That’s from today’s Daily Reflections. The title is from Page 23 of the 12 and 12.
… it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression…
Just before I quit drinking, I was convinced the world just didn’t like me. That, and the universe had it out for me. How could that many things go that bad for one guy?!
Then I was sentenced to treatment. I didn’t detox the pretty way, with drugs. I went cold turkey, shoveling out pig stalls… I felt it.
I also believe the shakes, night sweats and random terrors all positively contributed to my decision to ask God for help. DT’s were a wakeup call.
I really am that bad.
At the time, the graph of good times and bad may have felt like an “up and down” line graph… a little bit of up, some down, some more good times, so up… some really bad times, way down… more up…
Then withdrawals. And with them, the realization that it wasn’t up and down, up and down. My life was a steady down with some bumps in the road.
When I drink or use drugs, I am actively participating in my own demise. I am no longer at the beginning of a fatal progression, I’m at the end. I’ve simply suspended the decline by not drinking and working a program of recovery.
And as a benefit of doing so, a day at a time, I have been given a life of consistent contentment and happiness normal people feel blessed to experience fleetingly.
It was the beginning of a fatal progression. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Many new to sobriety have a hard time grasping how they can live without drugs and alcohol. When looked at from my perspective, I have the blessing of experience. I don’t know how I could want that misery back.
Recover hard my friends.
Are Meetings Needed to Stay Sober? From Dry Drunks and Popcorn Farts to Happy and Recovering (and Everyone In Between)
This will likely be the toughest post I’ve ever written. I am beholden to steer clear of controversy related to AA and the 12 Steps, but this is a hugely important topic that doesn’t get enough of a proper airing. I’m going to try to walk the tightrope.
Let me start by adding a disclaimer; the following is my opinion and my personal understanding. If you want to know exactly what’s in the Big Book, look to the forward and the first 164 pages. I highly recommend reading that rather than basing your opinion on someone else’s opinion. Especially when trying to make a determination on what the book does or does not say.
With that, I’ll begin. Are meetings needed to stay sober? No. And yes. One of the biggest misunderstandings about the aforementioned Big Book is whether or not other forms of recovery are acknowledged. Many mistakenly believe that those in AA believe “the program” is the only way to recover. This is entirely untrue. It’s a fabrication and a pervasive myth. AA does indeed embrace the idea that it does not corner the market on recovery. The idea that “AA” as a whole only recognizes its own “brand” of recovery is simply false (page 31, 38 & 39, bottom of 94, last paragraph of 95, and finally, 103). As I go, I’m only worried about my own recovery and passing on my experience, strength and hope that it might help others. Our stated goal, and I fully embrace this, is simply to be useful to others.
Where this gets tricky is that our brand of recovery happens to be very thorough. We “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to rectifying our past and making amends for our misdeeds. We learn to change how we think and live down to our very core. We look at everything that we are and seek to rise from the dregs of society to become productive members of society. Better, we do this without trained professionals and at little cost, beyond a Dollar to help with coffee and rent and a few more to buy a Big Book.
Put another way, if cancer could be fixed the same way, there’d be a line around the block to get into a meeting and no one would complain about having to work a few simple steps!
Happy and Recovering
That out of the way, I have two very close friends who lead perfectly happy lives who stopped going to meetings decades ago. One found God and happiness in church and the other simply got the message and changed his ways long, long ago. Both are fine, upstanding members of society and have more “clean time” than I do by more than a decade each. Those two alone show beyond a shadow of a doubt that recovery is attainable without meetings.
The trick is, each of my friends are mindful of who they hang out with and what they do with their free time; they’re every bit as vigilant as I am about my recovery. They also worked some form of program in the past where they transformed their life to break the cycle of addiction. These items are a must if one hopes for peace and contentment.
Dry Drunks and Popcorn Farts
Now we’re going to wander into dangerous territory. If I were to have sworn off alcohol for good and managed to quit on my own, cold turkey as they say, well, I’d probably be dead or drunk today. I simply couldn’t do it without the program and live with myself. I had to fix my stinkin’ thinkin’ and everything that came with it in order to sober up. I also needed the companionship that only comes with being a part of AA. And therein lies the rub – but that’s me. I can’t fairly say what someone else needs, I can only share my own experience.
However, where we get into trouble is when well intentioned people lack the ability to honestly assess their situation and become irritable discontents. Within the program these people can get help. Outside, without professional help, they languish, forever placing the blame that belongs on who they’re looking at in the mirror on other people, places, and things. Things they have no control over. These are your dry drunks that we often refer to as “drier than a popcorn fart”. They quit drinking by sheer will alone, and they’re not happy about it.
I don’t know what the answer is for people so afflicted. It’s a horrible condition indeed. I just do my part to be useful to my fellows, wherever possible.
