In my post yesterday, I inadvertently stumbled on an aspect of recovery that I’ve completely missed. It kinda snuck* up on me. While I have troubles, just like anyone else, the majority of the time I think about happy things and I didn’t even realize it until I wrote that post. Even now, well beyond two decades of recovery, I’m still finding a new freedom and happiness – in ways I didn’t know were possible.
“Jim, if you just keep coming back you’ll come to a point where you think your life just can’t get any better. Then, six months will go by and you’ll realize it did. All by itself.
That promise was made to me when I picked up my 9 month coin. I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve experienced such contentment I often have a tough time believing it’s possible for it to continue, let alone get better. Then I find out it wasn’t only possible, there’s room for much better. As long as I continue to work for it.
I don’t struggle with money or worry much about food anymore. I haven’t had to worry about how I was going to put gas in the tank in almost two decades, now. We don’t live paycheck to paycheck anymore… and most important for my whole family and me, we don’t live under the shadow of my active alcoholism (neither my wife, nor kids, have ever seen me drink).
I don’t regret my past, either. I needed every last bit of misery to finally give up fighting to stay drunk. I needed for things to be that bad so I could have it this good.
I not only comprehend the word serenity, I live in it. Without question, I know peace. I write about these two items regularly.
This next one is interesting, because I’ve realized it’s a little different for me; no matter how high I was on the scale, my bottom only needed to be low enough that I wanted to stop digging, I can see where my experience, strength and hope still benefit others. It happens often.
Uselessness and self-pity? I don’t even remember what they feel like, and let me tell you, that’s enough to make a fella jump up and click his heels.
From the day I quit drinking, my life has changed in such ways, I barely recognize who I am contrasted with who I was. My whole attitude and outlook has changed.
There’s only one item that I fall short on; I haven’t lost interest in selfish things. I still like my bike rides and my free time. I like to sit on the couch over the winter weekends… but I’m working on doing better.
My friends, especially you, Nelson; I promise you, if you just keep coming back, your life will be so good, you’ll think it can’t possibly get any better. Six months later, you’ll find that it did… all by itself.
Just don’t fuckin’ drink or do drugs.
* Of course, it sneaked up on me, but I try to write how I speak, in generally common English and “snuck” is the non-standard past tense of the verb “sneak”. If anything, we know I’m non-standard.
On the way into the office Tuesday morning I was thinking about the time I’ve been putting in on the trainer. I’m into the hard gears now, getting ready for March and pushing a gear I couldn’t at the end of last season when I was at my fittest. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. I want to do a lot this season.
I was also thinking about meeting a friend for a dinner we have planned for later in the evening. He and I meet up every now and again to catch up on recovery and how we’re doing since our fathers passed. If I was a miracle (and there’s no question I am), he was touched by Jesus to be able to recover. I don’t know how this guy finally got it, but he recovered and flew right by five years. If ever there was a helpless person, he was it, so it’s fun to sit down and talk about the state of things for a couple of hours.
So it was those two things that had me thinking a lot about gratitude. Then my melon moved onto where I came from. Almost 29 years ago now, I had a doctor standing before me as I sat on his exam table, telling me if I didn’t stop drinking, and soon, I was going to die before I hit my 30th birthday. I figured he was exaggerating, of course, until he added, “you have the liver of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic”. Ruh-roh.
I do love playing that tape back in my head. My 30th birthday was 20 years ago this year. That’s TWENTY free years. I should have been gone twenty years ago, but for the Grace of God.
My mother likes to tell me now and then, how much healthier I am than my father was at my age. I’m very fit. I still move exceptionally well for an old fart (possibly only a “getting there fart”). With all the running I used to do and the cycling I currently do, having left booze and nicotine in my past, I am fairly well preserved. My current doctor says I’m completely recovered from smoking and my liver healed up decades ago.
[As I sit here writing this post, I can’t help but think how fortunate I am that these are the things I get to think about on on the way into the office. Jesus, what a change from the bad old days!]
