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I have a life a rich man can’t buy and a poor man can’t steal…

A friend, whose wife will lose her battle with cancer soon, said at a meeting through sobs, “I have a life a rich man can’t buy and a poor man can’t steal”.

They’ve been married 56 years.

Recover hard, my friends. It’s worth it, and the good stuff never lasts long enough.

A Great Friend of Michigan Cycling Passed Away

My wife just got an email that Dick Allen passed away just before Christmas at the age of 88.

DALMAC, our yearly trek from Lansing to Mackinaw City carries his name… the Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw bike ride.

I never met the man, but I had a lot of great laughs and memories because he wanted to prove to a fellow politician he could ride his bike from Lansing to Mackinaw City and that bikes needed to be on the roads (not sidewalks, ahem) because there weren’t enough sidewalks for a person to get there.

50 years later and we attract riders from all over the country and a couple of other nations who make the trip to Michigan to join us.

He and the local club put on one heckuva great ride. He’ll be missed, but fondly remembered.

Heading Into New Year Celebrations for the Recovering Person… and Rule Number One

I was going to take the day off writing today, but a topic hit me that I couldn’t shake, no matter how hard I tried. This means only one thing: someone needs this post. It might only be one person on the whole freaking planet, but I’ll guarantee-freaking-tee you, it will get to the right person.

I’ve seen this work too many times to question it. I just do as I’m told and get it done.

So, we’re getting into the silly season where we recovering folk can struggle. Never mind that we got lit for all form of big and small reasons, the New Year is cause for concern for a massive part of our population.

Here’s my tip to stay safe, sober and happy:

Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Even if your ass falls off. And, in the event it does, put it in a paper bag and take it to a meeting. Someone will be able to show you how they put theirs back on.

If you’re hit with even a small urge to use, call someone and talk about it. Meet that person for lunch, dinner or a meeting.

Don’t try to go it alone. Lean on your friends for help. Not just for your sake, you’ll help them at the same time. Trust me. You don’t ever have to go through what you did to get here again. Just don’t use. And, should you want to become an old-timer, add to “don’t use”, “don’t die”.

Recover hard, my friends. Living a happy life is worth the effort.

Bike Chain Lubes, From Wet to Dry, And Which Is Best, and Where (IMHO)

I’ve used a lot of chain lubes in the last decade. It seems I’m trying a new one every year or two, so I’ve acquired quite the base of knowledge built up on what I want to use, where, and why.

First, much of the cycling world has gone “dry” lately. There are a lot of wax-based lubes out there that have people all buzzed about not having to deal with a grimy chain anymore – myself included. For a while, I used White Lightning Clean Ride chain lube for a time, but the stuff was so dry the drivetrain was noisier than I could tolerate. Then I switched to Finish Line’s Dry Wax Lube and I really didn’t like that for the same reason. Finally, I settled on Squirt Wax Based Dry Chain Lube last year. Now that, I like. It’s a better combination of dry, but not too dry to cause a noisy drivetrain – that is, unless you go on more than a six-hour bike ride – which I’m very much prone to do! The big plus is that it really is clean. I can touch my chain without getting greasy gray lube residue all over my hands. And that, I love. It’s also great on the gravel and mountain bike because there’s nothing for dirt to really “stick” to like a wet lube. Like I wrote earlier, the only down side is having to reapply every six to eight hours of ride time.

I used squirt on our whole fleet last year. Road bikes, gravel bikes, road tandem and mountain bikes. And I went through a lot of it, having to buy two bottles so far. I did get fair chain life, also. Probably a few thousand miles a chain.

Above: That’s a well-cared for chain and cassette using Squirt – but I have a special trick to keep the wax buildup to a minimum. I clean the chain and cassette with a mild degreaser every five or six reapplications. The buildup is actually supposed to be a good thing and the instructions on the bottle recommend leaving it be, but I can’t stand a messy lookin’ drivetrain.

