This will be my 25th sober New Year’s Eve. My wife and I will take our kids over to our friends’ house as we’ve done all but one or two of the last fifteen years. Our kids are friendly with their kids and they’ll stay the night. Pete and Rebecca are sober-friendly, there usually isn’t any drinking done at the house. We will have dinner together, we’ll play some games and we will celebrate the changing of the year. We may even have a glass of sparkling grape juice…
For me, that sparkling grape juice may be a glass of neon green Mountain Dew. Whether or not I partake in the sparkling grape juice will be entirely a “game time decision”. Sometimes that grape juice tastes just a little too much like alcohol and I’m better off letting someone else have mine. I can tell you right now, I’ve never had more than two Mountain Dew’s in succession and those sodas never set off a craving for alcohol….
See, this isn’t my first rodeo. Our friend Rebecca is a “normal person”. She likes the occasional glass of wine. She gets a little buzz and she doesn’t like how it feels. I’m different. With just one drop passing my lips, I come alive. Then, after that first drop, “one is too many and fifteen isn’t enough”. Katie bar the door.
As long as I don’t allow a drop to cross my lips (even 25 years later), I’ll be okay. I’ve learned how to adapt so that I know what will trigger the craving to let a drop pass the gates. I am utterly powerless against that craving and if one drop passes the lips, not even God will know when I’ll stop. God does know, it’ll get ugly. Fast. So do I, so it’s best to avoid the situation altogether.
The downfall starts as an argument in my head. If I have a good reason to be in the presence of alcohol, am on solid footing spiritually and program-wise, and have a quick exit route, I’m reasonably assured of successfully navigating an evening without succumbing to the temptations of John Barleycorn. If, on the other hand, I can’t satisfy all of those requirements, I don’t belong in that situation at all because I will be susceptible to losing the argument. All it takes is a little splinter in my mind. If I run with that splinter, I’m done for.
Success requires honesty and an immense helping of fear. In recovering circles we like to say that our misery is refundable, all we have to do is take a drink. I remember what it’s like to live in misery and I don’t want any of that back. I don’t want anything messing with my happiness – and I’ve worked damn hard for mine… I don’t need any practice cleaning up wreckage either.
So, because I know what I have to do and have the willingness to stick to a plan I know works, I have a chance of making it through another New Year’s party sober.
By the way, what does it look like if I feel that temptation to drink creeping in? Well, it just so happens I have a plan for just that reality – even if I’ve never had to implement it… First, I call my sponsor and try to talk it out. If that doesn’t work, I’m out. There’s a sober dance going on within 20 miles and I can go hang out with some friends who will talk me back from the ledge and help me stay on the path. Better to leave and live to fight another day than (stupidly) try to stick around and end up drunk. And I do mean stupid… Remember that honesty part? Yep, that’s honesty.
Oh, and one more thing to remember: New Year’s Eve is amateur night. We always head home shortly after midnight before the amateur drunk drivers head home.
2017 was a great year, as my blog, fitness and recovery go.
I set personal best for number of hits in a day (947), not including a South Park meme from 2014, which netted me 1,053 on the day. I set a new personal best for hits in a year (133,300 and counting) and I’ve actually got a company trying to rip off the name “Fit Recovery”. Talk about flattery! Chuckle.
It wasn’t looking so positive a couple of months ago. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to top my previous best in 2015 of 131,000 hits because the math just wasn’t adding up. I didn’t have that best 947 hits in a day either – in fact, I was actually down on hits going through the summer. Typically, my best months are May through August. This year I was down 1,000 to 3,000 hits in many of the summer months.
Then, November. I still don’t know what really happened. My daily hits started to climb. First I was topping 500 and 600 hits a day. Then 700 popped up now and again. Then 800 and I finally hit 900 a few times. The best was it really wasn’t a special post that was getting all of the hits, they were spread out – the only thing that got more hits than usual was my homepage. November was the best, in terms of hits, in the history of the blog.
As you can see, the good times continued in December, though they’re slowing back to the norm now.
Next up is fitness. While I feel a little chubby lately, and I’m eating the food to make it so, I’m only a few pounds over my racing weight of 175 pounds (I call it my racing weight but I don’t, and won’t, race) and even though I’ve taken the last week off, I haven’t gained any weight and have eaten responsibly (or close to it). That said, it was another personal best for overall mileage for the year:
As has been the case since I started riding, I’ve reached a mileage total I didn’t think was possible and I’m assuming next year will be my first year where I see my first decrease. If that’s so, I’ll be okay with it. I can’t believe I topped 9,000 miles and spent more time at work than I did last year in the process – something that I’m quite happy with. I also had a best ever month, September, topping 1,100 miles:
This year, I wasn’t any faster than previous years (actually we did have two B Group bests on Tuesday night where we broke the 1:19:00 mark for our 29-ish mile ride for an average of 22.1 mph) but I didn’t feel any “faster”. I was, however, able to spend a lot more time up front helping to pull the group. I did a lot of sprinting for City Limits signs with my friends and I did have a lot of fun with that.