There are a hundred small-ish reasons to include some kind of fitness regimen in a recovery plan, everything from a way to blow off steam to the famed endorphin release, but there’s a big one that really matters as I age sober. My reason for including fitness with my recovery is quite simple; barring a catastrophic event, it’s very likely I’ll live to a ripe old age, all because I sobered up young. Living a fit, healthy life, I took all of my bad genes (what few there were), put them in a bucket and lit that $#!+ on fire. While no one is guaranteed a long life, I want to give my 100th birthday my best shot. If I want to be mobile when I’m 90, I’ve gotta be fit now.
Understanding Recovery in the Context of Addiction; It’s NOT What You’re Missing, It’s What You’re NOT Missing.
I think almost every addict and/or alcoholic in the history of recovery has preemptively thought about quitting their drug(s) of choice as “losing” something.
- What’ll I do for fun?! I’ll lose my ability to do fun stuff! etc. etc.
- I’ll have to avoid a lot of fun places!
- I’ll lose my ability to escape!
- It’ll be like losing a friend!
The bullet points could go on ad infinitum in the context of what the addict/alcoholic will lose when they finally quit drinking and using. The point is not important, the context is undeniably important.
Those new to recovery, the vast majority of us, tend to look at what we will be missing out on or losing if we truly decide to quit. This causes a hesitance to fully give oneself to recovery which can often require a few more trips to the hospital or jail before one can fully let go. Or, sadly, some die in the process.
Why not skip that? Especially the dying part.
The problem we face when we’re new is that we can’t see out of the hole we dug with the same thinking that had us digging the hole in the first place (let alone the thinking that had us standing in the hole whilst we’re digging it). Yes, if you do recovery right, you won’t be partying like you once did. You also won’t be going to jail.
If you work for it;
- You won’t be miserable anymore.
- You’ll find you have a use in life.
- You’ll find you are wanted.
- Better, eventually, you’ll find you like being you.
Recovery isn’t about what you’re missing, it’s about what you aren’t missing.
In other words, once I got through the steps and finally felt freedom, I didn’t want anything to do what brought me all of that misery in the first place. Who would?!
The point of this is, just stick around long enough for the miracle to happen.
My Specialized Venge, my overly pampered carbon fiber baby, has only ever been hooked up to a trainer three times. Once, for three hours so the bike could be fitted to me at the local shop with Specialized’s Body Geometry fitting system. The other two were just for a few minutes each to test cable repairs. Other than that, my Venge has only ever seen the best weather conditions I ride in and paved roads. I’ve been caught out in the rain a few times, but I’ve only ever soaked the bike once.
Actually, if you were able to look up “pampered bicycle” in the dictiona… Well, here:
Anyway, I’ve got the Venge all dialed in and ready to go for the upcoming season and I’m dying to give ‘er a test ride. The weather, sadly, will make doing so stupid. The temp’s okay, but the roads have been wet, nasty and salty for weeks.
That trainer is looking mighty tempting…
I have people in my life who work like it won’t be there tomorrow – sunup to sundown, six days a week, sometimes seven. Both partners in a marriage, too. They have more money than I would know what to do with and their vacations are epic, but it’s clear their life is work; outside vacations, there isn’t much else.
I also know people who do nothing. They bemoan the rich and how unfair life is from their armchair. If it weren’t so sad, it’d be funny listening to them drone on about how the deck is stacked against them, when in truth, they wouldn’t know fair if it bit them in the heinie. They have very little because they do very little. And it’s everybody else’s fault.
These are two sides of a broad spectrum, and I’m somewhere in the middle. What isn’t important to me, personally, is what others have. All too often, especially with we alcoholics (for some reason), we have a tendency to contrast what we have with what others have, but completely skip over the sacrifices others have to or are willing to make to have what they do.
There are those who try to throw everything they have at work now, with the hope they’ll retire at some point and be happy later. It is heart-wrenching to hear tales of people who almost make it to that retirement paradise, only to die a few weeks after the party. I’ve heard it estimated (by high-ups in the union) that an automaker’s average worker pension lasted less than a year.
