Fit Recovery

Home » 2020

Yearly Archives: 2020

2020 Year End Wrap-up for Fit Recovery

The main thing that sucked about 2020 was a virus that, ironically, looks like a loogie. Of course, not everything touched by the virus was bad. In my home state, the governor paid most of the state to take at several weeks off work, though I won’t bother with the politics of it in this post. It was my first non-vacation stretch off work since I was fifteen and COVIDcation meant a lot of cycling. For the first time since I’ve been paying attention I put in a thousand-mile April – virtually impossible while working because the weather’s so sketchy that early in the season.

It was a lighter than average year in terms of blog “hits” with 94,500 and some change, but it was a big improvement over last year (22%), and that’s still a lot of hits, baby. The blog is around 931,000 hits since I started it in 2011 and I’m looking forward to crossing 1,000,000 sometime in 2021. I published 407 posts this year and took about 231,000 words to get them done. Also, I passed the 2,000,000 word mark for the blog in October. In terms of content, I think I did what I was meant to, though I’ll always look for ways to improve.

On the fitness front, I’ll end up with 9,828 overall miles, 8,370 of those occurring on a road surface of some sort, outdoors. To put that in perspective, that 8,370 outdoor miles is better than my overall mileage for 2019, and I’m digging that. Better, while the virus messed up a lot of good things, it only slightly affected cycling. We rode solo through March and much of April (I was fortunate to be able to ride with my wife almost every day), but come May, we were starting to group up again. If memory serves, we started Tuesday nights up in June and we put in our best B Group effort ever on my birthday: 24-mph average for a little more than 28 miles (and it happened on Strava). We had some great rides together over the late spring/summer/early fall months, though we did keep the groups fairly reasonable in size. In fact, I followed all of the rules with social distancing and wearing a mask outside of cycling, solely so I could ride with my friends without. Throughout the entire season, not one case was passed between us (though a few in our tight-knit group did come down with COVID and recovered). All said and done, it was a banner year on the bike.

Sure, they canceled our Kentucky trip and DALMAC was pushed off till next year, but other than a few road trips, I didn’t miss out on much. As 2020 closes, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021. And I’m counting the days till I get vaccinated – and back to normal. In the meantime, it’s time to start training for spring 2021. It’s time to up the intensity on the trainer and doing some weight workouts. I’ve picked up a speed sensor for the Trek, so I’m going to stick only to Strava rather than mess around with posting trainer miles on one app and outdoor miles on Strava.

As recovery goes, this has been an awesome year – much better than most. The year wasn’t without its challenges and I hated Zoom meetings, but we started up bandit outdoor meetings almost immediately after the lock down started and that got me in touch with just how far I’d go to stay sober. Michigan in March and April isn’t kind and we spent a couple of meetings under umbrellas, shivering in the rain, sleet and cold drinking coffee for warmth. I’m still attending in-person meetings in the proper setting, with distancing measures in place and masks a requirement (though you’ve always got the knucklehead who refuses to cover their nose). 2020 turned out to be a “go to any length” year for recovery and I definitely made the most of the $#!+ show in that regard. Perhaps, out of everything that went on last year, this is what I’m most grateful for.

Finally, there’s my family life. 2020 was a challenge in every way, including with our family. We had some massive struggles as anyone would expect. My wife and I, cooped up together in the same house without the distraction of me being at the office or on a jobsite between nine and eleven hours a day was… difficult on both of us. We kept the main focus in front of us, though, and pushed through it. For me, the hardest part was being pissed at my wife for slights I was guilty of myself. It was almost impossible to see in the mirror until just recently. I’ll keep the explanation simple; I asked God to open my eyes to what I was missing. Within twelve hours, I got it. I made my direct amends immediately to a tearful wife and now my job will be to remember this day and change my behavior. This is why I continue to attend meetings. Today will be a much better day.

There’s no doubt I’ll keep coming back. Just for today. Good times and noodle salad, baby.

