, I do.

You just challenged your thoughts. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, bitch...good job.

(and scene.)

I finished my shift. The prep I didn't finish will get done tomorrow, either by somebody on day shift or by me tomorrow. I can't believe I that challenging thoughts and feelings worked. Actually, of course I can believe it. It's just crazy how real and important those thoughts, feelings and anxiety were for such a short period of time. Oh no, the end of the world is nigh...and then it's gone.

So yeah, the lesson I learned today was not the one planned it was one I needed reminding about: I don't have to believe my thoughts.

But here's the real lesson I learned tonight. I have a couple of friends who messaged me today and needed to talk. Maybe they needed my input, but probably they just needed me to be there and listen. Had I woke up when my alarm first went off today, I could have talked to them via phone, text and/or Facebook messages. Instead, I slept. I didn't know they wanted to talk until afterwards of course, and I am not responsible for other people, sure...but that's not the point. I want to be there for the people I care about. Hell, I want to be there for people I don't care about, too. 

I can't give when I'm being about me and what I want. Sleeping in occasionally for me is fine...but I knew what I should have done. And that's the thing. My new life relies on avoiding complacency and following my intuition that tells me to do things I don't want to do...but that I know I need to.

That's what I learned today.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

One Year, or, My Mother's Birthday

September 12, mother picked me up in San Antonio and drove me to Austin to my "appointment" with a Travis County probation officer...where we knew I would be arrested and spend an unknown amount of time in jail. It was my mother's birthday. While she pointed out it was the first time in a long time that she and I spent time together on her birthday, I don't think that made the situation any less awful.

I had quit drinking before this, and the exact day didn't mean that much to me. I thought the date was arbitrary...that it should be about the mindset and the actual decision to quit. However, I told her that I wanted to make my sobriety date that day, 9/12/12, because the whole day was "sobering" on different levels, let me tell you. I told her I wanted to be sober for a year for her next birthday. I was just happy I was led away in handcuffs out of her sight.

Well, it's today.

I've been to a couple of AA meetings last weekend, and I am going to a couple this weekend, specifically to be "recognized" for 1 year of sobriety...but it's not about me. It's to possibly encourage new people to keep on if they want to. This 1 year chip goes to my mom.

What they ask in meetings when you are recognized for 1 year clean and sober is, "How did you do it?" All I did was change everything. No big deal. Heh. Also, I had to fail and screw up just enough to eliminate all denial but not so much that it killed me. For some reason, I'm still here.

The most important thing I did was I made the decision to be done. I finally had enough. You might be thinking, "no shit." Yes shit. I had to stop lying to myself about quitting when I knew I'd want to drink after probation...or maybe I could still take pain medication when my back hurt from work or maybe I could smoke weed later once I'm done with everything because other people can...

No. No I can't. I was done. And just to be sure, the 6 months I spent away from everyone reinforced that decision.

To be completely honest, I did not do this with the 12 steps and a sponsor. I don't like broadcasting this in groups or treatment because I don't want to encourage other guys to say, "Yeah, AA is bullshit!" Recovery programs are like weight loss programs...just because a certain program doesn't work for you doesn't mean it hasn't helped others "lose weight." Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have helped a lot of people. And the guys I met in treatment who were anti 12-step are all either back in treatment or jail now. Seriously. I just avoid extremists. This is about me improving my life, it's not a competition.

So what did I do? I changed my thinking. I actually learned something that was poorly taught to us in the SMART Program. Cognitive Behavior Therapy lite. But, because I wanted to change badly, I read all the books available and focused on changing my thinking patterns in order to change my destructive behaviors. I spent my months of free time under lock and key focusing on the principles of Buddhism and meditation. I read the book, The Four Agreements, and I just tried to follow the four key principles of that book daily: don't make assumptions; don't take anything personally; be impeccable with your word; always do your best.

When I got out of treatment and into the real world, I fought becoming complacent and tried to be mindful of my attitude, behavior, mindset and motivation daily. I tried to improve myself every day. I tried to remember to appreciate the moment whenever I could. When I started my new job washing dishes, I worked my ass off. I still try to do my best. I'm thorough at work...because I'm not in a rush to get finished to make it to the bar before last call.

I am on pace to pay off probation in time by the end of the year. I'll be finished with probation next March. I do comedy when I can. I am funny sober...and I enjoy myself when I am around old comedian friends and when I perform.

I make less money than I have since the 90's. I am also at peace with myself and happier than I have been in a long, long time. I try to be completely honest through this blog because getting thoughts out of my head onto this blog puts me at ease.

I like myself again, and I could care less what you think of opposed to not so long ago when I really cared what everyone thought and I didn't like me at all. I'm fairly sure those things are related, don't you?

I still have a long way to go, but don't we all?

I don't think I'm in any position to give advice to anyone...other than to give you a nice playbook of what not to do in almost every situation. "Hey, here's what I did, and it sucked!"

Follow your own path. Make a real decision and go from there...but you have to be in a position where you are truly honest with yourself, because that way you'll know what you have to do and when you're just bullshitting.

If that makes any sense to you, then explain it to me later, because I'm still trying to grasp it.

Oh yeah, and remember to breathe.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The '95 Phone Challenge

The YouTube video, I Forgot My Phone, essentially shows the main character attempting to connect with people who are too busy connecting with their phone. It was posted 2 weeks ago and already has over 21,000,000 views. I wonder how many of those views were on a cell phone.

