I was recently contacted by a recovery website and asked to support their site with a free link on my page. I actually value my recovery, my name, and my site (even if it’s an anonymous one on this blog – in the real world I don’t hide who I am) so I checked out the resource yesterday. Whilst on vacation. Because that’s what I do.
What I found was, let’s call it surprising.
In the modern day fight against all that is Alcoholics Anonymous, call it an unjust stigma, there happens to be a significant amount of misinformation about what it actually is and what it does. There is one significant reason AA is attacked unfairly: Alcoholics Anonymous is free. You can’t sell it, you don’t need a professional to administer it, and the follow-up appointments cost a Dollar (but only if you can afford to donate one for the otherwise free cup of coffee). If you don’t have a spare buck, we just ask that a member keeps coming back until such a time they do. Other than that, each individual member decides if they are a member. We are entirely non-discriminatory and accept everyone, regardless of… well anything. If you’re a human being, we have a meeting for you. If you’re an alien or some other form of animal, well it’s an honest program so keep coming back until such a time as you can be honest or you grow tired of people pointing out that honesty is the best policy.
With the background out of the way, I suggested that a few items would have to be changed if I were to support their page with a link on mine. For instance, it is suggested on their site that AA only has a 5-8% success rate. Let me be very clear about this, because I even hear this stat regurgitated in meetings frequently, if you believe that the success rate is 5-8% you’re either lying or ignorant. The success rate is between 85 and 90% for those who actually follow the program. For those who simply show up to have their court paper signed so they can affect a lighter sentence or ruling, yes the numbers are dismal, but we don’t, can’t and won’t force recovery on anyone. Each person decides their own level of commitment. Let’s look at this another way… By those standards, anyone who shows up at a symposium for a new medical procedure is, by rights, now a doctor. How successful is the medical profession going to be? How about this, anyone who sits through one trial should be considered a lawyer, full license and all. How would that work out? Well, you can’t count anyone who walks into an AA meeting as recovering just the same. The deciding factor is that you actually have to thoroughly work the program to be counted as a success or failure. The Big Book says, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” Put bluntly, I’ve never seen a person fail…. Not one. I’ve seen thousands fail who have never fully put their feet under the table though.
This supposed “resource” gets worse from there, suggesting that AA is a religious program. The argument could be made that parts of it are “spiritual”, but almost ten percent of the actual “instruction manual” portion of the book is devoted to those who are agnostic about religion (the first 164 pages are the “instruction manual” – what it is and how to work the program, the Chapter We Agnostics is 14 pages long, or “almost ten percent”). When someone suggests that AA is a religious program simply respond with a question: “Oh really? What denomination?” AA is an entirely non-denominational, non-religious program with a spiritual basis. While members can sometimes become confused, claiming “Christianity” as the basis for the program (it is true, AA was formed on Christian values) the aforementioned Chapter to agnostics lays the suggestion that it’s a religious program to waste. Let’s not forget, nearly 90% of the population believes in some form of a Higher Power, but the program is for any human with an alcoholic problem.
There are a few more minor problems that I suggested correcting on the website before I would offer my support, but I’m an immovable object on the two mentioned above… Humorously, I received an email yesterday at around 9:30 am from the “Outreach Specialist” that stated the supposed resource would rather continue peddling ignorance by not correcting their site.
Thus, no link. My friends, know your reality. It’s a crazy place out there. Otherwise, “Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave”. Or alternately, “let the whirling dervishes whirl”.
You read many of the recovery posts on the blogosphere, even some of the professional stuff, and much of the “evidence based” material (which has been spawned with the sole purpose of Easing God Out), it lacks a most necessary component of recovery: working with another alcoholic….
It’s summer, 1993 and I’m laying in bed, just 23 years-old, less than a year sober, and I think I’m dying. Not figuratively, I believe I’m having a heart attack or something. It’s two o’clock in the morning, I have to be to work at six. I tossed and turned for the rest of the night, never getting another wink of sleep. The next day at work, I was a mess.
I called my sponsor and explained what I’d been through. His first question? “Why didn’t you call me last night?”
I pointed out that it was obviously too early in the morning so there was no chance I was waking him up… And that’s where he set me straight. He explained that I had experienced a full-blown panic attack and that those times are exactly what a sponsor is for, and that someone had done the same for him when he was just a pigeon.
I’ve made countless “I need you, man” phone calls and received plenty, because that’s what we do.