In the end…
In the end, it’s all about happiness and contentment. Call it “quality of life”, a fantastic buzz-term for this topic. I continue to attend meetings because they better my quality of life. I’ve said for a long time (after someone passed it on to me), it’s a lot harder to fall off the wagon when you’re sitting in the middle of it, surrounded by 50 of your closest friends. It’s easier to fall off if you’re sitting on the edge, all by your lonesome. All that wagon needs is to hit a bump and you’re flying through the air, waiting to land in the mud.
Meetings and steps isn’t the only way to sober up. It’s a thorough way. It’s a useful way, and when done with gusto, a way to sober up that leads to an exceedingly happy life. I continue to go because going makes me happy.
But that’s just me.
The Pursuit of Road Bike Perfection; Making Your Road Bike Shift Better and Diagnosing Problems That Can Cause Poor Shifting in Shimano 10 Speed Drivetrains (Tiagra, 105, Ultegra and Dura Ace)
Most people wouldn’t notice that cable housing sticking out a little farther than the other side… I’m not most people. It drove me nuts!
I wrote yesterday about fixing the rear derailleur shift cable housing that was installed a bit long at the shop because the mechanic was trying to get my system to shift better than I was able to eek out of it when I upgraded the drivetrain from 105 to Ultegra (both 10 speed).
Now, Shimano’s 10 speed system is notorious for running into shifting problems because the rear derailleur’s spring was a little weak. Searching the internet for help is a struggle in and of itself because there’s a lot out there, but not much is specific. I can tell you, based on my experience, they fixed the problem with the 11 speed drivetrain – my wife’s 11 speed operates perfectly – and she’s a little harder on her rig than I am on mine, especially on my Specialized Venge. That bike has only seen two or three raindrops since I bought it new in ’13 (a bit of an under exaggeration, but not by much – I have a very nice rain bike).
I ran into trouble when I bought a used Ultegra 10 speed drivetrain from a friend. I had a tough time getting the shifting dialed in right after the upgrade… and I had a harder time trying to figure out what went wrong. After an exhaustive search on the internet, I gave up and took it to the shop.
The shifting was much improved after the shop mechanic had his way with it, but it still wasn’t perfect. He didn’t like it either, but it was the best he could do. We blamed it on the idea that the shifters were overused rather than just “used”. The derailleur had to be dialed in within 1/32 of a turn for the rear derailleur to operate smoothly and (more important) quietly. Specifically, one of the middle gears would click either going up or coming down the cassette (but not both) if the indexing of the rear derailleur was a little off. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get it dialed in and everything I found on the interwebz said the culprit was drag in cable. I just couldn’t find it.
Fortunately, on more of a vain note, I hated that the rear shift housing stuck out too far from the frame – it didn’t match the cable on the other side. I left it that way for a full season because I figured it would be better handled over the winter when I had the time to take it to the shop if I messed something up… better to ride the bike when I can ride it, right?
So, after thinking the process through, I went to work as soon as I had some time after the snow flew.
First things first, I wanted to shorten that cable housing, because doing that gets the shift cable out of the way to really look at how the cable could be getting hung up elsewhere. For that, I had to pull the rear derailleur cable out far enough that it was inside the housing that leads from the down tube to the handlebar and shift lever so I could snip the housing but not the cable. This is a simple process for externally routed cables. For internal cables, it’s a bit more of a big deal. The problem is running the cable back through the frame. Mechanics use magnets to feed the cable through the frame – this works especially well with the bike right side up on a stand, as gravity helps, but you can run into problems with some bikes because running new cables requires removing the crank. To avoid issues, I like using cable liner. With cable liner, I can run new cable in exactly the same place the old one was when I pulled it – and cable liner, for this purpose, is reusable and cheap. (Jagwire 1.8mm x 30 meters runs about $11 on Amazon – the 1.8 is a little thicker than others but a shifter cable slides through it more smoothly than the thinner options… the only problem is fitting it into some ferrules/end caps).