On Having to Completely Rethink How I Dress for Winter Cycling Because of Funkier… Who has the Best Jacket I’ve Ever Worn

My wife emailed me message with a link to let me know Funkier was having a sale so I gave it a look. They had some jackets on sale for $19 that actually looked pretty decent. I bought one and a Jersey for my wife. She wanted a jacket, too so I put in a second order… they showed up a few days later.

Friends, I’ll just get straight to the good stuff: I kid you not, this jacket changed how I view cycling in the cold.

I’m out with Chuck and Diane the other day and we’re right at freezing, into a 16-mph headwind with just a light base layer and a light long sleeved running shirt and that jacket and I had to open the vents on the sides because I’d already started sweating. On the way back, as the temp dropped to the mid 20’s, I said to Chuck, “You know, I’m supposed to hate [cycling in the cold] a lot more than this”.

Yesterday, it was 30 but felt like 23… into a 10-mph headwind with just a summer jersey and a light long-sleeved jersey under the jacket and I was warm and comfortable the entire ride. It’s amazing how much I struggled riding in the cold over the years, to finally be able to enjoy myself a little bit.

Chuck got the same jacket and is far crazier than I about what the weather he’ll ride in, and he’s reporting the same thing.

This is the best jacket I’ve ever owned. It’s a bargain at the retail price of $100. It’s on sale for less than $20. All sizes are available, so snap one up while you can.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that the jacket is windproof. A thermal jacket or jersey isn’t much use when it gets really cold if the wind can get through. On the other hand, stop too much wind and you’ll sweat to death. Whoever made this fantastic piece of kit obviously knew this so they installed zippered vents down the sides that extend from the middle of the front pockets to the underarm – and they’re easy to unzip on the fly with pulls.

If you ride in the cold, I can’t recommend one of these jackets highly enough. Mine has completely changed how I look at riding in the cold.

Two notes before you order:

1. The jackets run a little big. I bought a large thinking I would want a little room for layers… this was entirely unnecessary. I normally wear a medium in Specialized kit, a large in race kit, and XL in Mt Borah race kit. If, however, you don’t like to feel bunched up in the winter (and I don’t), the upping it a size isn’t all that bad, either.
2. Watch the order page. It may seem like your order isn’t going through, like the website is not kicking your order through due to an error you made in filling your information out. Don’t hit the Place Order button again. Give it a few minutes to see if you get your confirmation before you hit the button again.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Clamping a Carbon Fiber Bicycle into a Shop Stand or a Bike Rack: How NOT To Wreck Your $4,000 Frame

Before I begin this post, one major point needs to be made so this post doesn’t promote… misunderstanding. Carbon fiber frames are stronger than steel frames. You read that right, stronger than steel. Steel bends and twists over time where carbon fiber holds its shape. A well cared for carbon fiber frame will typically outlast its steel and alloy brethren by decades and won’t ever have to be bent back into shape.

Don’t buy into the hype that a carbon fiber bike frame is weak when used in the manner for which it intended. It’s not.

The problem is that carbon fiber is manipulated to be strong in holding the frame together with a rider atop the saddle. Certain places on the frame are, by nature, not as stiff as others to promote comfort in the ride and weight savings. This means, if you clamp onto these areas, or suspend the bicycle from them, say on a car rack, you’re asking for trouble. Typically big, expensive trouble.

This is why we own a bike rack that supports our bikes at the wheels rather than the top tube. There are better racks out there, but this one is good enough for government work and didn’t put us in the poor house. Hitch mounted bike racks can be exceedingly expensive, especially racks that hold four bikes.

Clamping a standard bike into a stand is quite simple (especially one with a compact frame so you’ve got lots of seat post to clamp to:

If you look at our gravel bikes, mountain bikes, or my wife’s road bike as examples, they all have round seatposts that can be clamped easily into a stand. My Trek 5200 is a little tricky in that there isn’t enough seatpost exposed to leave the saddle bag on whilst clamping the seat post in – I have to raise the saddle far enough that I’ve got room to clamp it in (a little inconvenient, but not terrible – I use my Garmin Varia mount to gauge the saddle height… if I fit a 10-mm allen key between the seatpost clamp and the Varia mount, I’m exactly at my perfect saddle height).