I have worked diligently to come up with a good work/life balance. I work early and I put in more than my share of hours but I do not, even a little bit, sign onto the idiotic notion that I’m on call day and night, seven days a week like others in my field. Also, more important, I find a way to enjoy at least one hour of my day, usually on a bicycle.
I take time off for road trips with my friends. I take time for road trips with my wife, and with the kids. I spend time with in-laws and my mom… I enjoy life outside work because I don’t want to be that poor sucker to kick the bucket just a couple weeks after the balloons fall at my party.
When I go, I want my last thought to be, “Too bad, but it sure was a good run.”
I know for a fact it won’t be, “Gee whiz, I wish I would’ve worked a little harder.
I know I need at least one meeting a week. I need to be connected to the program, in some meaningful way, in order for me to keep my head on straight. I accept that as it is, there’s no sense trying to fight or change it. It’s just not worth the risk.
At a meeting yesterday friend of mine, whose got 18 years now and who my wife and I drove to a meeting once a week for a year-and-a-half until he got his license back, said, “I know I need one meeting a week, but I go to five because I don’t know which one it is.”
I went to three last week, which is rare for me. Surprisingly, last week was a bit of a tough one for me. In terms of a “rough life”, it doesn’t even register on the scale, but when you’re used to gentle rollers, you still feel the downhill – it’s just not enough to make you queasy. Without those meetings, my drive to work this morning would have been a whole lot less grateful. I’m thinking I might do three more again this week, just to see if I did it right last week.
So why do I still need meetings after 9,930 days without a drink or drug?
The way I see it today, my life of recovery is best lived in contact with other people in recovery. When I’m helping others to stay on the path, when I’m an active part of the recovery fellowship, a friendly association, good things happen. My gratitude for being on the right side of the grass increases. My enthusiasm to be a better me increases. I’m able to take life’s little problems in stride. I’m able to forgive freely.
And most important, the more active I am in the community the easier it is to see the path in front of me so I don’t go crashing off into the woods.
One of the meetings I went to last week, I hadn’t been to in more than 17 years. To see many of the same people, older and happier, and a lot of new faces as well, and to be welcomed back as an old friend… it’s good times and noodle salad, folks. It’s as good as it gets.
There’s a line in the Big Book that states, “We are not a glum lot”. Too often, newcomers think they’re giving something up by going to meetings and living a life of recovery. For those who stick around long enough for the miracle, they quickly find that we indeed are anything but glum. We continue to go to meetings because it’s the best fun there is (with clothes on) once we put the plug in the jug.
A roomful of old-timers laughing and yukking it up about their old exploits and troubles can be a little disconcerting to a newcomer to the group. It can be hard to handle people laughing about emotions and nerves that are still raw or exposed. Fear not. Keep coming back and before you know it you’ll be relieved of the pain of your past, if you work for it, and you’ll be laughing too… and showing others how you did it – and more important, why.
And then you too will understand why we keep going to meetings.
What Every Little Socialist Needs to Understand and Why Bernie Really Does Want the US to Be Venezuela, Proven by Elizabeth Warren
Trigger (heh) warning: This post is political in nature. This will likely get me landed into one of the Bernie Bro gulags, but I’m willing to risk it. You don’t have to read this post if you don’t want. You have been trigger (heh) warned.
Socialist elites fancy themselves as intelligent. They bang on the table, complaining “capitalism, capitalism, capitalism”, and it all sounds so lovely when packaged with free stuff.
In the next five minutes I’ll show you where the rubber meets the road and explain very simply why socialism is stupid. Always. Every time. Stop it. Every time.
