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A drug is a drug. It doesn’t matter what you use, it’s why you use that’s important.
I ran myself out of options before I made the decision to give full abstinence a try. I tried every combination I could think of. Beer only, weed only, beer and weed only, liquor only, weed only, liquor and weed only, beer and liquor only, beer and liquor and weed (a personal favorite), wine coolers (they’re great if you want a great buzz and an enormous stomach ache, all at the same time! Woohoo!)… I tried everything, but I couldn’t control my use for more than a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks if I found myself in enough trouble (I managed two weeks of control one time – then the wheels fell off).
After one too many run-ins with the police, the State of Michigan (the whole entire State) decided it might be a good idea if I tried to quit. I mean the whole State, too; it said on all of the paper work, “People of the State of Michigan vs. James L… A judge sent me to treatment.
The day I walked in the door, I fully planned on getting drunk the day I got out. I was going to do my time and I was getting out and I was getting lit once I did.
Then the DT’s started after a Category 5 hangover. I shook so bad I couldn’t drink out of a glass. I needed a straw. The nausea, the sweats… combine that with a general disgust for what I’d become and I was pretty low. I could have looked up and seen a snakes ass passing over me, folks. I mean low.
And that’s when I asked God for a deal. A bargain, if you will.
That night, lying in bed, I prayed and asked God if He’d just help me, I’d give recovery, and thereby abstinence, everything I had. When I woke up I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. For the first time since I’d picked up my first beer, I didn’t feel a compulsion to get lit. Friends, it was like stepping out of the dark into the light.
I was never as low as I’d been that night, since. No more snakes asses for me. The DT’s faded and eventually I got on with my life and really made something of myself. My life hasn’t been a perfect Hallmark card, but it’s pretty close, considering what I came from.
So taking my 26 years of continuous sobriety back to that night I made my bargain with God, there was one thing I really hoped for out of the deal.
I wanted to be happy.
Trigger (heh) Warning: I use derogatory terms when referring to drugs and alcohol, of any kind. I apologize profusely if it offends you, but it’s a defense mechanism for me so you’ll have to get over it. It has nothing to do with you anyway, so don’t get me started. You have been Trigger (heh) Warned.
Bill Wilson used PCP early in his attempts at recovery. He was wrong when he relied on it, but some drugs were actually thought to be useful back then, for certain mental issues. Thankfully, a lot’s happened in the last 80 years and we now know that PCP is bad. That’s a period at the end of the last sentence. It has no use in modern medicine, even though it did almost a century ago.
Anyway, this isn’t important – it has relevance, though. Let’s get into the Doobage Dain Broner Maintenance System and Recovery. More important, let’s start with what recovery isn’t. Recovery is defined by the thinking heads as:
“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”
Sucking on a joint, pipe, or bong is the opposite of abstinence. Now, I’m going to keep this very simple; there are no medical benefits in the use of pot worth sucking in the smoke in the first place. Politicians allow the ignorance persist because they want in on the money and it keeps the electorate stupid and easy to manipulate. The only thing better for that than alcohol is weed.
Recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction does not include switching drugs to keep you sufficiently high. Again, for the cheap seats, getting high the opposite of recovery. This is not rocket science. Let’s try to simplify this a little bit for the tokers in the crowd: In your comment down below, when you try to explain that weed can be an honest part of a recovery program, substitute heroin for pot for me. Try to convince me that because my drug of choice was alcohol, I should be able to shoot up some heroin and be fine. Heroin is too strong? How about crack cocaine? Meth? A drug is a drug is a drug. My friends, that’s quite literally how stupid it is to believe weed can be a part of recovery.
So why do I care? I’m going to be my usual blunt self (pun intended). I care because every person who puts down the dope and actually embraces recovery is a life saved from servitude. Every person who sees the light and stops using has a chance at freedom from the bondage to their addiction.
What it isn’t is a care that a stoner is going to somehow sully the word “recovery” by claiming dope smoking is a part of a recovery program. I couldn’t possibly care less how ignorant you remain. So long as you don’t expect me to cosign that bullshit.
This past week was a bit of a downer – and not only as weather goes. It was supposed to rain all week but I only really had to ride once on the trainer to avoid it, so we really lucked out there. There was a second trainer ride of the week, on Thursday, but that was for simplicity’s sake – and the fact it was cold outside and I just didn’t want to throw on all of the crap that would have been needed to stay warm.