So, I did this to trim the housing, but if you’re looking for drag in your shifting system, do the same thing, just don’t snip the housing. Shift the bike all the way to the small cog on the cassette. Take the aluminum cable cap off with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Make sure there are no frayed hairs on the cable tip (give the cable end a quick twist to seat a frayed end if needed) and thread in your first piece of cable liner that you cut long enough it’ll stick out of each hole in your chain stay over the shift cable. Once your liner is through the chain stay, pull the cable until it’s hanging down from the bottom bracket cable guide. Unbolt the cable guide cap and remove the small piece of cable liner (if you have one). Then thread on another pre-cut piece of cable liner that’s long enough to stick out the hole at the bottom bracket and where the cable enters your down tube. Once it’s through, take two pieces of electrical tape and tape both ends so the liner won’t fall out on you. Pull the cable through the cable liner. With the cable out, roll your shifter hood up from the base to expose the hole for the shift cable. Push on the cable at the housing end until the head of the cable pokes out of your shifter. Then, carefully pull on the cable head at the shifter until the end of the cable is at the tip of the housing. Pull the cable another 3″ so it’s well inside the cable housing. This will ensure that the cable is well inside the housing so you won’t cut it when you trim the cable housing (unless you just want to install a new cable – in that case, pull it all the way out). Clip the housing and make sure the hole is round. Put a housing end cap on it and check to see you got the length right – better to cut off too little and have to trim some off than cut too much and have to replace the housing all the way back to the shifter lever. Push the cable back through until the head is tucked in its hole in your shifter. Reroute your cable back through the liner in the down tube and pull the liner when it’s through. If it’ll fit in your system, run a new piece of cable liner at the cable guide underneath the bottom bracket shell (4″ to 6″ will do). I don’t like leaving bare cable at the cable guide in an internally routed system (the liner in the cable guide limits dirt and thus, cable rot). Thread your cable through the chain stay liner and when the cable is through, pull the liner and set the two pieces aside to set in a tool box for future use. Finally, put your derailleur cable housing loop back together and adjust your index your derailleur.
Now, to shifting quality. In my case a few of the housing ends were coated plastic and when I put everything back together, I noticed the ends weren’t playing well with the barrel adjuster and I didn’t like how the cable slid through the plastic ferrules (end caps) – it just felt like there was a little drag on the cable when I pulled it through the housings. Drag is bad when you’re talking about a Shimano 10 speed drivetrain because the derailleur spring is too weak. Any drag, and I mean any, in the system and the rear derailleur won’t work quite right. I switched the plastic end caps out for metal one’s and put everything back together. That solved my drag problems in the shifting system. The shifting went from acceptable to excellent, just like that. It also survived a double check two nights ago, and a triple check last night. I can’t believe how smoothly the drivetrain is operating… I’m a little giddy to ride it. It’s the cat’s pajamas once again. The problem wasn’t the used shift levers, it was a little bit of drag in the system from something that shouldn’t have been a problem. Once that was remedied, et voilà
These issues of cable drag in the shifting system can be exceedingly difficult to find and diagnose. This one was for me. The shifting quality was excellent on the original 105 10 speed system but over time, the original plastic housing caps ended up gumming up the cable operation. I had myself stuck in a box with this before, but some elapsed time and forethought, and small problems were not only simple to diagnose, they were easy to fix.
In the end, the shift quality is all about drag in the system. The less drag, the better the bike will shift. And sometimes the problem can be as small as a little ferrule at the end of a cable housing that’s gumming the system up – even a cap that worked before a cable change. A poor cable housing cut can be a problem, too. Dirty housings, too much or the wrong lube in the housings, old shift levers, dirt or grime in the shift levers, dirt in the derailleur itself… all can contribute to drag in the system and poor shift quality.
When you can’t figure out what the hell is going on, let me recommend reworking the housing system from the shift lever to the back of the bike. Serfas complete shift cable system that works well and is cost-effective. It comes with everything you’ll need to change your old cables and housings and it comes with metal ferrules (or end caps). If you want to go a little next level, Jagwire is fantastic and their pro kit will be a great upgrade for all but the highest-end steed. Better still, if you want a little more flash, go for the Jagwire Road Elite Link Kit. Of course, if you just want to stick with Shimano, they make a couple of different grades of cables and housing kits. The standard and Dura Ace kits. I have it on authority the Dura Ace kit is supreme, though I’ve never used it (I have the Serfas on my Trek 5200 and a hodgepodge of Jagwire on the Venge).
Finally, for cutting cables and housings alike, I like Park Tool’s cable and housing cutter. It’s an expensive tool, but worth every penny when you get a crisp, clean cut. Watch the brake cable housings, though. They don’t cut as well because of their design and you have to round out the hole before firing a cable through.
And On the Eighteenth Day He Said, Thou Shalt Tinker with Thy Bike. It’ll Make You Smile. And So I Did.
I had a long day in my car Monday. Eight hours drive time for a meeting that lasted an hour and a half. It was productive and absolutely necessary, so it was good but what a drive!
Thankfully, I left early enough in the morning that I pulled into my driveway before 4pm. I had time to burn before my trainer ride…
The shifting quality of my Venge is and has been less than perfect. Call it very good, but… just a hair off. The rear derailleur had to be dialed in perfectly for the gears to operate quietly. A thirty-second of a turn one way or the other and a one of the middle gears would click either going up or coming down the cassette (but not both). It shouldn’t be that difficult to get it dialed in and I knew what the culprit was (drag in the cable), but I didn’t want to mess with it until the season was over. The bike was mechanically sound, it just wasn’t perfect.