At first, feelings of inadequacy and humility limit our sharing with others as a means of “giving it away” and for all but the most precious of snowflakes this is a good thing. You actually have to possess something worth giving to someone else, after all, for them to accept it.
For those who have read my posts, especially my cycling posts, what is the common thread? Working with, and in the service of, others.
Cycling in a club setting is so much like AA’s brand of recovery, I’m almost nervous to explain exactly how close they are in nature. Every new cyclist to a group leans on that group to ride faster and farther than they could on their own. At first, a noob’s contribution is vastly less that their seasoned countetparts. Over a period of years, though, this changes as the cyclist gets stronger and becomes a fixture in the group. That cyclist does less hiding and more working. They do more so the seasoned members can catch a longer break after having devoted years to pulling that puppy around courses…. That’s the essence of working with others. If we are doing it right, we learn to become less self-centered.
This is an excerpt from the Big Book. Snowflake Trigger Warning! Your fragile self can’t take reading this, so walk away now, before you melt.
Our actor is self-centered-ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia
if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?
Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!
Interesting, isn’t it?
The Sweet Sound of Silence: The Art of Keeping (or making) Your Bicycle Quiet. A Comprehensive List of Common Problems I’ve come Across…
If you have an older bike, mine at 25 years old, 18, 9, 4, 4, and 3, you pretty much accept that there are small creaks and clicks that develop over time. Still, nothing beats a quiet bike, and a creaky bike sucks! Following are some of the things that make a good bike annoying…
- Dirt in bottom bracket: This causes a distinctive, random clicking sound in certain bottom brackets – simply take the crank out, clean the dirt out, lube it, and reinstall it. My FSA crankset with a wavy washer was notorious for this problem (same crank, same problem on my wife’s bike). The S-Works crank I have now is sealed up tighter than a frog’s butt so I don’t have problems anymore.
- Loose headset: Stem bolts and lock nuts will loosen up from time to time. Tighten everything up and you’ll be good to go.
- Loose chain ring bolts: This is commonly the problem for that random clicking that I mentioned pertaining to the dirty bottom bracket/crank. These do loosen up over time and the clicking can drive you mad trying to locate it… This should be culprit number one when you have a click or creak that sounds like it’s coming from the bottom bracket. Either tighten the bolts, or take them out, one at a time, and clean the threads, lube and reinstall them.
- Spokes grooved: Where the spokes cross over on the rear wheel (usually on the cassette side), over time the spokes can become grooved. Take a small file or piece of sandpaper and get rid of the groove. Lube at the intersection, between the spokes helps too..
- Loose quick release skewer: They should be tight, but not ridiculously tight where it becomes exceedingly difficult to operate the skewer lever. You shouldn’t have to use the fork or chain stay for leverage to open the quick release, but you should have to put some muscle into it.
- Loose brake bolt (torque wrench): Loose brake bolts will make noise… Always tighten with a torque wrench per the frame manufacturer’s specs!
- Loose threadless stem: Threadless stem bolts should be tightened once a week with a torque wrench. They can loosen over time if the Loctite on the threads wears out.
- Cable housings: These can knock together and cause a noise but most people aren’t picky enough to require correcting this. I did say most. I am not most when it comes to the Venge. If you happen to be that picky, you can pick these up at the local shop for cheap:
- Loose/dead shifter springs. Your shifters will rattle a bit every time you hit a bump. Install new shifters or live with the noise…. Unless you’re running Campagnolo components. I’ve heard they can be rebuilt. I reserve the right to be wrong on that.
- Loose cassette: This is a rarity, but worth remembering when you get a rattle you can’t track down.
- Loose cone race/bearings: You’ll feel this in the wheel if you give it a vigorous shake side to side. Just remember, a certain amount of play isn’t bad – “loose is fast”.
- Rubber grommets at certain wheel hubs: These will make a weird “whooshing” sound…. A little light lube (Boeshield T-9 is what I use) will quiet that down.
- Plastic spoke protector*: This little piece of uselessness can be the cause of noise, rarely. See below, and the photo above, of my cassette.
- Reflector mounts*: Loose reflector mounts. See below, but tighten them up or replace them if necessary.
- Loose derailleur mount: This is a tricky one but not uncommon. I’ve had a few friends derailed by the derailleur mount. It’ll make some funky noises and it’s not easy to nail down.