While there’s no question I’ve enjoyed the cleanliness of the wax based lube, I decided to switch back to wet on the road bikes next season. Specifically, to my favorite wet lube of all, and I’ve used a few; Sunlite light spray lube, Boeshield T-9 (technically a dry lube), Finish Line Wet Heavy Duty chain lube, there was another spray lube in there but I can’t remember what… but I’m going back to the crème de la crème of wet bike lubes, Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube (FLCWL for short, because that’s a lot to type) for the Trek and the Venge. Now, FLCWL is, without question, a messy lube. If you have to touch the chain on the road, you better hope you’ve got a pair of plastic gloves or some grass nearby to wipe your hands on. The stuff gets nasty. However, and this is why I’m going back, if you truly want a whisper-quiet, fast, functionally smooth and perfect drivetrain, Finish Line’s Ceramic Wet Lube is where it’s at. The stuff is slippy. Also, and this is only a minor point, the wax lubes wash off almost instantly in the rain and, on the rain bike, that’s really not a good thing. I was caught in two or three showers last year and the last time convinced me I should be riding a wet lube rather than no lube if I get caught in the rain.

I will, however, stick with Squirt dry lube on the gravel bikes (and possibly Mrs. Bgddy’s road bike if she so chooses because she doesn’t like getting her hands dirty on her chain – I am more than understanding in that regard). Even though the wax lube is vastly superior to any wet lube in terms of cleanliness, there’s no beating a quiet, trouble-free chain that’ll last a full week or two in the heat of the season and you won’t have to worry about if you hit some rain.

My Other Hobby… No, the Other One… Bowling: A New Ball To Go From Above Average To… Well, More Above Average

I’ve enjoyed a lot of sports-related hobbies. I was blessed, from my father, with excellent sports genes (which, I’m thankful to say, I passed on to my daughters). I’m proficient at hockey, disc golf, running, table tennis and badminton. I am above average at baseball, softball, inline skating, skiing and ice skating. I am well above average at tennis, golf, and cycling… and bowling. My biggest problem, since I was a little kid, as soon as a sport got hard I’d go on to something else rather than put in the real effort to break through plateaus to improve. Golf was the one exception. I even had a coach for a time, before I had kids. I loved golf.

I’m a massive fan of bowling. Enough that I can actually watch bowling on television from time to time. Bowling barely gets a mention here, but once the photos from DALMAC are posted and the weather starts to turn cold, I start bowling, on two leagues. The Friday night league is one of the premier leagues in our county and meets every Friday. The league is exclusive enough they don’t give pins for averages below a 150 (you have the same handicap at a 120 avg as you do 150). I hold a decent 180 average there and I’m about the same on our recovery-based league that meets every other Sunday. Many of the other bowlers on Friday night (both are mixed leagues) are in the 200s.

And I hold that 180 average using 20 year-old hand-me-down bowling balls. I’ve never owned a new ball. Not once, ever. Until this last week.

Watching the better “house shot” bowlers on Friday night (a “house shot” refers to the typical shot used on lanes that are coated with oil with a standard “house” oil pattern as opposed to the various patterns they use for the pros, by low handicap high-end bowlers who throw high-revolution, hard shots that generate a lot of pin action) who can get some amazingly high revs on their ball, I couldn’t mimic what they did and could only get my ball to hook into the proper slot if I threw the ball with my hand on the side of the ball – how I learned in my college bowling class (as opposed to the proper position behind the ball, riding up the back, as they say). If I tried to come up the back of my two strike balls, they’d barely hook. I’ve known for three years I should get a new ball, but held off.

For a little history…

My first foray into bowling was in search of an easy A in college. I knew nothing about bowling on day one, but aced the class easily, raising my average from a 120 to a 165 at the end of the semester. Then, I didn’t touch bowling till I started out in a recovery-based league with my wife and a friend with his wife as a 150 bowler more than 20 years ago and have ticked up steadily over the years. I was a solid 175 when I made the jump to Friday night and I’ve been at about the same level for the last few years – 180 to 185. This year I decided to take it up a notch. Maybe try to get into the 190s for an average?

And so I picked up my first brand new bowling ball, five days after ordering it from the local pro shop, and threw my first few games with it Tuesday evening. A Hammer Scorpion, hybrid reactive urethane cover with a symmetrical core (same on both sides of the ball’s axis – balls with asymmetrical cores tend to hook more in heavy oil but flatten out in dry conditions, which I run into on Sunday nights).

And all of a sudden, with the proper drilling of the ball, a fairly aggressive core, and a clean, reactive cover, I was able to start throwing the ball like a normal house bowler… and absolutely hammering the strike zone. Well, once I figured my new line – I had to move to the right (I’m left-handed) five boards and change my target board by three boards to get the ball in enough oil to get down the lane far enough to break into the slot. That’s exactly what I’ve wanted since I jumped to Friday night and saw how real bowlers threw the ball.