My Venge is an entirely different story. The seat post is a foil and there’s no clamping that seatpost into a stand:

I’ve got a friend who, because he didn’t have enough exposed seat post to clamp to, would clamp his top tube to get his bike mounted onto a shop stand. At some point, he cracked the top tube clamping it into his stand. Put simply, a carbon fiber frame’s top tube is not as strong as a seat post – there isn’t the need for that tube to be exceedingly strong except where it forms to the seat tube. Thankfully, they were able to repair the frame, but there was tension for several weeks, between wondering if a fix was possible, and whether or not it would hold.

You’ll find some on the interwebz who claim you can, indeed clamp a top tube “if you’re careful”. I won’t even join the debate. You may be able to. I won’t. My Venge is worth too much to me with all of the carbon fiber parts whole and complete. I don’t think “careful” has a lot to do with it, but that’s just me. If clamping the top tube truly was no big deal, you’d see pro mechanics doing it. And you don’t. Ever.

What other options are there?

Pro mechanics use a stand that holds the bike up by setting the bottom bracket shell on a rubber stop and securing the fork in a clamp (after removing the front wheel). These range in price from $100 to $300+. This is the Tacx option at $125:

If, however, you can service your whole fleet with the exception of one bike, is it necessary to go that far? I don’t think so. There are other options available with your normal stand or even an old trainer. First, open the stand clamp and lift the rear end of the bike off the ground so the saddle nose rests in the open clamp jaws. This is a bit precarious and quite dangerous but will do in a pinch and for drivetrain cleaning or simple shifting adjustments. The second option is simply operating on the bike on the floor, right side up, or rubber up. I’ve done this for years, but it’s getting old now that I’m 50. The final option is to clamp the bike into an old trainer. With the flywheel retracted so it doesn’t touch the tire, an old trainer is quite the placeholder and you can do everything you would on a normal stand. I used this frequently before I had a stand to work on my bikes and still use it for working on the Venge.

There are plenty of options available for wrenching on your 🚴… without resorting to clamping to your top tube. You could, if you so choose. But now that the Venge is no more, I’d have lost my marbles to do such a thing.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Setting Up the Cockpit of a Road Bike; Handlebar Angle, Hood Angle, and Drop – the Cleanup: Part 4 How to Cut Off Your Fork So You Don’t Have to Stack Spacers Atop a Slammed Stem

Disclaimer: This is major elective surgery on your bike. You should also consider either marking and taking your fork to the shop to let them cut it down or, if you’re uncomfortable even stripping your fork, take the whole bike. To proceed, you will need to know how to take apart your front end and put it back together successfully.  EVERY time.  Also, consider that it’s very easy to remove material from your fork tube.  Putting it back on if you screw this up is impossible.

Tools: 4 & 5 mm hex wrenches, maybe a 6 if things get a little interesting. Some masking tape, and a hacksaw.

A couple of my bikes have a stack of spacers above the stem.  I am a rare breed of cyclist who is more comfortable with a decent drop from the saddle to the handlebar so I’ve never kept the setup of a delivered bike.  

My gravel bike still has the stack above the stem because I wanted to spend some real time on it to make sure I liked the handlebar position.  I suppose I’ll probably cut that one down this next week while I’ve got some time off.  I love the position I’m in on the gravel bike and if I ever wanted to raise the bar in the future, I can do that with a steeper stem.  I’ve also got a big stack on my tandem, but I leave that in case I ever decide to sell the bike to get something a little racier (this is likely once the kids are out of college).   My Specialized Venge was the big one.  I had a stack above the stem because, again, I wanted to make sure I liked the setup the way it was.  Again, it’s real easy to remove fork material.  It’s impossible to put it back on.  I wanted to be absolutely certain I liked the new setup.


