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How to Stop a Panic Attack, or how I could have stopped Mine…

Panic attacks are real and they SUUUUUUUCK.  I was hit by my first (and thankfully my last) about eight months after I sobered up.  I happened on a post published on a blog I just started following a few weeks ago that would have changed how I handled mine.  I’m passing this on for any newcomers to sobriety who frequent my blog…  If you haven’t experienced a panic attack yet, fantastic!  Read the post anyway in case in comes up down the road.  I wished I had this 25 years ago:

https://navigatemyrecovery.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-panic-attacks-in-order-to-stop-them/

If you are having, ever have had, or haven’t yet had a panic attack, the linked post will help. Check it out.

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Recovery and the Great Debate: Which came First, the Chicken or the Egg

Once we sober up and come out of the haze that once distorted our perception, we tend to want to dissect every little part of our life to figure out why – you know, because our thinking up till that point has been so spectacular.

Why do resentments mess with us so much?  Why are we powerless over alcohol?  Why must we only look at our part in a situation where someone else wronged us?  Why must we find a Higher Power, something greater than ourselves, rather than go with self-reliance (because that obviously did so well for us right up until we sobered up)?  Why this, why that, why the other?

Those who remain miserable (by choice, I might add), push the silly debates that don’t have simple answers.  My resentment is different, I was really wronged and I don’t have a part in that, it’s all their fault and I have a right to be angry!  So I’ll hang onto that resentment because it serves me so well, you know, being a victim and miserable and all…  I don’t need a higher power because I’m so all-fired special that I can make self-will work for me!  I don’t need the Fourth and Fifth Steps, I can skip those…  This is what we call “the which came first, the chicken or the egg debate”.

Who cares which came first?  They both taste great fried.

You can work whatever program you like, whatever you think will work.  Just don’t come whining to me when you realize you’re a miserable shit…  Of course you are!  You skipped all of the important stuff that everyone else does to get better!

Let go of the great chicken and egg debate…  It doesn’t matter which came first and never will.

Fit Recovery’s Best Posts; 2011 to Present

For those who are new to my blog, I wanted to do a compilation of some of my most read posts of all time.  Some will appear on the right of my home page, but for those who read my posts in the WP browser, you’ll never see that list.  Not surprising, my most popular posts, without exception, pertain to cycling.  I’ll do a separate list for recovery posts another day.  So without further ado…

10:  With just shy of 12,600 hits, I wrote a review post on my Specialized Venge after 700 miles back in October of 2013.  It’s actually time for another review on that bike… This one for 15,000 miles.

9.  With just over 13,000 hits, I was infatuated with trying to slam my stem to get in the most aggressive position possible ever since I brought home my first real road bike.  The post is The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Want Speed? SLAM THAT STEM!!! To a Degree.

8.  How much Faster is a Road Bike than a Mountain Bike Pt 2: It’s not just the Tires comes in at number 8.  I did quite a bit of research for this post and laid it out simply…  There’s a reason road bikes are chosen for speed…

7.  Road Bikes: Internal vs. External Cable Routing, with 16,200 hits, comes in at number seven.  This is an opinion piece on why I’d choose internal over external routing any day of the week and twice on Sunday…  External has its place, of course, it’s as simple as you get, but in terms of saving maintenance, internal routing is as good as it gets.

6.  With 18,700 hits, A Newbie Comparison of Shimano Shifters…UPDATED is a look at Shimano’s line of components from back in February of 2012.  Not much has changed since, except 10 speeds, 11 speeds, electronic shifting….  Well, a lot has changed, but the post still stands.

5.  Coming in at number five is part one of the two-part “How much Faster is a Road Bike than a Mountain Bike” post.  In this post I actually give numbers and times.  This isn’t a guess at how much faster a road bike is than a mountain bike.  Interestingly, I got those numbers on the Trek…  If I’d had the Venge back then, the difference would be greater.

IMG_5408

4.  With more than 20,000 hits (and climbing, this post still gets 20-60 hits a day) is my Noob’s Guide to Buying Cycling Shorts: Exactly what to look for and what to avoid.  The post gets right down to it, including the difference between a 20 mile pair of shorts and a 100 mile pair.