Once I got my line, I blasted a turkey (three strikes in a row) without trying. It was so consistent, smooth and easy, I started messing around with my marks and the line just to see how the ball would react. I’ve never been able to stray very far from one set starting point and arrow target or my hook would go away. Now, I can crank up the revs, or flatten my hand to see how the ball would turn, then come up the side of the ball a little more to crank up the hook. The ball slid off my fingers like butter, thumb first, then the two fingers… the ball would slide, then grab, then SLAM into the pins. All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to me.

It was utterly astonishing how much more I could do.

Now, that’s good and bad. I used to be a one dimensional bowler. I’d have the one shot (plus my left side spare shot with my spare ball – a ball that doesn’t hook as much) and I’d have to match the rotation and ball speed and repeat. I hit a lot of 600s that way (three games, 200+ each game). The new ball, more aggressively drilled than either of my two other strike balls, I have several new ways to get the ball down the lane, a few of which I described above. This will mean I can do one of two things when the oil starts breaking down (the more traffic, the more the oil is used up, the more the ball will hook if you don’t change the line to find oil). Being a one-trick pony has its advantages – once you figure out the shot, you only have to repeat it exactly to get a strike. The advantage with options is that I can give the ball a little more speed to get it down the lane farther or crank up the revs to get it out of the oil if need be – and I’ve got a much larger margin of error for missing my mark with the new ball. And that’s what this is really all about; margin of error.

In four practice games I threw, and I was purposely trying to test the limits of the ball so I wasn’t going for score at all. I’d throw a turkey before changing my line to see how the ball reacted on different parts of the lane. I did that five times. Of those fifteen strikes, maybe eight were perfect shots. With my old strike ball, they all had to be almost perfect to get to the pocket. The other day, seven got there by accident. While score didn’t matter because what I really needed was to find a good line and explore all of the new ways to throw the ball, I till managed easy 170s for three of the four games. The second game was low because I was all over the lane, figuring things out.

And that’s exactly what I was looking for. I’m exceedingly excited to see what comes next. Well, after a bunch of practice over the next week. Our leagues are off for the holidays, but we’re back next Sunday. And I’ll be ready.

A Merry Recovery Christmas to All!

The Holidays can be tough, my friends. Lots of emotions, lots of angst, lots of room to be thirsty…

They can also be glorious. Time spent with family and friends, additional meetings for those of us in recovery, a period of remembering that which matters most in Christmas: it’s a time of healing, forgiveness and renewed hope in something vastly bigger than we are.

This is my 29th sober Christmas. My first was spent in a treatment center. I had nothing. I had nowhere to go. I belonged exactly where I was, because God’s grace saved me in that treatment center. He reached down and touched my right on my heart and I could feel Him say, “it’ll be okay”. And it has been. I’ve come a long way.

Friends, in this Christmas season, I was reminded that I am still a selfish, self-centered man. I have gotten so much better over the years, but every once in a while, my eyes are opened to the fact that I still have a lot that has to be done. To be able to see this is a blessing, even if it comes with a sting… and has been the case since that first sober Christmas, I will figure my through it. When it’s all boiled down, I am the only person on this planet I can change. I can choose to look at others and the wrongs they do, but ultimately I’m only doing myself a disservice, because by carrying that resentment I’m distracting myself from what I can do to be a better me.

I will figure this out, and my wife and I will look back on this year in another 29 (or so I hope, that’ll put me at 80) and say, “Wow, look how far we’ve come”.

Merry Christmas. Don’t get thirsty, my friends. Get better. There are bigger fish to fry while we’re figuring out just how good life can be.

An Article I Found Interesting on the True Meaning of the Movie Die Hard

First things first, I don’t make a big deal about movies on my blog, because I tend to feel I have bigger fish to fry, but I am a massive fan of movies. Not Hollywood, so much, because movie stars tend to be tools and ignoramuses (a great combination, by the way), but I love the suspension of disbelief for a couple to three hours while a movie is playing.