- Seat Post/Saddle Collar: No matter how well you maintain your bike, you can develop a creak in the seat post or saddle collar at any time. I maintain my Venge impeccably and mine started creaking wildly. The problem here is that the more you care for your bike, the easier it is to overlook the seat post. The creak will have no rhythm to it, it can creak whether in the saddle or out and no matter where you are in the pedal stroke…. Simply loosen your seat post clamp, work the seat post up and down a few times and tighten the clamp up again. This one drove me nuts for more than a week.
* If you didn’t know this already, fast, racer type people who only ride during daylight hours remove their reflectors. Most cycling-specific clothing and shoes have enough reflective surfaces you don’t need more reflectors… besides, they add weight. And they’re ugly. Chuckle. I don’t have one reflector on any of my… one, two, three… Five bikes. Riding without reflectors may be “illegal” where you live – and I would NEVER suggest flouting the law! Me without my muff! That said, do what you wish – I choose lights over reflectors when I ride near dusk (once a year). If you feel reflectors will make you safe and more visible, definitely leave them on. Now, the plastic spoke protector is a lawyer-required item. They’re installed to protect shop owners and manufacturers from cyclists being stupid. The sure mark of a noob is a plastic spoke protector still on the bike, behind the cassette. I don’t have a spoke protector on any of my bikes because I know enough to not let my shifting get so far out of whack that the derailleur could shift the chain into the rear spokes. If what I wrote just now makes your eyes glaze over because you have no idea what those words mean, leave your protector on. You need it and we need to be able to identify you when you ride with us. Call it a win/win.
It is a rare occurrence that I ride alone, especially for more than 18 miles, but such was the case last night.
In the last couple of weeks most of my miles were completed on my old school Trek. It’s so tuned up and dialed in, it’s almost riding as well as my good bike.
Tuesday night, riding with my wife, I finally made the verbal error of expressing my amazement at how quiet and exceptional the Trek is lately. It’s riding like it’s a new bike.
When I installed the new shifters a few weeks ago, though, I reused all of the existing cables (they were in excellent shape). Unfortunately, I frayed the rear brake cable and the front derailleur cable when fishing them back through their housings. I noticed and fixed the brake immediately, the shifter cable took a bit to notice…
On waking yesterday, I decided to head into the office and fix that cable before work…. On wheeling the bike out the door I noticed the headset was loose, and not just a little, there was some serious play in the fork. I’d just had it adjusted and tightened at the shop a few days before.
With the old quill stem, the fix is easy…. If you happen to own a 32mm headset wrench or two. It’s not so simple, if you don’t. I didn’t, but I can share a neat trick to work around it temporarily.
To use a full-size 32mm wrench (or adjustable wrench, as I have), simply line up both nuts, the lower adjuster nut and the upper lock nut, and tighten both until the headset is properly tightened. Then loosen and raise the stem to allow some clearance for the wrench. Keeping an eye on the lower nut, tighten the lock nut… If the adjuster nut moves when you tighten the lock nut, hold the adjuster nut steady by wrapping a shoe lace around it and pinching it tight (or twist it a few times and pinch it)… This should give you just enough tension to get some bite on the lock nut when you tighten it.
I used the trick above, then picked up a headset wrench at the local shop for $16 because using a shoelace to grip a nut instead of dropping sixteen bucks on the right tool is silly. That said, it’s done.
Then came time for yesterday evening’s ride. Wednesday is typically a short, 17-1/2 mile ride, at an easy pace but we went easy and short on Tuesday to miss some passing rain… and I’d eaten a decent breakfast and lunch with pizza coming up for dinner. I needed to burn some calories before pizza. I took the Venge this time, too.
I opted for a traditional weekend run, an out and back 28 and change and quickly discovered why we only ride that route in the early morning, or on the weekends. Traffic sucked after rush hour! Once I got to the back roads though, about six miles in, things improved.
As I headed out I set my sights on an 18mph average. Not slow, but definitely easy enough. I headed out into the light breeze and quickly worked up to a sustainable (heh) pace around 19 mph but felt it a little easy. I bumped it up to 20. Then 21. Twelve miles in, I had a grin stretched across my face.
I finished the ride strong with a mild tailwind, keeping the speed between 21 & 23. I ended up with 28-1/2 miles at 19.6 mph but chose to ride for a bit to chat with a guy who rides his mountain bike by our home pretty regularly. I was just over 30 miles at 19.2 when I pulled into the driveway.
That pizza was extra tasty as hungry as I was once I finished my ride.
I felt good all night long. My daily bike ride is like working steps for my sobriety or daily prayer for my sanity.
This is some good, old-fashioned family fun. Gulp. “Is it hot in here?”