Perhaps the most interesting fitness story for me was my doctor sending me to a specialist to have my heart checked because of an irregular EKG – something that he said was “either nothing, or something that could make you drop dead without warning”. I purposely slowed down for more than a month while my results were put together from an ultrasound of my heart. I kept a good attitude but I was legitimately scared about my future. As it turned out, the specialist told me to come back in 40 or 50 years when I started having problems. I’m 47, so that was pretty good news. In the end it was “keep doing what you’re doing and I definitely can live with that. I put the hammer down, as they say, the next day… with a smile on my face.
Finally, there’s recovery. Last winter I did another Fourth through Twelfth and concentrated on that which is most important for the rest of the year, the three aspects of the Twelfth Step: Spiritual Awakening (another one, the step doesn’t say you only get one), I’ve carried the message and practiced the principles in all of my affairs. I learned a lot this year and shared much of it here. I’ve made progress on being a better me, and that’s all a guy can ask for after a quarter-century of sobriety. I feel lucky to be me in this respect: Most people my age (my current age) are lucky enough just to get into sobriety so young. I’ve got a 25 year head start. As enjoying life goes, sobering up early feels like cheating life. Legally and fairly. It is good times and noodle salad.
First, know this: When I write posts of this nature, they reflect what I am going through or working through at the moment. They represent my experience, and more important, my interpretation of that experience. I choose to see life the way I do because it makes me happy…
Yesterday morning I was thinking about a friend I hadn’t seen since my recovery party on the 18th of last month. He is a very close friend of mine, one of my best friends. It was just a fleeting thought, “I wonder how James is doing?” Then I thought I should give him a call and see if he wants to grab a cup of coffee. This was one of those “should I listen to this little voice” or “ignore it” moments.
I called up my friend and we made plans for dinner rather than coffee. I called my wife, let her know what was up, and went about my day.
We were half-way through dinner when my friend asked me if I knew the significance of the day to him…. He said he’d planned on just sitting home all evening and just stewing in the memories, loss and sorrow. Last night was the fifth anniversary of his father passing away and instead of isolating he was out with me, talking and working through it.
Do you remember that story about the guy who heard a small voice in his mind that said to go buy some milk, so he follows that instruction? Long story short, he ends up stopping at an unfamiliar house with that milk and giving it to a down-on-her-luck mother who needed it. This gist is, God guided the man to do what needed be done – the man just had to listen to that voice. Well for me, last night was the real-world application of that mythical story.
Some people call it “the still, small voice”, others call it a Higher Power, still others call it God – whatever you choose to call it, I can’t express how important it is to listen to it – and more importantly, discerning which is “the still, small voice” and which is the ego trying to get your butt into trouble.
Now that covers recovery more than fitness, right? Well hang on a second…
Folks, where recovery meets fitness in this neat little story is that recovery isn’t just about staying sober. It’s about helping others recover as well. It’s passing along that which was freely given to us… In other words, recovery is about people. It’s about doing good things and passing it along through our experience, strength and hope. Fitness, at its most enjoyable, is about the people we get and stay fit with.
If you tend to manage your fitness alone and find yourself in a rut, try meeting some like-minded people and get out of yourself a little bit. Make your fitness about getting fit and helping others. It’ll add a dimension to your enjoyment of life that is hard to describe decently in a simple blog post. It’s the difference between wandering through life, and walking through it with purpose and meaning. Enjoy it and embrace it, my friends. It’s not to be missed.
This is my lightest year’s-end ever, coming out of Christmas break. I started back to eating responsibly immediately after Christmas Day and I’m somewhere between 177 and 179. I think I’ll have that down to 175 by March, without breaking a sweat. Figuratively. I plan on eating about 2,500 calories a day, give or take. That’s about 500-600 less than I’d eat in-season. That’ll do it for the diet.
As for taking a week off the bike… Um, yeah. I don’t do that. The last time I took a week off from whatever fitness thing I was into at the time, I was laid up with an injury from running. I think I took a few days off after I developed a hamstring issue from riding a saddle that was too wide. Other than an active vacation or two, I just don’t do more than a few days off.
Days off? When I was running, absolutely. A week off? Not since I was chubby. I used to be unreasonably thin before I quit smoking. I rarely ate food for enjoyment back then. Once I quit smoking and found out what it was like to eat with real, working taste buds, well let’s just say it’s been a challenge, at times, to push myself away from the table. Therefore I pursue fitness much like I pursue recovery, vociferously.
My week off the bike is six days on the bike, 45 minutes a day…. in an easier gear than normal.
