Most people get the mistaken idea that living a sober life is difficult, boring or, for the lack of a better term, lame. I could hardly blame anyone for coming to that conclusion – that’s exactly what I thought before I quit. Along with this often comes the mistaken impression that choosing to be sober would mean that we give up a part of human existence that others find enjoyable, which would thereby make life less than enjoyable. This can seem to make sense but only if viewed from a certain perspective – that a life without consuming alcohol cannot be a happy one.
Please allow me the chance to broaden that horizon, just a little bit: I used up all of the fun before I quit drinking – by the time I was ready, drinking had become my only escape from an existence that I was too chicken to end and to miserable to continue.
The proper perspective to look at this from is that of a cancer patient. If you came up with the cure for cancer and it just happened to be that this cure involved not consuming soda and attending a meeting or three every week, how long do you think the lines would be to get to those meetings? National sales of soda pop would drop instantly.
Not only is our disease forced into remission, we are given (free of charge) a model which will allow us to clear the wreckage that was our past, enjoy true freedom from the bondage to it and to know true contentment and happiness. When looked at in that light, it should start to make sense.
Without sobriety, my wife, my kids, my home, my friendships, my company, the bikes, toys and vacations; they’re all gone – in fact, everything that I hold dear and enjoy in life simply wouldn’t be possible because the tough thing about my disease is this: Alcoholism won’t take everything that I love, it will have me pushing everything away – the disease brings about the complete corruption of self – and that corruption is where we run into trouble.
The susceptibility in our character that allows the corruption to infect us means there’s a trick to this: Recovery, and thereby our happiness, is only good for one day at a time (often much less at first but let’s not confuse the issue). This gets deeper: The longer I remain sober, the more susceptible I am to pursue actions that can bring about the collapse without even picking up a drink – I’ve seen too many people fall victim to their own success.
For instance, a very close friend of mine has been sober for just a few years longer than I have. He, for a long time, worked a much better recovery program than I did and it showed – he was wildly successful… Or more correctly stated, he was even more successful than I was. Unfortunately, that success corrupted him. He started believing his own propaganda (that he was better than having to maintain what he did to become successful in the first place) and soon set on a path that saw him give up that great job to stupidity. He then spiraled out of control for a time before realizing the error in his ways. Miraculously, he saw the light before picking up a drink and turned things back around… He came back with a vengeance and his life got even better. A short while later and he’s right back to screwing it up again. It’s the success.
In my case, I started out slow but I’ve picked up speed as I’ve gone along. I know my propaganda is tainted and as long as I continue in this knowledge, remaining teachable as we call it, as long as I continue along the right path, I will continue to grow and it will be possible for me to choose success and happiness over chaos.
While this post centers on my (and by friend’s) recovery from alcoholism, the principles remain sound for most struggling to grasp living happily.
When people repeat the old axiom that happiness is an inside job, a phrase that I love and believe in with all my heart, I often wonder if they truly grasp the full meaning of that statement. Happiness is an inside job, as long as the insides make it possible for happy to reside there in the first place – I have to do the work to keep the place clean.
Fortunately this does not require perfection, just progress… And action.
…And remember, if it was easy, anybody could do it.
It started raining last Thursday and didn’t let up much, at least during daylight hours, until Sunday. After struggling through dead legs, I decided to just take it easy for a few days rather than run, trying to dodge raindrops. The forecast for Saturday was actually promising as late as Friday night so I’d hoped to get a ride in but it simply wasn’t to be – I woke up to rain and though it did stop for a short while, there was no way it was going to dry out enough for a ride. By Saturday afternoon I was feeling more than a little caged in.
Enter glorious Sunday. For the first time in days I didn’t wake up to the gentle pattering of raindrops on the roof. As predicted, while it was cold (close to freezing, frost on the ground), the sun was shining brilliantly, not a cloud in the sky! I decided that I’d wait a bit for it to warm up and hit the road at eleven. I made a nice, hearty bacon and egg breakfast, ate and got dressed to go out and tackle a little yard work before I left – and that’s exactly when the clouds blew in.
Mrs. Bgddy ended up going out for her ride first while I watched the girls and took a nice little nap. Afterwards, I got suited up in my coldest weather gear (cold weather cycling jacket, jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, hat, full fingered gloves and foot covers) and hit the road. As one could expect, at first the cold sucked the life out of me but I was smiling by the end of the first mile. It wasn’t even 45 degrees when I started…not really cold by any real standards, but last year my cutoff was 50 degrees so I’ve made quite a bit of progress. The second and third miles were right into the teeth of the wind though and that had me cursing a little bit. Then a mile south, another into the wind and then two more south… And that’s when my day started looking up – six straight miles with the wind at my back and only one stop sign. By the time I’d hit the 13th mile I was considering amending my 25 mile planned ride to add another half-marathon’s worth. Then I turned north and had a nice little cross-wind which quickly had me thinking about changing that 25 mile route to an 18 mile ride. Kind of funny how that works, eh?
Within a mile I was back to smiling again – and that’s when I realized that my legs felt awesome. Even with the crosswind I was maintaining a 19 mph average and hardly working (in October and November – I have no goals other than to have fun and ride as much as I can). For the first time in quite some time I had no stiffness to work through – the cold wasn’t even bothering me. That three day stretch off was a little more needed than I thought. When I got to the point where I could choose 18 or 25 miles it wasn’t even a choice. I pressed on.
Once I got into town, it was a right turn dead into the wind for another three miles before heading south again for the home stretch. I pulled into the driveway with a comfortable 18.3 mph average and a whole lot of contentment at having finally gotten out for a ride.
Normally Monday would be a day off, but I be rode anyway. We’ve got a decent weather forecast before the rain rolls back through on Wednesday afternoon. One thing about fall in Michigan, the weather sucks a lot, so you can’t miss a nice day when it shows up.
On a fitting side note, I will cross my goal mileage for the year tonight on the last club ride of the season. We’ll be heading out, on our usual course, after dark has already descended, lights blazing and on the first road bike – my vaunted (and heavy) Cannondale SR-400. It’s only a 14 speed and it’s got down tube shifters but I figured it would be pretty cool to go old-school on an easy night.