Once I’d ridden the bike for a year in that configuration, it was time to fix that stack of spacers above the stem… I took the front end apart and took it to the shop to have them perform the surgery.  Unfortunately, they needed to be one millimeter more aggressive with their cut and after I discovered the problem (it took a while, they were so close), I took the fork apart and took the fork to the shop where I cut the rest off myself.  I was a bit chicken, I wanted to do it under the supervision of someone experienced.  Now, for those with carbon forks, many mechanics will prefer enough fork to poke above the stem that one needs a 5 mm spacer above the stem.  This keeps the stem from clamping to the end of the fork post, putting pressure on a weak point in the carbon fiber.  I have no opinion on whether or not this is necessary, I’ve seen it done with and without a spacer but I choose not to risk it:

To perform this surgery is pretty straight forward.  First, take off the front wheel.  Then, remove the brake caliper from the fork.  The bolt end is in the little hole at the back of the fork.  Once the brake is off, remove the stem and spacers, leaving all of the cables attached.  Set that off to the side without allowing the cables or housings to kink.  Kinky cables are bad.  Take the steering assembly apart, setting the pieces, washers and bearings, aside in order so you can put everything back together exactly as you took it apart.  Finally, remove the stem cap plug from inside the fork post.  With a carbon fiber post, this is simple.  Screw your top cap bolt into the plug a few turns and give it a tap with a hammer which will release the plug (it’s friction fit with cf forks).

With your fork free, it’s time for the tricky work to take place.  With carbon fiber, it cannot be understated how important it is to protect the fibers.  Aluminum fork ends are less delicate.  So, we know how much fork post we need to remove (leave two millimeters above the stem to allow for that spacer, or you’ll have to cut it two millimeters below the stem [which will allow for the cap plug]).  Basically, take your spacer thickness and subtract two millimeters.  Incidentally, if you’re dealing with a star nut, there are videos out there to show how to remove or lower them so you can cut the stem – it’s quite simple.  So, now we’re going to use that masking tape to mark where we want to cut.  This isn’t just a guide, so this step is important – it will help keep the fiber ends from fraying.  Then, we take that hacksaw with a new(ish) blade and SLLLLLOOOOOOOOWWWWWWLLLLYYYYY start working our way around the fork tube creating a groove all the way around the tube before we really get into the sawing motion.  Take your time.  Once you’ve cut the fork tube, sand the edges with some sandpaper to clean up and rough edges – be careful of the carbon fibers here, again.  You don’t want to be too aggressive, just enough to ease the edges.

Now, simply put everything back together paying close attention to the torque specifications printed on the parts and you’re done.

Now, as a side note, whenever you lower your stem by changing the spacers around, you should check your cable housings to make sure you’re not binding up anywhere. The front brake cable will be the first to give you problems with too much slack in the system. I had to trim the front brake housing on the Venge when I lowered the bar on it. The rear brake and derailleur housings were still OK.

The Humble 100k Bike Ride: The Perfect Distance for Amateur Velocipedists… Or Cyclists, If You Like.

If you’ve got four to six hours and a half-dozen to a dozen-plus friends to ride with (and nothing else to do for the rest of the day after), an Imperial century is what the tough kids ride. The 100-mile century is the equivalent of the marathon in running. That’s the distance that really challenges a weekend warrior’s resolve. Especially that last fifteen miles, when your body is depleted of electrolytes and just wants you to pull over so it can cramp up in a ball under a shade tree. I have friends who absolutely refuse to take part in an Imperial Century over that last 15 miles. They are brutal.

Now, I can see you scratching your head in my mind’s eye… “Is this an advertisement for the 100-mile century disguised as a plug for a 100k?” It isn’t. The hundred miler (161 km) has one glaringly huge freaking massive flaw. 100 miles takes all day. Oh, the ride itself, if you’re fast and have some help, isn’t so bad. The miles can be done in four to six hours’ ride time. Add an hour (total) for stops every 20-30 miles and you can figure you’ll have five to seven hours in the saddle, maybe eight if you want to stretch the enjoyment out. Then you’re back! You pack your stuff up, head home for a shower… and a really big lunch/dinner… then you’re smoked for the rest of the day. Oh, you’ll have high aspirations to install new siding on the house or something, but once you sit on the couch after that big lunch, you’re done. One minute you’ll be like, “Yeah, I’m a bad@$$.” And the next… zzzzzzzz.