First, Elizabeth Warren just doomed her run for president when she was faced by a father who saved up for his kids to go to college. He footed the bill, while his buddy bought a nicer car, went on vacations, and made the kids get loans to pay for their school. Now Warren (and, for that matter, Bernie) claims she wants the government to forgive student loan debt. In doing so, she would be penalizing those who did the noble thing and sacrificed so they could pay their kids’ way through school. Better, her plan hammers those who worked to pay for their own school. Meanwhile, those who frittered their money away are going to get, what, a $100,000-ish bonus from the government? Where can I sign up for that?! My kids are just about to head off to college!
On one hand, it can be said the economy was helped by the fella who blew his money on a car and vacations and took out a loan for school. On the other, by paying off that debt, with more debt, you’re reinforcing bad behavior in the family that squanders their money, and with the new influx of government
cash debt, college tuition goes through the roof because universities can get the money. This governmental two-step tit for tat completely cancels out any good the bad behavior does for the economy. And that’s why socialism sounds great but always crashes and burns. Always, every time. Socialism subsidizes bad behavior. The rule, tax what you don’t want, subsidize what you do, twas ever thus.
See, the ugly truth is, capitalism is the only thing that generates enough money to make socialism seem plausible (see also, John Maynard Keynes, the smart dumbass who made socialism seem plausible on paper and won a Nobel Peace Prize for the effort – the irony is amazing, ask Venezuelans how peaceful life is in Venezuela. Last I saw, the government was running protesters down). The real issue here is balancing in enough capitalism that socialism still lets it survive. See France.
Unfortunately, because socialism drags capitalism down, politicians who lack even a modicum of self-control and a rudimentary understanding of how stuff works, continually push for more free shit (socialism) to get elected. Eventually that unbalances the capitalism end and things go bad, causing the “state” to take over more industries to keep them running at a loss so people can have toilet paper. Eventually, “you run out of other peoples’ money” and socialism (more to the point, the bad behavior that socialism subsidizes) collapses the system.
Friends, it’s as simple as that. People will say true socialism has never had its day in the sun, it’s never been fully implemented. To believe this is ignorant, bordering on stupid. Paul Krugman, call the office. Venezuela was socialism. That is its day in the sun. The more socialism, the “state” taking over the means of production, is implemented, the less capitalism can breathe, the worse the economy does. It’s that simple.
It’s like saying President Obama performed the set up for President Trump’s economy… The only truth in that notion is Obama kept his foot on the neck of the economy so long, when Trump finally let the boot up and the blood started flowing to the brain again… well, the results are what they are. Awesome. Obama’s economy was disastrous because it was too much OAC. Trump is more the right balance, and why he deserves to be reelected come November.
Saying Obama did anything good for the economy by “managing the decline” is like saying he tried to open a jar for eight years. Along comes Trump and pops that sucker open with one deft move. Obama chimes in, “Yeah, but I loosened it for you!”
Capitalism is not perfect. It just beats the alternative. Every time.
A couple of months ago I put a new aero drop bar on my Trek. It is fantastic on that my old 5200. It’s hard to tell it’s a classic (it’s a ’99, so a classic just this year):
Unfortunately, there was just a little too much drop from the saddle nose to the handlebar with the new bar. I added a 5 mm spacer under the stem to bring the bar up. When I was done, the reach wasn’t bad, though maybe a touch long, and I could handle the drop a lot better, even with my winter five pounds…. and the bike looked awesome.
Just before Christmas, we flew to Florida to stay with my wife’s sister’s family and I started noticing some problems with my right hand and wrist. It felt like the tendons in my wrist would “catch” every now and again. The associated pain wasn’t a big deal, it was unsettling, though. I worried it might be the onset of carpel tunnel syndrome.
When we got back, after a week and a half off the bike, I rode on the trainer with regularity and the popping and pain increased.
It took a minute (three weeks…ish) for it to dawn on me, but I finally put the puzzle together and traced it back to the new handlebar installation. Or more succinctly, I narrowed it down to something in the handlebar setup.
After a lot of thought about what to do, I settled on raising the hoods… maybe the angle was off, the way I was reaching for the hoods?
Still on the right plane, but with more rise. Just riding yesterday was a remarkable improvement in how my wrist feels.
How did I come to the conclusion I did?