Tuesday night we rode in short sleeves and shorts. Wednesday, had it not been raining, would have been knee warmers, wool socks and arm warmers. Thursday, had I ridden outside rather than choosing convenience and warmth, leg warmers, wool socks, arm warmers and a vest. Friday morning’s ride started out at just 38° (3 C) – so doing the math, that’s a drop of 44° or 24 C. For Saturday, it was full-on cold patrol; leg warmers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, wind-stopper hat… Autumn, it appears, is here to stay. The weekly outlook is for fourteen days of the same – lows in the upper 30’s, highs in the low 50’s.
And that was the highlight. Friday morning’s ride was the real mess. We started out well enough. I’ve taken my computer off of my rain bike because I had a desire to be free of it for a while. I have a friend in the A Group who manages to ride without knowing how fast he’s going and he does quite well no matter the pace. I want to be able to do that, too. Well, I’m not very good at it, yet, so I can hammer some of my friends into the ground if I’m not careful – especially if I’m coming up to a City Limits sign I want.
Friday started out all fun and games. We rolled west, into the wind – I took some long turns up front, and we maintained a jovial mood. We stopped at a park to use the portable facilities and eat a snack. Everything was great. We’d rolled past a “Road Closed” sign, so Mike went up ahead to find out if the road was really closed or if we could get around… It was closed, so we looped back and decided to head for home.
Coming into the town of Durand, one of my “must get” signs, I started to crank the speed up a little early – I like to try to hurt those I can behind me to discourage them wanting to come around to try for the sprint. Cresting the little hill just before the sprint, I heard a shift of someone’s bike behind me and hit it. I hit the line smiling, north of 30-mph, then looked back and slowed to wait for my wife, Mike and Diane to catch up. Everything was smiles and chucks on shoulders. We looped around town to avoid crossing a massive set of train tracks five or six wide that we’d all fallen on at one point or another. It adds another two miles, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind the bonus miles.
I was still up front and we were approaching the county line… another sign I like to get, but don’t “have to” have it… I picked the pace up a little bit – Strava shows I went from 20-21 to 23. My wife came around, if memory serves, to pip me, and we formed back up. She took the lead, I was behind her, and Diane and Mike followed.
My wife tapped out to go to the back and asked me to take it easy because Mike was having a tough time keeping up at 23. According to Strava, I picked the perfect gear for 20-mph and I kept it there. Two miles later, Mike was off the back by a quarter-mile. When he caught up, he complained of having a tough time. He said he could keep up at 20, but more than that was hurting him. Problem was, I’d been at 20… Diane is a medical professional, so we stopped at an intersection and she checked his pulse. It was faint, but she said he seemed to be regular enough. Mike said he was fine, so we pressed on. We let Mike take the lead so he could choose the pace with the wind at our back. We went on for another few miles but Mike would “hit a wall” every once in a while and slow from 18-19 to 16-mph and that’s when he mentioned he was short of breath, that he couldn’t get a deep breath.
Diane looked at me and we dropped back a bit… and she quietly said, “You need to call 9-1-1 right now”. I pulled out my phone and did as I was told, after making sure I heard right. Fortunately, we had just happened on the Gaines Township Fire and Rescue station, so we had Mike pull into the parking lot so she could check his pulse again. We got Mike off his bike and she checked him out. His pulse was “all over the place”.
We managed to keep Mike off his bike for a few minutes but he wouldn’t sit down. After about five minutes, with an ambulance on the way, he said he was okay again and went to get back on his bike. Diane was fairly adamant that Mike choosing to ride home was a very bad idea – and I liked the idea that we were sitting in the parking lot of the fire station (!). If there’s anywhere to be when you need an ambulance, it’s at the fire station for God’s sake. Diane and my wife, who was also on the phone with Mike’s wife or daughter, tried to talk him off his bike while I stood in front of his handlebar so he couldn’t get rolling to clip in. He tried to move his front wheel to roll, and I’d side-step in front of him again. This went on for a minute when two fire & rescue folks rolled up in their pickup. A woman got out of the passenger side and immediately went to Mike and worked on getting him off the bike with my wife and Diane. The guy who was driving grabbed a medical-looking bag and headed for the door of the fire station, urging us inside where it was warm. The woman tending to Mike told him she was a nurse and that he should go inside, just to get checked out. And finally he broke. He got off his bike and headed over to the door.