And that’s exactly why the humble 100k, 62.4 miles, is the perfect distance for an endurance enthusiast’s bike ride. It’s just long enough to let you know you did something hard, but short enough you recover after a shower, lunch, and a quick nap. If that’s not enough, and it is, your crew won’t have to be all that big to complete the distance, either. Two friends is enough, though solo is fine as well.

Much will be made in protecting the integrity of the Imperial Century because completing one really is a feat of “want to” (both photos above are from 100-mile rides this year), but I’ll be straight, after completing eight to twelve a year for the past several years, I vastly prefer the 100k to the 100-miler because I actually get to do something, other than sleep, after the century.

There are too many benefits to the 100k when all is said and done, especially for those newer into cycling. 62-1/2 miles may seem like a lot, but if you’ve got a decent group to ride with, the time goes quickly. The key is building up the fitness to be able to last three or four hours in the saddle.

Finally, to put a bow on this post, don’t make the mistake of thinking, “If I want to ride 60 miles with a group in three hours, I have to be able to ride that far at that speed, or close to it, by myself.” That is not true at all. If you can ride 60 miles at an 18-mph average, you can hold 20-mph with four other cyclists. It’s not all about being able to ride faster in a draft, either, though that’s a part of it. The best part of riding with a handful of friends is that you only have to take a mile or two up front at a time. When you’re the third, fourth, or fifth bike back, you’re resting. The work starts when you’re second bike or, obviously, up front.

Today’s Daily Reflections… The Other Half of the Twelfth Step…

Daily Recovery ReadingsDecember 26, 2020 Daily Reflection ACCEPTING SUCCESS OR FAILURE “Furthermore, how shall we come to terms with seeming failure …

DR – December 26, 2020

Here’s the important part:

I believed for a long time that, in order to be in tune with the Twelve Steps, it was enough for me “to carry this message to alcoholics.” That was rushing things. I was forgetting that there were a total of Twelve Steps and that the Twelfth Step also had more than one part. Eventually I learned that it was necessary for me to “practice these principles” in all areas of my life. In working all the Steps thoroughly, I not only stay sober and help someone else to achieve sobriety, but also I transform my difficulty with living into a joy of living.

This is my secret to happiness. I’m not perfect. My wife might argue that I’m not even very good… and she might be right. But I’m dedicated. I’m determined. And I give it my best.

The key to happiness for this recovering drunk is practicing the principles in all my affairs. It’s as simple, and often as difficult, as that.

And that last sentence of the quote is unquestionably true.

For Those of Us in the North, It’s Time to Take Your Vitamin D, Kids… What a Good Shot of Vitamin D does for Me.

I am a notoriously positive person. A local radio personality, Paul W. Smith, likes to push listeners to a “relentless positive attitude” on air and I’ve tried to live that. However, every stinkin’ year around the middle of November, when the weather turns to crap (cold, wet, gloomy), I basically lose my $#!+. I don’t necessarily suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I don’t do well without the sunshine. Between, say, May and October I get plenty of sunshine (a minimum of 15 minutes a day without sunscreen) but that’s impossible from November through March. It’s just too cold to run around with more than a few square inches of skin showing.

My positive attitude becomes a lot more work.

Invariably, long about the first few weeks of January I remember that my doctor once prescribed Vitamin D for me and maybe I should take it.  I do, and that’s about that.  I may have noticed a minor change here or there, but I only take the little capsule when I remember, so it’s sporadic at best.

This year, I started early and managed to take my 5,000 IU capsule regularly and what a difference!

Now, being a person having recovered from (and who is continuously in the process of recovering from) addiction, I spend a lot of time paying attention to what goes on in my head.  The difference isn’t some magical creature that sprinkled pixie dust over me and has me all happy now.  No, only cocaine and a few other illicit drugs do that well, folks.  Not that I know… erm… you know what?  Let’s just move along! 

Anyway, the difference is in my thought process, or more specifically, the quality of thoughts that pop into my melon out of nowhere or better, that second thought is vastly superior.