Also, the housing that comes out of the handlebar and goes into the frame’s down tube was just a touch long so it touched the brake housing. The mechanic at the local shop had tried to improve the shifting quality that I was stumped on and simply cut the cable a touch too long when he installed a new single-piece cable housing in lieu of having an in-line adjuster for the front and rear mechs (an in-line adjuster for the rear mech is redundant and a little useless – for the front derailleur, it’s a necessity in an internally routed cable system). It had bugged me since I brought it home but not enough to take the system apart to fix it.
It’s the one on your right – the left cable if you were sitting on the bike.
It was being stumped that had me nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room filled with grannies on rocking chairs to tinker with what worked… even if not perfectly. I couldn’t help but think I was being too picky.
I found three problems. The shop had installed two housing ends that were plastic with a rubberized coating rather than metal. I didn’t like that the cable felt like it was catching a bit and it didn’t play well with the barrel adjuster. I pulled the cable through and trimmed the long housing, added metal ends, and changed the housing assembly going into the derailleur itself. Then, I added a piece of cable liner at the bottom bracket cable guide to match the front cable (I’m sure the mechanic removed the old liner thinking it was binding the shifting but the problem was more in the choice of cable housing ends [aka ferrules].
Then I put everything back together. The whole operation took 25 minutes from start to fully adjusted and shifting seamlessly (with internal routing – using cable liner as a guide is as good as, or better than magnets).
I managed to achieve perfect. I’m stoked how well the bike shifts now.
After tinkering with the Venge, I changed into my cycling kit and hit the trainer for a 45 minute intense workout and followed that with dinner… I fell asleep watching the national championship football game. It’s very likely I had a smile on my face as I drifted off.
I’ll get into the repair in greater detail for tomorrow’s post because it’s a HUGE issue with a 10 speed drivetrain.
In researching a treatment center for someone close to my heart, I happened on a treatment center, recommended by the person’s attorney, that specializes in recovery “based on the power of music”.
Now, I’m going to be very blunt here, because for those of us saddled with alcoholism and drug addiction, this shit is life and death, literally and sadly, this is just a sampling of the BS that’s out there that touts itself as “recovery”.
Friends, again, addiction is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with rationally and with great depth. While I will absolutely give you, there is a certain jump in mood when I listen to music, I don’t want my sanity, freedom and health to hinge on Recovery by Metallica.
That’s just not good enough. Imagine something along the same lines, Movie based recovery… and that should be enough to show a sane person exactly how nuts “music” based recovery would be. Music is a one-trick pony in terms of recovery and my addiction is a whole lot more pernicious than a one-trick pony. After reading through as much of the website as I could take (a little less than an hour), other than having a “professional” make a playlist for you, I couldn’t tell what they actually do to help people recover! Now perhaps they get into greater depth in their in-patient setting, but you’d never know based on what’s on their website.
Fortunately for my friend, he and his wife had someone with enough sobriety to choke a drunk (figuratively, dear) to recommend something… uh… with a bit more of a foundation.
As we in recovery like to say, our disease is sitting in a cage at the back of our mind doing push-ups. The door isn’t locked. I fully embrace the fact that there are many ways to recover from addiction and have a productive life. You have to ask yourself this, though: Do you want to trust your life, sanity, and recovery to a Taylor Swift tune?
If you answered yes, good luck with that. I’ll be here when you come back from your next relapse. Look me up and we can talk about what’s next.
I published a post that I felt good about the other day. I’d written much of it on vacation and wrapped it up just twenty minutes before I hit the schedule button on the post earlier that morning.
I had one person link to my post who said some of the nicest things about me, I had a tough time accepting it. She wrote,
I smiled reading it, often wondering if it’s my ego that has me reluctant still, but whatever way you look at it, it’s a beautiful insight into recovery the way it works for him. And when someone talks about recovery in such an inspiring way, that’s the effect it has – here’s me reading it and not particularly being sold 100% on AA, yet finding myself thinking “wow! He’s got it!“…. Besides, the more we know and hear of how others have found their way, the more it shows us how very possible it is that we can too…
Then I had a fella comment who I’ve been working on for a while… he asked how I worked through a problem I ran into working through Steps 4-9. My response was long, but thorough. And I think I finally reached him. I’ve been praying for a way to break through to him for a long while, and it looks like I might have gotten through.
My friends, I keep coming back because I am of use. If the only thing I do this month is reach one person (or in this case, two) to pass on what others freely passed to me, simply by writing about my own experience, strength and hope… if you think being sober feels good (and it really does), wait till you find out you’re of use to others.
Sobriety brings with it, freedom. Freedom got me coming back. Getting sober, finally feeling the freedom of recovery is great. Making a difference in someone else’s life or recovery… my friends, that’s living right there. That’s as good as it gets.