From there it was a flurry of activity and Mike getting sorted. Phone calls were made and I sat down with a small cup of coffee that the firefighter had offered. An already long story shortened, Mike finally agreed to a ride home in the pickup of the fire and rescue people, but no ambulance. He wanted to go home and wash up before he went to the hospital. He called his cardiologist and let him know what was going on. I put Mike’s bike in the pickup and after the ambulance techs ran a few tests, he got in the truck and took his ride home.
My wife, Diane and I rode home without our buddy.
Mike is doing well, though he’s in the hospital till he goes through a couple of procedures on Monday. The good part is they know what they’re looking for now. Having Diane there for the episode was perfect. Because she got his pulse, they know they’re looking at an arrhythmia problem rather than a racing problem. We stopped up to see him for a bit last night. He seemed to be in a good mood, though he’s pissed at the electrical heart doc who told him he should rethink his cycling. You can guess where that went. An “F” bomb or two was dropped.
According to what Mike said, they ruled out a heart attack, which is fantastic news. Sadly, they haven’t come up with a way to remove the cranky yet. They’re still working on that… and it’s a very good chance he’ll die of natural causes before they figure that out.
I was down to my cruising weight about two months ago. Now I’m just having fun with it. I figure, why not get light going into Thanksgiving this year. Then I can simply watch what I eat the rest of the winter and I’ll be a lot happier, and lighter, next spring (I let this last winter get me a little bit).
I’ve been losing about a pound a week for the last five weeks since I had my yearly physical and I’ve decided to keep that up. The doctor’s assistant called a week after the appointment and said my bad cholesterol came back a little high. She also added that my ratio was good, I just had to watch what I was eating a little more closely.
I took that to heart, of course, and changed how I ate immediately. I didn’t completely cut the
crap tasty food out, I’m simply more mindful about what it is I’m eating most of the time. The way I see it, I’m way too active to be a saint all of the time.
The prescription was pretty simple. Eat smarter, more fast miles. Rinse and repeat. The results have been uplifting, if expected.
Keeping fit, active, healthy, and most important, out of the doctor’s office and the prescription medication trap, is a simple equation on any one of my bikes. (Eat well + get fit) x ride hard = smile more.
So that brings me to my Physician Avoidance and Sanity Stabilizing Unit for Order, Thankfulness and Levity… or P.A.S.S.U.O.T.L.
Or pass you on the left…
Ride hard, my friends. It’s cheaper than the doctor – and I’d rather cough up the funds for the McLaren* of race bikes than fund my doctor’s vacation home… if you know what I mean
*Or a Ford GT40 if we’re talking about the Trek – if you know your car and race bike history, you know putting the two together is quite accurate, historically speaking.
A blog I follow posts a daily reading from recovery literature and one struck my fancy the other day…
There are a few things I’ve done that have helped me live a sober, happy, wonderful life. One sticks out above all others, though…
If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.
~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, More About Alcoholism, pg. 33~
I take the notion of hope for immunity to another level. Not only can I never achieve immunity, I can’t even hope for decency, happiness, or anything that remotely looks like success if I decide to consume alcohol.
If I take a drink, I’m cooked. Done. Stick a fork in me.
I will give up everything that is good in my life, in a matter of months, to stay drunk. Alcohol won’t take anything from me, by the way, dears. This is a program of honesty. I will give it all away. Freely. My health will follow, shortly thereafter, because if we know anything about alcoholism and drug addiction, it’s that the disease is progressive. It doesn’t take time off, it just lurks in the shadows for an opportunity to wreak havoc.
I am evil when I drink, so every morning I wake up and thank God for my daily reprieve from alcoholism… and for helping me to remember just how bad I was before I quit. I have done this 9,360 times, and with a little grace and another daily reprieve, today will be 9,361.
I also remember that which is second-most important; I can have all of that misery back, if I miss it. All I have to do is take a drink.
The lesson for the day; don’t fuckin’ drink, even if your ass falls off. Put it in a plastic bag and take it to a meeting. Someone will be able to show you how they put theirs back on.
I feel a little chubby lately. My wife says I look great, but I don’t feel very svelte when I see a picture of me. Such is life.
Too many pulled pork sammiches, methinks…
That said, we have to keep things in context. I’m only three pounds over my perfect weight of 175 pounds, so it’s not all doom and gloom, either.
…And that’s twenty pounds under my heaviest weight from 2001.