Now, if you pay attention to what goes on in your melon, being a person of exceptional nuttiness, if you want to be normal you come to find that you can’t do anything about those crazy first thoughts that pop into your head.  You can’t control them.  They’re just there, like a stinky fart you walk into at the grocery store.  It’s not like you could see the flatus sitting there in the air, right?  Nope, all of a sudden your eyes start watering and you’re forehead deep in fart.  Well, that first crazy thought is a lot like that.  What matters is the second thought.  I can control that one.  It’s what I do with the first thought that matters.

As an example, let’s say the random thought that I’d like to get good and $#!+-faced pops into my head (it has in the past, though it’s been a while).  I can’t do anything about that first thought, it’s just there.  I don’t entertain that thought, though.  I don’t allow it validity.  Who gives a flying f*** why it popped in there, crazy $#!+ happens!  My second thought it, “Man, that’d be stupid.  I’ll throw that first thought in the garbage.”  With practice, this works and doesn’t require more drugs.  

Now, what Vitamin D does is it makes those second thoughts faster, better, and happier.  It makes the response to the crazy “better”.  Therefore, I’m dealing with less “crazy” rattling around up in my melon, therefore life feels happier… so let’s say it isn’t necessarily a lack of crazy, it just makes handling “crazy” easier.

UPDATE: It’s 1,000, not 5,000.

Merry Vengemas!

Just kidding folks! Merry Christmas from my family to you and yours. Have a happy, healthy Holiday…

And thank God this year is done!

When it comes to addiction, recovery makes life worth living. Fifteen pound blingy road bikes make it happy.

Road Cycling and How to Install and Use an Adjustable Multi-Stem to Your Advantage

When and if you start looking for stems, well, there are a lot of them. Standard stems come in degree ranges from 0 to 25°+ and they’re fixed. The only adjustment is flipping them upside down so there’s less of a rise.  Then there are the old-style adjustable stems that raise and lower on a pivot, tightened with a simple Allen key bolt – we won’t be dealing with those at all as they don’t belong on road bikes. For this post, we’ll look at the newer stems that adjust with a simple sleeve inserted into the part of the stem that slides over the fork.

Now, the idea behind the stem is to get the handlebar at an agreeable distance and height from the saddle so as to make a bike’s setup comfortable for the rider.  Once you get that fit done, the idea is simply to ride the bike until such a time as you get used to it and can ride it in comfort.  For most people, that’s pretty much it.  Set it and forget it.

As an aside, even a bike with a perfect setup will take dedicated time in the saddle for a new rider to grow comfortable.

For we tinkerers, an adjustable stem offers a massive range of opportunities with which to play with our bike’s setup.  Better, the modern adjustable stems mean we can take to the task without any additional cost (or minimal costs if you’re going to buy new shims)

Specialized has had adjustable stems for quite a while now, and while they are slightly heavier (30 to 65 grams), their adjustability can make the added weight worth it.  I should know.  I’ve had one for years but never bothered with it because I didn’t fully grasp “how it worked”.  Nor did I think my bike needed a new stem.  In the end, the lure of a slammed cockpit was too much and I took to figuring it out on my own.

Here’s how this whole “adjustable stem” thing works. There’s a collar that slides into the stem (from the bottom, not the top) and that collar is machined so it’s cockeyed. For mine, it’s got a +4 on one side and a -4 on the other (the stems usually come with 0, 2 & 4° shims but there are other greater ranges available). I believe my stem is a 6°, so + or – 4 would give you a 2° or 10° drop with the stem flipped – with the stem flipped to rise, you’d get +2 or +10. My Venge originally came with the shim in the +4 position. To change the angle, you simply remove the shim, turn it 180° and reinsert it. Then, put your assembly back together, preferably with one stem shim on top and one below the stem:

Now, where this gets fun is the subtle difference between -4 & +4:

That’s the difference between -10 on the left and -2 on the right… the handlebar drops about an inch, maybe a bit more (much more, considering the stem spacers under the stem on the right that are gone on the left, as well). The photo on the left was taken a couple of days ago. The one on the right, the day I brought the bike home in 2013. Had I known then I could do so much with the stem I had, I don’t know as I’d have paid the $165 for the set stem I had on it the years between those two photos being taken.

