Three days to go. 72 hours – the amount of time I wait to act on bad news (where applicable of course, some situations obviously require immediate action – the big things can generally wait a few days so I don’t act on emotion which leads to more “reasoned” action). I’ve been looking forward to November 18, 2012 for roughly 19 years and the day is only three short days and a wake-up away.
Through my recovery I’ve celebrated every year but there have been a handful of really important ones:
November 18, 1992: Day one, shoveling pig shit at Dawn Farm hungover as hell (I can still remember vividly the nausea and how I felt).
November 18, 1993: One year – previous attempts at staying sober had lasted anywhere from 12 hours to 3 weeks. This was a biggie.
November 18, 1995: My girlfriend threw me an unbelievable surprise party for three years. There had to be 15-20 people at her house. One month and seven days later I got down on one knee in front of the Christmas tree and that girlfriend accepted my proposal to eventually become Mrs. BgddyJim. [I remembered the location of this party incorrectly – Mrs. Bgddy pointed out that the 3 year anniversary was at her house, the 5 year was at a restaurant and was huge – I corrected the post after it was initially published]
November 18, 1997: Five years – The vast majority of alcoholics that quit fall back to drinking by this day. Somewhere along the lines of 90-95%. Dawn Farm’s success rate when I went through was 85% – almost opposite that of other trends. There’s something to shoveling pig shit on your first day.
November 18, 2002: Ten years. This is when they say the clouds really start to part and you get hit with your first real rays of sunshine.
And then Sunday will come. Though nobody is guaranteed tomorrow – and I am certainly included in “nobody”, but I’m living as if I’ll see the sun rise… 20 years. It is just another day and on November 19th I’ll be back to living on what I’ve learned over the last twenty years but it’s still a big deal.
Every November 18th has been a big deal for me but those were the really special ones, the anniversaries that stick out.
Recovering from alcoholism is not always a fun task. If done well, a person will usually find that they have a truck-load of character defects to deal with. Chief among them would be the desire to stretch the truth to suit one’s situation (many people simply call that lying, others call it politics) and the ability to seamlessly tailor and buy into that stretching of the truth. There are others too numerous to list. If one is to truly gain the great enjoyment of living a sober life those defects of character must be acknowledged and rectified. There is no easy way around the task either, think of it as removing a bandage – you can do it slowly but it hurts a lot worse than if you just grit your teeth and get it done. And that’s just the first year… After that the real work starts.
The rewards that come with this choice in lifestyle are immense and usually well-earned. Most people aren’t blessed with a plan of action and a support system meant to improve life beyond their current capacity for thought. Unfortunately though, practicing this lifestyle is difficult. The sober lifestyle requires utter honesty, is stressful and sometimes even exhausting. This is where physical fitness plays a huge part.
In my case, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have found exercise to be the one thing that can take an otherwise good recovery to the next level. I had an old-timer tell me long ago that if I stuck with it, one day I would get to a point where I just didn’t think life could get any better… And a short while later I realized that it did. I have been there many times over and it is amazing when it happens. When I’m running or riding it happens quicker and quite a bit more frequently.
When you take a person who drinks to escape, then wrecks their life to live in perpetual escape, then they remove the escape, well folks… We have a problem.
For the first two years of my recovery I rollerbladed – a lot . Between 8 and 16 miles a few days a week and up to 40 miles on Saturdays (I could average 16 mph on the eight mile loop easily… My fastest time was 24 minutes and some change… 40 miles didn’t take as long as you’d think). I didn’t know why I loved it so much back then, I was too new to recovery to be able to put everything together in my head. Of course, I really didn’t care either, but the exercise was akin to getting my escape back, only in a healthy way.
Then I went for a stretch without – the Dictators who manage Oakland County Metroparks, in response to sue happy losers suing for hurting themselves on the path (and idiot juries granting the sue-happy losers money), decided to require helmets and restrict speeds to 10 mph. I quit going the day after the first signs went up.
After that I took up golf, and as far as I could hit, daily practice actually was exercise (310, 340 with a tailwind), but I mustn’t kid myself too much… Then I quit cigarettes and before I knew it, started to get chubby. Then I started running, and eventually added cycling – and that, cycling, is what really got me fired up about exercise again – I love it more than I did rollerblading by an order of magnitude. The final piece of the puzzle was this blog, for which I pay deeper attention to not only what is going on around me but within as well.
Today I get my escape, it’s healthy (in every sense of the word – including that I don’t overdo it, uh too much), and unlike alcohol, the escape makes me a better person.
Fixing what was wrong with me, the things that caused me to repeatedly step in front of the locomotive and blissfully smile while rolling my eyes skyward as it ran me over yet again was the most important part of recovery. Without that, none of the other awesome things that I’ve enjoyed could have been possible. Without running and riding I have no doubt I’d still be recovering – I just wouldn’t be enjoying my life near as much as I do.
To wrap this post up, if you were paying attention, there’s a minor flaw. A fly in the ointment. If I spent the time to fix my defects of character, why the need to escape? What could I be running from?
Anymore it’s not so much about running from anything as it is about just getting away from the chaos that life is. I need the peace and quite…even if I get it at a semi-furious pace on a bike. If that isn’t good enough: We like progress, not perfection.