My fourteen year-old daughter and I wanted to see the new Star Wars movie in 3-D. My youngest daughter hates 3-D Movies because she suffers from motion sickness trying to sit through them. I, on the other hand, do not. My eldest suffers, to a lesser degree, but she weathers the storm because the new 3-D technology can make a great movie simply amazing. We saw The Last Jedi a couple of days after it opened, last week, in I-Max 2-D as a family but my daughter and I cemented plans to revisit the theater together, after Christmas, to catch the movie in all of its 3-D glory…. and thus, a small dream of mine was realized.
My wife’s cousin had a fantastic relationship with his daughter, well into her teenage years. I know what a feat this is, but I set that as a goal while my eldest daughter was just three or four years-old. I wanted to be a good enough dad that my kid and I would still have a good relationship into her teens. I knew this would leave a lot to chance, in my daughter’s choices, so I didn’t hang too much on the outcome – I would simply concentrate on my part and let the chips fall.
So without getting too mushy about it, my kid and I had a better time than I could have hoped for. It was a perfect night of laughing, popcorn, Star Wars, and entirely geeking out. I won’t claim to have crossed a finish line, because we all know there are no finish lines, but last night was definitely a small dream realized.
And yes, she knows how special the night was to me because I told her.
Another Way of Looking at Cheat Days and the Ruination they Lead to – from the Perspective of an Ex-drunk.
I went to a dinner the other night. Three of us were normal weight. The rest ranged from every-day overweight to morbidly obese. Two are currently eating themselves to death.
I have a problem in this setting because I have a tough time keeping my mouth shut. Put ten fat people in a room, you’ll hear more excuses and false information about why people get fat than you can shake a stick at. Better, they also happen to be experts on how to lose that weight. I should know, I used to traffic that cow pucky. I can only take so much before I say, “Now hang on a second”, and attempt to right the ship. Of course, I’m sure I’m a bundle of fun to have around as well – I’m not lost on this.
In any event, one of the “eating myself to death” family members suggested that for some people, “cheat days” are necessary when it comes to one’s diet. I submit Exhibit A, I think that family member missed the irony***.
A morbidly obese person telling a recovering alcoholic of more than two and a half decades, without relapse, that cheat days in what a person eats are necessary to lose weight. If you haven’t put two and two together, by that thinking I should be having a beer every now and again… or would that be a case of beer every now and again? Do you hear me now? If we’re going to cheat, why not do it right, eh? If you think there’s logic in the ex-drunk taking a drink every now and again, I suggest you marry a practicing alcoholic, or invite one in to your happy home and give that tornado a spin. It’ll change your perspective pretty quickly.
There are three distinct aspects to a cheat day, so let’s look at that, first; Eating too much, and eating junk or my favorite: Both.
Alcoholics and recovering alcoholics are the Masters of the cheat day. We’ve used every excuse there is to justify them. For us, the cheat days also come with heavy consequences. Madness, insanity, mayhem, death, and prison. Where can I sign up for some more of that?! For us, to drink is to die. There is no return to “normalized” drinking of alcohol so there are no cheat days. Oh, we may try, but sooner or later we’re butt-naked on the hood of our car with the key stuck in our ass, screaming, “It’s okay, I think it’s just flooded!**” In other words, there is no such thing as a cheat day. To cheat is to die, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
I prefer to save my cheat days till after I’ve attained my target weight. Of course, by then I don’t want to cheat because I know just how damned hard it is to lose the weight in the first place. And that’s pretty much how recovery works for me (over-simplified, but close enough for government work). Once I was able to remain sober for more than a few weeks and realized how difficult it was to stay sober and clean up the wreckage in the first place, I had no desire to go back to the old way of life… because the old way was miserable.
We can always have our misery back. We just have to do what we always did to get there. Just a thought.
**Special thanks to Robin Williams for that one. I laughed the first time I heard it, but it hit a little too close to home back then, if you know what I mean.
***I do know of people who have properly used cheat days – not many, but a few. Let’s just say they figured out that “a” cheat day every now and again isn’t bad…. they just can’t all be cheat days.
First, before I get into my most excellent post, Merry Christmas my friends. Hats off to a great year.
Up until yesterday, my record for my coldest ride was 19° F (-7 C). My wife and my friends Matt and Phill helped me beat it by 1°… and helped me to remember why my cutoff was 19° to begin with.
So we are out there cruising along and Matt says, “Well, all we need is a pair of ice skates and we can do a triathlon.” I laughed hard enough to drip snot on myself. Kind of funny, actually.
18 is so cold, even when I was comfortable at 16 mph (dirt roads, gravel bikes), going downhill and coasting at 20 mph was painful. In fact, we didn’t bother pedaling down one hill. We did almost 23 miles in a little more than an hour and a half and I was happy to be done when we rolled into the driveway.
We thought we were going to be riding at some point today as well, but miracle of miracles, we got more than four inches of snow last night…. It’s a white Christmas!
Happy Christmas, my friends.