One of the more enjoyable parts of the Christmas season for me, aside from the pinnacle of the season, in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Randy Quaid’s Eddie is explaining to Chevy Chase’s Clark the metal plate in his head was changed to plastic because “Every time Catherine would rev up the microwave, I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour.” Every year, without fail, I laugh to the point of tears over that one, perfect line. Aside from that, and the rest of Christmas Vacation, along with A Christmas Story, is the tradition of watching John McClane battle Hans Gruber’s bad guys at Nakatomi Plaza. It’s become a yearly thing with my daughters.

Rarely, however, do I put much thought into movies beyond their ability to allow an escape of the mind… until I happened on the linked article below, about the meaning of Die Hard:

One of Die Hard‘s themes is that it is the regular guys, the practitioners lower down the command chain, who are more likely to figure things out than those above them.

Never mind that the author called Duane T. Robinson, “Robertson” through the whole article, he gets the themes right:

In many ways, McClane’s opposite in the film is not Gruber, but Ellis, Holly’s cackling, coke sniffing colleague who tries to negotiate with the bad guys: “You use a gun, I use a fountain pen. What’s the difference?” Ellis learns the hard way that there is a very profound difference. Again, the the sophisticated (in his own eyes at least) Ellis is no more successful than Dr. Hasseldorf, Deputy Chief Robertson [sic], or the Johnsons at correctly identifying the nature of the threat posed by Gruber and his comrades and how to combat it. It is John McClane — “a dumb Irish flatfoot” as Gruber’s vengeful brother calls him in the third film — who does that. Die Hard celebrates the common sense wisdom of the Blue Collar American everyman.

And that’s what I love about Die Hard, one helluva Christmas movie. Do read the rest of the article, it’s quite good.

Finally, to put a big, red bow on this post, it never fails to amaze me, listening to politicians who live in their nice little Washington DC bubble, completely miss the pulse of the nation and resort to their spoon-fed, bubble wrapped DC talking points. I get this listening to the local radio station on the way home as the show hosts get their panties in a bunch about how tough it must be for people having to return to the office to work with omicron taking over the Covid scene… I was back in the office before there was a vaccine for the vastly more deadly alpha (or was is beta?) – and I worked through delta as if it wasn’t even there. Now they’re whining about the “vastly more contagious omicron” while completely missing the fact that it is also vastly less deadly. Omicron will crowd out delta (it’s already happening) and replace it… this is the best news since they were reporting on the success stories of record Christmas sales in 2019 and all they’re completely missing it.

Like it or not, willful or not, the betters miss what we in flyover country see plainly and simply so consistently it boggles the mind. It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.

When In Doubt, Protect Thine Recovery; Don’t Participate

I love my family deeply. My sisters and brothers are awesome. My mom is deeply caring and fantastic. And we’re all a little nuts.

This year for Christmas, my sister is flying in from LA as she always does but she’s recovering from lung surgery. They had to take out a part of her lung that was cancerous – and the surgery was not without its problems. So, as you could guess, it would be real bad if my sister caught a respiratory virus – especially a highly contagious respiratory virus that kills people with underlying medical conditions… like, I don’t know, having a third of one of your lungs removed a month ago.

You can probably see where this is going, it’s like DEFCON 2 at my sister’s (who will be hosting this year’s festivities, as she has for the past several years, God bless her). There are rules and regulations that must be followed, an air purifier (or three) was purchased, booster vaccinations were required, as is a rapid test within 24 hours of showing up to the party… and my daughter was playing tonsil hockey with a kid at college a few days ago who just found out… you guessed it, he has Covid! It’s a party now! WOOHOO!

That sent my recovering sister, we’ll call her Karen for the sake of this post, into orbit. As of yesterday a rapid test wasn’t going to be good enough. She informed us, from LA, that we should be able to find a place that would do a Rapid PCR test. Somewhere. After reminding us, yet again, that she can’t catch Covid (obviously). Now, nobody had mentioned masks yet, but I expected they’d be handed out on arrival and I’m no fan of those stupid things (if they work, why don’t they work?).

And that’s precisely when I threw in the towel. I texted my sisters that we’d be staying home.

This decision was not without its problems. My sister, the LA sister, wants to see us this year and is feeling a little guilty and upset that we’ve decided to skip the drama and stay home this year. My mom, though, was glad for our choice. My other sister, the hostess, sadly can’t escape the drama but backed us in our decision and she’s bummed we won’t be there because we’re half of the life of the party…

The point of this post, folks, is to say sometimes you just have to do what’s best and avoid a shit show.