I could have done a few things to set this right: A) Lower the handlebar. B) Roll the handlebar back which would naturally raise the hoods. C) Raise the individual shift levers/hoods.
Raising the handlebar by adding spacers below the stem would be exactly the wrong thing to do. That would increase the forward wrist rotation, exacerbating the problem. Put your hands in front of you, like you’re holding your hoods, roll your wrist forward… now raise them up two inches. The right thing to do would be to lower the handlebar. It might have worked, decreasing the odd angle, but the physics of it just don’t add up; with my slight winter gut in the way. Ahem.
I could have rolled the handlebar back, bringing the hoods up, but that would have thrown off my position in the drops big time.
The hardest option, moving the shift levers themselves, was the option I chose because that would give me exactly what I needed, even if it was a lot more work contrasted against the other two options (getting the hoods in the right position, level and square to the handlebar drops takes a bit of ingenuity and attention to detail).
What went wrong initially?
In my pursuit of being perfectly stylish, I tried to set the shift levers to perfectly follow the plane created by the drop – as should be (my wife’s old bike in the foreground is all wrong, but the way they did things on sport bikes vs. race bikes twelve years ago). It looked awesome and aggressive, but even with the decent drop from the saddle to the bar, the long reach meant I had to slightly roll my wrists forward to hold the hoods. I was putting a lot of pressure on my wrists while they were bent in a way they shouldn’t be bent. Over time, this aggravated the tendons in my wrist which inflamed them, thus I felt like I had gravel in my wrist. In fact, just sitting here typing this report up, I tried to mimic that movement, rolling my wrists forward. Without any weight on my wrists it hurt. I got a jolt up my right arm and I could feel the pressure in my left (I’m left handed, it would make sense that, being left hand dominant, it would take a little longer for problems to show there).
The causes of my trouble are many little things rolled up into an ugly ball; cockpit reach (length of the stem in this case), geometry of the bike (I don’t have this problem on my Venge – standard vs. compact frame), choice of handlebar (I didn’t have any troubles with the last handlebar – the rise and reach are different on the new bar) and the location of the hoods on the bar. All of these things combined make for an ugly problem in my bike’s setup.
Thankfully, I’m picky enough to have caught it before any real damage was done. I hope.
When I first heard the concept, as a young, newly sober lad, of “living life like there’s no tomorrow”, I bought into the idea immediately and I repeated it often.
As I’ve grown in recovery, I’ve tempered that attitude and modified it considerably, because of one gnawing little reality; if there were no tomorrow, I wouldn’t go to work today. My friends, if this was my last month on earth I wouldn’t go to work, let alone my last day.
Once I got there in my head, the saying didn’t hold its sway.
See, when I sobered up, I’d run out of options. This is what most people call their “bottom”. The point at which we decide to stop digging. I was technically homeless, though not literally (my parents were “II” that close to throwing me out on my ass) when I left treatment. I convinced my dad, then my mom, to let me show them that I’d changed, that I had made my mind up to stay sober in treatment… and they did. And I lived up to my end. I was a meeting-going fool, starting that very evening. I committed to doing 90 meetings in 90 days. Then I did 90 in 90 one more time, just to make sure I did it right the first time.
Since that stint in treatment, I haven’t looked back. There has been progress, followed by setbacks, followed by more progress until my life doesn’t look a thing like it did back then. I have so much fun with day-to-day life, if the government found out, the politicians would figure out how to tax fun, because it’s obviously not fair that I’m having that much. Folks, it’s that good.
But what I can’t do is lose sight of what got me here in the first place.
Hard, uncomfortable work. Commitment and dedication. Mindfulness, Meetings. Recovery. Doing my best to be a good husband, a good dad, a good employee and boss… Honesty, open-mindedness, willingness. Reliance on my Higher Power and a desire to do His will (even when mine seems like it’d be more fun). Sharing my experience, strength and hope with others. Freely giving away what was so freely given to me…. and most important, I have to remember what got me to do all of that bat-shit crazy stuff to begin with:
I ran out of options.