I ride a brilliant amount of miles in a week. I feel cheated when I have to take a day off for rain. I took one day off last month… and I haven’t had to bother with an injury day off in more than six years. I had a bad back but running and cycling fixed that. I used to have anger issues, but riding reminds me of how good I’ve got it and how wonderful life is.
Now, here comes the meat and potatoes…
Cycling is a lot like cheating for me, when it comes to motivation. To this day, I can’t wait to get home so I can don my Lycra and go for a ride. Cycling today, takes me back to my childhood when my bike equaled freedom. So, for whatever it’s worth, when I throw my leg over a top tube, my worries fade to the background and life becomes just about getting down the road. What’s odd is that I’ve been able to maintain something of a balance, where normally anything that makes me feel good I usually overdo to the point I have to quit it to live a normal life. That hasn’t been the case with cycling.
The real test was the ten years prior to cycling when I was a runner. I never loved running but the endorphin rush was nice. I was injured a little more frequently, running, maybe once a year I’d have to nurse something back to health (usually my feet – plantar fasciitis), but I never missed a good opportunity to run – and I remained fairly thin through it all.
So here are my secrets to maintaining my healthy(ish) lifestyle over the years:
- I wanted to run a whole lot more than I wanted to get fat.
- I love good food, so it helps to have something to burn it off.
- Running was rarely, if ever, a solo event. I had a group of running friends and we kept each other honest. Cycling was a bit different at first. I could ride alone and I was content. Today, though, 80-90% of my time on a bike is spent riding with friends.
- To me, fat is ugly. I don’t want to be ugly more than I want to sit on the couch (see also, 1).
Now, for my last, biggest secret… This is the one that drives me to ride in the cold, to risk getting caught out in the rain, to push just a little harder than normal people:
I know, through actual, real experience (not some over-hyped, misquoted, poorly shaped study) that a sedentary life is vastly more painful than an active life. It’s not even close, and I see it all around me every day. Old, fat people hobbling down the sidewalk. Young fat people parking in the handicapped parking spots at the grocery store, family members who keep cutting what should be benign, fun activities because they hurt too much… They think they’re just too old to go bowling or swing a golf club. It’s not age that keeps them down, it’s inactivity. The more they give in, the more they give up…
My biggest secret to staying motivated is that won’t be me. When I die, I’m going out tired.
I can’t explain why my back likes cycling so much, but the results of 47,000 miles in the saddle are in, and they’re good.
First, I have a confession to make; if you guessed that I ride the bike I do, set up as it is, for reasons connected partly to vanity, you’re not wrong.
No doubt about it, my bike is sleek and awesome. So is my other one. And my other one. Oh, and let’s not forget my mountain bike…
Variations on a theme…
Anyway, getting back to the point, I ride in an aggressive posture. There’s a lot of drop from the saddle to the handlebar on my bikes. The mountain bike is the only one where the drop is a bit closer to normal.
Where this becomes important is that I have a really bad back. I have suffered physical back pain for most of the last three decades, unless I’m riding a bike. I used to define good weeks and bad weeks by how many Aleve I had to eat (because of my being an addict, I never accepted narcotic pain meds even though they could have been justified – I’d end up eating them like candy, it’s my nature). Two or three pain relievers a day for six days of the week was a really bad week. Two a day for three or four days in a week was average. One or two days a week was a good week. Before cycling, there was no such thing as a week without an Aleve (before 1994 it was Advil or Tylenol but I didn’t want to have to go through the pill amount conversion).
Today, after seven years of cycling regularly, my back isn’t cured but it certainly is manageable. My Aleve habit has dropped from as many as 20 pills a week down to one or two – or even none most weeks. On my recent mountain climbing cycling sabbatical I didn’t take a pain reliever. Three days, 160+ miles, climbing hills I’m not used to climbing, and I didn’t need anything for pain. My last day off the bike was April 14th, it’s currently May 20th.
I don’t do sit-ups, I don’t do core exercises, I don’t stretch… I just ride my bike with a smile stretched across my face, and it’s all good.
I’m sure there are contributing factors that explain my results, but I don’t know how to explain the fact I’m not all that flexible (I’ve never been able to touch my toes) but I can ride my bike comfortably with the aggressive set-up I’ve got, and doing so actually makes my back feel better.
In the end, I’m sure the lack of belly fat has something to do with it, as does the fact that I still get a great core workout riding. I think there’s one other thing at work here. It’s more a law; A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Conversely, a body at rest tends to stay at rest…