The stress, the drama, the… mess, sometimes you have to leave others to that swamp and take care of your recovery (and, as in this case, your family). In that kind of environment, one where even a rapid test wouldn’t really be enough and we’d probably have to put our daughter, my little big girl, in a corner to appease my sister, well some shit just isn’t doable. I’m not willing to put my family through that. For anyone.

The only trick, of course, is to bow out gracefully. We recovering folk are an honest lot, yes. At the same time, we have no room for brutal honesty. I did my best.

How Much Should One Ride a Bike to Keep One’s Brain “Younger”? A Humorous Look At A Captain Obvious Study…

I read an article recently that delved into the subject of brain health, diet and exercise. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but researchers who put sedentary people with “mild cognitive impairments” on a hypertension busting diet and had subjects exercise a few times a week saw their subjects’ cognitive abilities improve from that of a 93 year-old to an 84 year-old. Here’s the problem; the test subjects were 65.

Each person was randomly assigned to six months of either aerobic exercise (three times a week for 45 minutes each session at greater than 65 percent of their max heart rate), adhering to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, following a combination of aerobic exercise and the DASH diet, or attending informational sessions where they learned about ways to boost their brain health.

The results? Those who were assigned the combination of exercise and the DASH diet saw the most brain-boosting benefits, and actually experienced an improvement—they now had the cognitive function of an 84-year-old instead of a 93-year-old. But those who only exercised still “demonstrated significant improvements in the executive function domain,” according to the study.

Now, this should surprise no one. And, if you look at the bright side, you now have an excuse to ride a bike. The conversation could go something like this:

“What do you do to stay active?”

“Well, I love riding bicycles.”

“Oh, you ride a bike? Those are so dangerous, and traffic is so terrible (and texting people, etc., etc.)… I don’t know how you could have any fun!”

“Well, it is loads of fun – we pick and choose which roads to ride on, trying to limit our exposure to traffic, but it’s more than about just having fun. You see, fitness slows cognitive decline, so when we’re both 80, I’ll be mentally spry and nimble, likely living in my house with my wife while you, being the sedentary type, will be dumb as a box of rocks and likely in a nursing home. Enjoy that couch.”



Now, we’d never treat another person like that, because that shit’s just plain rude. But if we didn’t have a “nice” filter… ?

Right, one in ten times you’d get punched in the nose. Better to stick with tact, I suppose.

Ride hard, my friends. Cognitive decline is no joke. And bikes are freaking cool.

Would you be OK if you died tomorrow? Attempting a great life in recovery…

I’ve come a long way since the days I was scrounging around for enough change to get drunk for the night. I’ve come a long way since almost going out Jimi Hendrix style. Since picking out which pillar I’d crash my car into. Since running out of options.

You couldn’t say I’ve done recovery perfectly, but I don’t think anyone would be so arrogant as to say, “Yeah! Nailed it!” Those are the people who usually end up drunk a few weeks later and in a ditch a few months after that, wondering what just happened.

As a thought experiment, I like to contemplate what it would be like if I did die tomorrow. Heck, today. Would I be ready to meet my maker? Would I have resentments that I didn’t properly take care of? Or would I lay there, as the light faded and think, “You know what, I’m okay. I did well with the gift of my sobriety. I lived a happy, fun, free life and I did my best to pass on what I was so freely given, to make a difference in other addicts’ and alcoholics’ lives… let’s see what’s next.”

And it’s with that last thought that I try to live my life. I do a fair job of cocking it up from time to time, but I keep giving it my best, hoping I’ll earn a place on the right side of the Pearly Gates.

Now, here’s how I use that thought experiment for good: I like to try looking at my life from the perspective of a spectator. How am I handling the relationships in my life? How do I interact with my wife and kids, with family, with my neighbors, the men I sponsor, with friends (blog and in person) and acquaintances? Am I doing my part to attract rather than promote? Am I that sad fella standing on a hill with his trumpet, hoping someone notices how awesome I am? Am I living the best life I can?

There’s always room for improvement, but I like how I’m doing so far – and I’ll keep working at that room for improvement. One day at a time.

Recover hard, my friends. There are no “do overs”… only “cleanup on aisle seven”.