Here are a few mistakes I made early on:

  1. I thought the 65 grams mattered between my hot shot $165 carbon fiber wrapped aluminum stem and the adjustable stem that came on the bike. In truth, there were a vast array of better ways to shed weight from the bike.
  2. My knees got a little week at “carbon fiber wrapped aluminum”.
  3. Whose wouldn’t?!
  4. I mistakenly thought an adjustable stem would be “lame”. I was a rather impulsive noob and I tended read WAY too much stuff about how to be a cool cyclist on the internet. It’s all good in the end, though. I tend to learn from my own mistakes… I don’t quite have that wisdom thing down.
  5. I feared that which I wasn’t familiar with. I didn’t quite grasp just how simple the adjustable stem was and how I could use it to my benefit.
  6. That fear caused consternation, which led to procrastination and ended in flagellation. I wish I’d realized what I had years ago. Humorously, if memory serves, the shop owner tried to talk me out of that wildly expensive stem… his mechanic got me, though. Damned young mechanics. I got talked into a lot early on.

Don’t Believe What You See In the Movies About Alcoholics Anonymous

It’s a rare day I’m going to directly speak about what happens in an AA meeting, though this will be more a series of generalities rather than comprehensive personal experiences. What you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here, was ever thus and so it shall remain. This post is a long time in coming, it was just recently I put it together in my melon, because it’s a tricky subject.

Typically, when a meeting is portrayed in a movie, they give an actor a script that contains a goodly portion of clichés. Without proper context, some of these scenes can make us look like we belong to some kind of cult. This is vastly overdone in press, radio and film as we who actually belong shy away from all three, other than in offering generalities. Thus, the “anonymous” part of the name. Indeed, if we’re working the program correctly, recovery isn’t about us, it’s about the still sick and suffering that we’re going to try to help, and there is no glory due us in doing that work. Also, those of us who really work the program speak like normal people about how we deal with life… err… on life’s terms.

I once had a sponsor who would say, “Cursing is a crutch for conversational cripples”. I don’t necessarily know if you can get away with the word “cripple” anymore, but in this context I think it’s apt. AA’s voluminous clichés are much the same. They’re typically used to convey a thought that can’t otherwise be intelligently articulated in a short amount of time. We learn this early on as it is widely said that a person’s attention span for a person sharing at a closed meeting is around five minutes. Anything after that, you start losing people. So, to shorten things up, many will use cliches that convey a long, complex description of emotions or events in just a few words. The problem with clichés is that newcomers can’t grasp the full meaning without the experience required to do so… and outsiders can’t possibly grasp what we’ve gone through to get to the front door of an AA meeting to begin with and therefore lack the context and an understanding of what we’re trying to say in the first place. That ignorance can make us seem like a bunch of kooks.

Well, folks, many of us may be slightly on the well-done side of baked, but we’re certainly not a lot of automatons and idiots in a cult. Sure, you can paint us that way if you wish, but that’ll say more about you and your ignorance than it will of us after that paint’s dry. We’re just trying to non-medically get over a disease that’ll kill us deader ‘n hell without help. The best part of all this is, it’s free and often times doesn’t require outside help or intervention.

Of course, those interventionists hate that we don’t need a pile of doctors, bureaucrats and administrators to sober up so they have to knock our way of life down in order to take over and show us how it’s done. I say, “whatever”. Give it your best shot. In the end, what we’re a part of is about a few drunks with a coffee pot, a resentment, and a book about getting better together with the hope we can make the world a better place. That’s good enough for me, and I’ll be perfectly fine if it isn’t with an outsider. Just don’t expect me to follow you till you’ve walked a few hundred miles in my shoes. People like me have been frustrating doctors and otherwise intelligent folk for centuries. Let us have our coffee, fix our resentments and read our book. That’s a relatively mild price for turning scourges into decent, upstanding members of society… with a bunch of clichés. That’s how it works, even if you don’t get it.