I live life like I might not get a second chance if I screw this one up.
The first generation Specialized Venge is no more. Up until two years ago (2018) you could buy the first gen. Venge as an entry-level “Elite” that went for $2,500. I paid $3,100 for my Specialized Venge “Comp” back at the end of 2013 and that was Specialized’s end-of-season sale price – the full MSRP was a whopping $3,700 and the “Comp” (changed to the “Elite” in ’15) was the lowest class of Venge. It came with Shimano 105 ten speed components and brakes with a cheap chain and a Tiagra 10 speed cassette. The Axis 2.0 wheels that came on the bike were spectacularly heavy for a $4,000 bike and they rolled like ass. A $300 set of Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels later and I saved a full pound. The upgrade was worth about about 1-1/2-mph in improved roll, too.
On the other hand, the paint job was stunning.
My 2013 Venge Comp with the Vuelta Corsa SLR wheel upgrade
There was a reason the Venge commanded such a premium early on. New in 2012, the Specialized Venge was one of the very first “aero” road bikes to hit the market. Rather than simply tapering off the fork and easing some leading edges, the Venge reinvented the game in leading edges. Even the seat stays were turned into blades to better cut through the wind along with the down tube, the seat tube and seat post, even the head and top tubes were modified to channel or better cut through the air. Specialized consulted with McLaren (the hyper-car manufacturer) to come up with the carbon lay-up innovations needed to manipulate the frame shapes.
The Venge exploded in popularity. All of a sudden it was in the top of the heap in tour wins (or just behind the perennial first place Specialized Tarmac) and they began popping up in everything from local crits and road races to club rides. We have six regular 1st Gen. Venge riders on our Tuesday night club ride (and one 2nd Gen. Venge ViAS), no other make/model comes close.
In 2016, Venge ViAS came out taking aero to the next level, times two. Two things happened when the ViAS came out: 1. The price went up. Big time. 2. The weight went up by four pounds over the 1st Gen. Venge. Nowadays, you’ll have to part with a cool $8,000 to sit atop a new Venge. And the new rigs come with a stiff penalty. Just a couple of years ago, a top-of-the-line ViAS would run you more than $12,000 and weighed in at a bulky 18-1/2 pounds. Today, it’s my understanding that the T-o-L ViAS has been slimmed down to the 16 pound neighborhood (possibly as low as 15.8 pounds).
Where this gets interesting is in the 1st Gen comparison. My $3,000 Venge comp was 18-1/2 pounds out of the box. I upgraded the wheels, stem, handlebar (S-Works), crankset (S-Works), brakes, and drivetrain (from mechanical 105 to mechanical Ultegra) and dropped three pounds.
…And that’s where the 1st Gen Venge buries new bikes; weight. If you look at newer aero bikes, they’re generally heavy. The Madone SLR 9 with all of the bells and whistles comes in at 17.3 pounds ($12,300). If memory serves, the ViAS is 16-ish ($12,500). The Scott Foil (top end $9,000) is comes in at 16.6 pounds. The Giant Advanced SL 1 is 16.4 pounds ($12,200). You can see where this is going, I hope. I’ve got decent components on my 1st Gen. Venge, but I’m a far cry from Dura Ace and I come in a pound under the $12,000 monsters. Throw Dura Ace components on my bike and one more upgrade in wheels, with better brakes and I know for a fact I can get my bike down to a slender 14-1/2 pounds. I’ve seen one on the scale.
The point is, at a svelte 14-1/2 to 15-1/2 pounds, the 1st Gen Venge is aero and light by today’s standards. We 1st Gen owners get the best of both worlds, an aero bike that’s light enough for extended climbing. In my case, I’ve got $3,100 into the purchase of the bike, new, and another $3,000 into upgrades. For $6,000 I’ve got a legit aero race bike I can climb with.
They say aero trumps weight everywhere but in the mountains… but First Gen. Venge owners can have their cake and climb a mountain pass, too.