3.  Next, I wrote a post back in December of 2011, just twelve days into my blogging experience, about how I made my mountain bike fast, on a budget.  The post only got five “likes” at the time (which I thought was awesome) but it continues to bring people in.  Of course, now that I’m not a noob (cyclist or blogger) I know the best way to make a mountain bike fast is to buy a road bike…

2.  Number two on the list, with 23,400 hits is one of the best posts I’ve ever written on cycling:  Cycling, Speed and Cadence – Why the 90 RPM Cadence is So Important to Cycling Fast

Finally, with a whopping 55,622 hits, 38 “Likes” and 75 comments – and second only to views on my homepage/about page, from May 15, 2012, I wrote How I Got Fast – A Noob’s Guide To A 23 mph Average.  If you haven’t read the post and think I’m full of it, you aren’t the first.  I’d direct you to the proof post, here.  Please know, while the proof is real, the anger is tongue in cheek.  That said, be sure to scroll down to the bottom to get the full effect.  😀

The chica in all of the photos above is my best cycling bud, my wife.

When does Recovery Begin? A Dangerous Precedent is Being Set right under Your Nose… Or maybe it’s just Me

Before we even get started down this road, let me make one thing very clear: I do not represent any Twelve Step Program in any way shape or form. The following post will be my own personal experience, strength and hope. The following will be how I see things. As the program goes, it has no dog in any fight. It neither opposes nor endorses any cause. Period. End of story. If you’re looking for AA or NA’s opinion on when recovery begins, don’t bother reading any further because this won’t be it. I am recovery’s Don Quixote, and evidence based recovery is my windmill. You have been trigger (heh) warned.

I’m a little hardcore and old-school about recovery. Snake oil salesmen have been around for a long time so I’m a little more than skeptical when a new drug is introduced that will revolutionize recovery and put recovery in the hands of those who really don’t want to give up their escape mechanism. I am also weary of people in the new U.S. recovery industry who aren’t actually in recovery… Some are good but are missing one important understanding, well two. First is why we use in the first place. The second is why we can’t use anything once we’ve transitioned from recreational alcohol/drug use alcoholic/addict. Once a pickle, we don’t go back to being a cucumber. If you can’t understand the why and the addict, prescribing and antidote is damn near impossible, because the disease isn’t only medical. It’s physical and mental.

Back in the good old days, before “evidence based recovery” (a new term that offers no evidence that it actually works, it’s a term used to describe anything other than a Twelve Step Program or anything devoid of a “faith based” recovery that simply makes the alternative sound legitimate) getting clean or sober was simple, or relatively so… You went to AA meetings, whether pushed to do so by the courts or on one’s own volition, you sobered up and went on to great things… or you found God at church… or you did it white knuckled on your own… Either way, you put down drugs and alcohol and lived a different life. Sobriety began when you ceased taking drugs or alcohol. Recovery began when you ceased taking drugs or alcohol and did something to return to normalcy as the definition of recovery suggests.

Then came treatment centers that would combine sedatives, drugs and an introduction to a Twelve Step program. Then Narcotics Anonymous, because Alcoholics Anonymous was admittedly lacking when it came to handling drug addicts. Either way, the entire system pushed everyone into AA or NA and for the 15% of our population who don’t believe in some kind of Higher Power or God, this was problematic. This isn’t to say neither program required belief in a Higher Power, only fools and knaves truly believe that (in fairness, there are some members who can be rather insistent and silly about one’s turn to faith). In the end, ignorance won the day and a movement away from the volunteer based program of recovery began to give way to the new pay-based recovery handed down by professionals with loads of letters after their name that only they understand.

This wasn’t all bad. We of AA and NA tended to deal with a lot of crazy, and now that crazy is getting farmed out to institutions.

Unfortunately, with institutions comes a need to show results… and that comes with problems.