I've been hating my phone for a while now. I had developed an OCD thing with notifications on my in, I don't like them. I have to read or listen to messages, check my e-mail, play my Words With Friends games, check Twitter and so on until the notifications go away. Really, John? Did a piece of shit from Cricket actually give you anxiety? Apparently so.

One of the benefits of being in jail/treatment for 6 months was not having a phone or Internet. It was weird for the first couple of months. I swear I felt my the phone that wasn't in my pocket vibrate every once in a while. But then, I didn't miss it anymore. I began to enjoy reading actual books and playing chess and Scrabble face to face with people.

Then I got my phone back. Having it again was kind of yay and ugh at the same time. I immediately fell back into constantly checking Facebook, playing Words With Friends, reading Twitter and texting when I wasn't doing anything...or even while in the middle of doing things. I started becoming very irritated when I used my phone, even just texting or phone calls.

This is ironic because everyone who knew Drunk John knew he liked to drunk dial, drunk text and drunk ramble. A lot. Usually at 2am. On a weeknight. (sorry)

Essentially, part of me didn't want to be one of these people not being present because they have to take a picture or video something all the time. Most of it, though, is I think I liked having free time without a device requiring my attention. Well, what the hell...I'm a big boy (kinda). I can do something about it.

I cut off most notifications, finally. That was a no-brainer. I ended up deleting the Facebook app because my phone has the storage capacity of a floppy disk using performance enhancing drugs. I quit using Twitter because I suck at it. And yet, that wasn't enough.

So, I came up with something for myself called The '95 Phone Challenge that I've been doing for a little over a week now. It started off with me swearing that I wouldn't look at my phone in public except to answer a call or text. I would read a book every time I felt like looking at my phone like everyone everywhere seemed to be doing. I decided to go further with it. I decided I would treat my cell phone like it was 1995. '95 was one of my favorite years, and, from what I remember, I enjoyed life and was very social without a cell. (Granted, I was also young and a college senior...I am aware that I am neither.)

The challenge was that I could only use my phone if I was somewhere that had a land line available for use. I can use my phone at home, obviously. There is a phone at work, so I can use it right before or after my shift. Technically, I can check my phone if I walk past a pay phone. Otherwise, it stays in my backpack or pocket. It doesn't exist when I'm out and about. Land lines only...other people's cell phones don't count. In 1995 anyone with a big-ass cell phone couldn't afford the minutes to let someone else make a call anyway.

I want to be present in the moment. I want to actually take in life instead of spending time reading about others taking in life or looking at their pictures of them being active. I think it's great that I can see what friends and family are doing with their lives, but technology makes it too easy for me to just waste online.

Not only that, but when I spend all that time staring at the computer screen or my phone, I end up just reading a bunch of shit I normally wouldn't, like comments. Every post on Facebook...every news article...every YouTube video...everything online (including this blog post) has an option to post a comment. And they're almost all horrible, opinionated and useless. If I limit how much time I spend online, I'll limit what I read.

So far, I like the challenge. One thing I've noticed is when I do use my phone and text or call a friend, I'm happier about it and therefore, I can have a pleasant opposed to before where I would essentially end conversations abruptly because I was a cranky pants.

I read more. I can read books on my phone, sure...but it's not the same as a real book...and also, it's really frickin' easy to stop reading and go check Wikipedia about something in my head...then sneak over to Facebook...then YouTube...then ooh, look, cat pictures...then--ah, crap, I was reading...

I wanted to post about this to let you guys know I feel like I am more aware of my I'm paying more attention to what is actually going on around me. Granted, I should probably not listen to my iPod as much as I do too, but I can't listen to people on the bus. That's a bit too much awareness.

I also wanted to let you know about this so that if you call or text me and I don't respond, you'll know why. "Oh, he must not be home. Hopefully he'll check his answering machine later."

Next week on "Fuck Technology": Old man Rabon recommends dropping Instagram and setting up a darkroom in your home.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An Example of the Universe Working Its Magic

My father took me out for a late lunch today, and it was great catching up with him. As he dropped me off, he handed me this:
The fresh maker?

Me: Thanks. Are you trying to say something about my breath?
Dad: No, I didn't realize it was gum when I got it. My teeth are too bad for gum.

I guess this is what they put candy and gum in now? A "protective" plastic case so that the gum makes a lot of noise as you skate down the street? I'm packing a baby rattle or a can with pennies in it to scare dogs and hobos.

I don't remember the last time I had a pack of gum on me, much less chewed it. I've been smoking for 20 years, and I haven't really used anything to curb the oral fixation thing since I started the process of quitting. (I almost wrote "oral fetish thing", but that's a completely different issue altogether.) So, I attempted to enjoy the minty-ness as I chewed a piece until I became annoyed by it (about 3 minutes), threw it away...and got another piece 10 minutes later.

I went to the public library for a couple of hours, and then skated to the bus stop at 5th and Lamar to go home. As I stood there waiting for the bus, I reached for that stupid noisy pack of gum. At that moment, this older lady in a gaudy dress and Jackie O sunglasses walked up to the bus stop carrying a shopping bag and smoking a cigarette. She was wearing one of those hats that says, "Hey, I'm old and the sun could kill me. Pretend I'm fashionable."

The bus came into sight a few blocks away, so she hurriedly inhaled the rest of her Pall Mall and started a violent coughing fit. She flung the but away and covered her mouth as she hacked uncontrollably into her hand. I then heard her make the sound of hocking a loogie...but with no spit. Lovely.

She finished, attempted to compose herself and straightened her sunglasses. It was at this moment that I stretched out my hand and lightly shook the Mentos in her direction.

Me (with slight smirk): (rattle rattle) "Gum?"