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Understanding Selfishness: It’s not All Bad.


September 2015

Manipulation is a key survival skill for any practicing drunk.  This one included, long ago, thankfully.  When I quit being that guy, I had some things to fix, and manipulation of the truth was one of the first things on the chopping block.  Of course, even though we sober up, let’s just say some old habits die hard.

Stay with me a second, this is going to get good, I promise.

Let’s check Webster first, on the manipulation deal:  b :to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.

I crossed out artful because I run an honest program.  Artful, though what we do/did can be manipulated to suggest, our form of manipulation is nothing more than despicable and underhanded.  To claim it is “artful” just seems, I don’t know, disgusting.  I also crossed out “especially” because, well why bother lying, cheating and manipulating things if we’re not going to benefit?  C’mon, man.

So I have a friend, newer in recovery, who struggles a little bit with understanding selfishness.  Again, let’s go to Webster:

1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself :seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

2: arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others

Okay, so this person is suggesting that going through the necessary steps to recover from her alcoholism, because it is a time consuming endeavor, is “selfish”.  She also suggests that, because she is exceptionally stressed out and often, going for a one hour bike ride, while her significant other is toiling away at home, to relieve her stress, is also selfish.

On their own merits, a case could be made that she’s got a point.  What you don’t know is that she misses her Xanax, prescribed by a “friendly” doctor.  Going for a bike ride is just as good as the narcotic and it won’t perpetuate an addict’s disease.  How do I know this?  Take a wild frickin’ guess.  We’re all a little depressed once we give up our drug of escape and taking the time to recover means no more escaping from life by drinking/drugging oneself to oblivion on a nightly basis.

Ah, the artfulness of alcoholic bullshit.  Allow me to explain.

The non-horseshit, without the spin of course, answer is that a sober, recovered, productive member of society is so much better to have around the house than a drunk or addict.  To attempt to argue otherwise is simply laughable (and yes, I did laugh. out loud).

Then we have the hour-a-day bike ride…  It should make perfect sense that a happy, contented, non-stressed-the-fuck-out significant other, four hours a day, would be better than an addicted, medicated grump, five hours a day.  At least it should.

Three years ago, when I was cycling a little less than I do today, the story could be manipulated to suggest I was being selfish, no? I was on the road, alone, pounding out my stress on the road while my wife was at home with the kids, for an hour a day and a few more on the weekends. Hold the phone though… this was snapped yesterday evening:

This was from Sunday:


Unfortunately snapped mid-sniffle.

Selfish? My wife and I spend more time together now that we’re cycling together than we ever did at any point in our marriage, with the exception of our honeymoon – and we have a vastly more enjoyable time during that time.

Recovery is no different. The harder I work, within reason, to be a better man, husband and father, the better it is for my family.

In short, this isn’t rocket science, folks…

Now, is my view of the situation a touch harsh?  Sure it is, but if you think a person can recover from a hopeless state of mind and body with unicorns and rainbows, you’ve got another thing coming a government job waiting for you.

The point of this post is this:  Life’s realities are a lot like statistics.  We can make reality look however we choose, depending upon how willing we are to be honest.  Manipulating the truth to get our way, to the detriment of those around us is selfish.  Working on our character defects to become better people for those around us is most definitely not.


  1. Dan In Iowa says:

    Somehow, I don’t see “survival” as selfish. Our cycling CAN be selfish for sure, but for what it does for me, it’s probably the best time I spend. Unlike you, I prefer to ride with myself rather than my wife, but that’s a different story! I do other things with her. Oh, BTW……Your wife IS “smokin’ hot!” Cute as a button.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Gracias Dan, smokin’ hot she is. I had a tougher time riding with her last year when her best effort was about 15 mph, but now she’s a lot faster and a little more independent where I don’t have to look after her and try to ride at the same time. I do consider myself a fairly blessed guy though. Most men aren’t so lucky.

      You’re on the right path, in terms of survival too… She’s trying to manipulate how others view her predicament so she can then justify her continued use of narcotics (even if that use is of a milder, prescribed, medication). We do that, because if I can convince you that it’s okay, it must be okay, so I’m okay. A little childish but that’s how the thought process goes.

      • Dan In Iowa says:

        For 3 years, I’ve worked in a group home for the mentally ill, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. We all so many ways to rationalize and justify our behaviors and thought patterns. The mentally ill have a harder time accepting that there is a problem in the first place, much less that anything is their fault. Sometimes, with an illness like I deal with, it’s not their fault, but as they learn to control and manage their illness through counseling and, yes, drugs, they begin to grasp that. We still hold them accountable for their own behavior, even it’s caused by their illness. I had to learn not to take some of their behaviors personally. It was very hard at first to not do that. When the girl is screaming F*** YOU! at me, it’s hard to not make it personal.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Oh, and thanks for commenting… I just realized I accidentally unfollowed your blog… I have no idea how that happened (probably my app on my phone), but I’ve got some catching up to do…

  2. Sheree says:

    There’s no one I enjoy riding with more than my husband. In fact, there’s no one period I more enjoy spending time with than my husband – despite what I might say on my blog!

  3. Leslie says:

    This is a great post Jim. I’ve grappled with this question of feeling selfish about taking time to ride and do other workouts because it is a significant amount of my week. I completely agree that if riding is what keeps you operating the best in the rest of your life, then it is as necessary as anything else. I think I’m really lucky that my husband loves to ride as much as I do so there is no conflict there with taking the time, and we agree that nothing makes us happier than going for a ride together. Not all of my riding friends are so lucky, some of their spouses either don’t ride or even give them some friction about their taking the time to ride. It’s funny; so much of married life is grappling with life’s responsibilities and challenges together and working on projects. But riding is that time when you both just go play, flying along and feeling just like a kid again, and in that way you both feel like best friends, even kids, when you are out there. Or sometimes you just feel complete peace working together on a hill climb or flying through some farm twisties. I don’t think there is anything better than that. I also wanted to thank you for your thoughts on recovery. I just reached my one year recovery date while on a self-guided tandem tour around Vermont, with my husband the second week of September, and I am grateful to hear your thoughts as someone solidly in recovery. I’ve accepted that shooting for 600 miles a month in the riding season is a necessary part of my routine and it’s OK if it isn’t what the majority of the rest of the people I talk to think is normal (“you ride HOW many days a week?”). As a friend of mine says when his routine gets messed up, “The wheels start to come off the bus.”

    • bgddyjim says:

      Exactly right Leslie. Congratulations on your one year! Keep coming back too because it gets WAY better. Thank you for that exceptionally well thought out comment.

  4. As usual an excellent post. I struggle with this myself. I’m thankful that I am able to get 60km most days going back and forth to work. But I struggle with riding to much on the weekends. The weird thing is my wife is completely supportive. It’s just me creating this idea that’s it’s selfish. I’ll figure it out. It’s a much better problem to have than a hangover.

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