Old school AA and NA didn’t care about results the same way a government agency does. We offered a way of life, either you accepted it or you didn’t. Either way, we aren’t getting paid to make a person recover so we wouldn’t be held responsible for their failure to actually quit, it was all up to choice. Lawyers would send their clients to meetings to show the court their client really cared and felt sorry for their misdeed(s). Judges would sentence small-time offenders to meetings so they could be turned on to a new way of life… And we accepted all of them (in fact, I was one of those myself). We offered them what we were so freely given and helped save millions from their addiction in the process. We also allowed those who were just there to have their court paper signed to join in. It was our understanding that, while they were only there to get their butt out of trouble, at least we were planting a seed that let them know where they could go when they were truly ready to quit using their drug of choice. We let them go on their way, hoping they’d be back another day.

Institutions don’t work that way. Institutions want results. Studies were done and estimates given referring to AA and NA’s success rates. Of everyone who walks through a door to an AA meeting, I’ve heard as few as 3 to 5% make one year of real sobriety. Now, you may think that bad, but hang on because that number is skewed and I’ll show you how. Of those 3% who make one year, 85% make it to five years. How could that be?

Almost all of those who don’t have a desire to sober up leave before the first year.

If you based the numbers on those who actually work the program and the steps, the success rate is closer to a 98% success rate. In 25 years sober, I’ve only seen one person fail who was thoroughly following the path. One. And in his case, he was a mental patient with a bi-polar diagnosis and he refused to properly take his prescribed medication. He literally blew up his heart with a cocktail of medication and drugs. His name was Jeff, and I still miss him (he passed more than 15 years ago). What is missing in the numbers is weeding out those who refuse to “thoroughly follow the path”. I thoroughly follow the path, so I make it. Others I work with choose not to, so they don’t. It’s not rocket science.

Now, let’s get to the real topic in the Title, because this post has been getting away from me a little bit with basic history… When does recovery actually begin?

Up until recently, recovery’s definition was quite simple. It followed the dictionary definition of recovery: “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength”. Using drugs and alcohol, paging Captain Obvious, to cope with life is not normal. Therefore it’s quite simple to make the leap that one is not “recovering” until one is off meds (though this tends to change with mental patients who do need medication regularly, approximately 10% of those who are given psychotherapeutic meds – unfortunately, 90% of the 90% think they belong in the 10% but let’s not get lost again).

Enter the new “evidence based” recovery establishment. They want results, no matter how bad they are…

I recently got into an interesting discussion with a blogging counselor who insists that even though an addict is on psychotropic medication (methadone) for heroin addiction, that person should be considered to be “in recovery”. I disagree, but only with certain parts of the argument. I believe in honesty (it’s a core tenet of recovery – in fact, nothing is more important to recovery than honesty). A person who is on blocking medication, or medication that blocks the body’s ability to respond to opiates, is definitely in recovery (as long as they’re abstaining from any other drug use and working to return to a normal existence). Methadone is a different story, though. Methadone is a watered down version of heroin or morphine. Anyone on methadone, or any other “watered down” version of a drug that will get one high, can’t be in recovery by definition. Relying on drugs is not a return to normalcy.

It would be like claiming you’re in recovery because you’ve switched from Budweiser to Bud Light or switched from whiskey to beer. How about the much-maligned “marijuana maintenance program”? Can’t drink alcohol? Get high on pot instead! Bam, you’re in recovery! Preposterous as that may seem, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

And thus is begun the war on reality to claim results where results don’t exist. The counselor, in response to my comment wrote that judging a person’s path to recovery is bad and will make that person feel bad. We should instead celebrate that the person is no longer “a menace to society” or they may even be a “productive member of society” so they should be considered “in recovery”. And therein lies the rub.

A person getting high is not in recovery. A person who still has to get high likely won’t address the underlying cause(s) of their addiction and will therefore continue to try to game the system, manipulate people, lie, cheat, steal, and “shoot moves” as we say. That is not now, nor should it ever be, considered normal.

I get that we don’t want to be Judgey McJudgipantses, but we have to be honest. Recovery starts when the path to normalcy is chosen. If someone wants to pay a pro Tens of Thousands of Dollars to walk that path, or they want to pay a buck a meeting makes no never mind to me, as long as we’re walking the path. This is why I’m always leery of people who aren’t in recovery becoming counselors and treatment center managers. If you haven’t walked in my shoes, it’s almost impossible for you to grasp the simplest of concepts pertaining to us. They may be book-smart, but they have no idea how low I’ll go for a fix. We are a hopeless lot that the medical community shunned as impossible to help for thousands of years. The reason we’re helpless is that when one drop hits enters our system, we need more. When normal people get a buzz, they don’t like the feeling and want to stop.

For a person like me, I feel whole again. I feel alive. I feel at peace… Artificially. When I feel that good, more of whatever I’m using should make me feel even better!

You can’t fix that with a pill, and you certainly can’t stop that freight train with a watered down potato gun version of the drug that causes that feeling. Twenty-five years in recovery, one drop passes my lips and I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the consequences. One drop. Because it’s not the alcohol that’s the problem. It’s that I can’t win the debate in my head that wants more.

I am a two-fisted drunken loser on a daily reprieve from my addiction and my name is Jim. My addiction is real. My addiction is sitting back in the corner of my mind doing sit-ups and push-ups and pull-ups, just waiting for me to make a mistake… and you can’t fix that with a pill.

What does a Sober Person do when the Wheels fall off?

If the wheels don’t fall off in life every now and again, you’re not taking enough good risks.

It happens.

Call your sponsor, go to a meeting or twelve, and don’t drink.  You put the wheels back on…

Roll on.

Some things I just can’t Relate to with other Alcoholics…

I was at a meeting yesterday and the topic was, as read from the chapter “We Agnostics” out of the Big Book of AA, the Higher Power as you understand Him/it…

I always love the ego involved in those who won’t (for whatever reason) grasp the concept of a Higher Power. You want to hear an overuse of ‘I’ or ‘me’, just sit back and smile.

I had my fill of “I” and “me” yesterday.

When I sobered up, at my first meeting out of treatment, one old-timer said something to the effect of, “It’s bumpy. Best to grab your ass with both hands and hold on for the ride”.

Who has two thumbs and was grabbin’ cheek?

This guy.

Twenty-five years ago, I’m sitting in the top bunk of a treatment center bedroom, shaking, sweating and hurting. DT’s suck.

Anyway, I’m laying up there in that top freaking bunk and life is sucking pretty bad.  I’ve got enough trouble piled up that the whole entire State of Michigan decided I should sober up.  I’d been through two weeks of groups at that point and the topic of a Higher Power came up in quite a few of them.  Many of the counselors and other patients I spoke with told me believing in a Higher Power would help me stay sober, based on the instruction part of The Big Book (the first 164 pages).  I had a problem with that, though.  Being a Catholic from Confirmation, I was pretty sure God didn’t want much to do with me after how I lived the last six years of my life.  I figured I was in a Fire and Brimstone time out.

So there I am and true as the saying is about atheists and foxholes, I begged for God (as I understood God at the time) for a deal.  I’d give sobriety everything I had if He’d help me get through it.  Twenty minutes before that was the last time I wanted to get drunk more than I wanted to stay sober.

When I made my decision to sober up, for real (that would be up in that top bunk) and made my deal with my Higher Power, I accepted that I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to sobering up.  The best I’d done prior was two weeks, and they were two miserable weeks!  I needed to be teachable, so I stowed my ego away and let others who knew better than I how to stay sober, teach me.  I did as they said and I managed to put a few 24 hours together.  I cleaned up the wreckage of my past to a point where life didn’t suck so bad.  Then I got to a point where I didn’t want to have to go through all of that shit again and had something to work for, to stay sober for…

To this day I still remain teachable because as I grow in my sobriety, I run into situations that I don’t necessarily know how to handle.  I take those situations to friends (usually my sponsor) and try to figure out the right way to handle them.

See, here’s the problem; We know that our problems are of our own making, for the most part, and that our lives using alcohol or drugs were based almost entirely on self-will run riot, right?  Right.  Folks, if my whole problem is a life lived on self-will run riot, the last thing I want to use to fix that is more self-will.  This is why something greater than me worked where I failed.  Miserably.  Every time.

I can’t relate to those who think they’re so great that they don’t have to remain teachable.

Why Green Vegan Smoothies are such an Integral Part of a Weight Loss Diet

You know those nasty, blended vegan, green goop smoothies…  The smoothies they say are an “acquired taste” that, in terms of flavor, really come in somewhere between dirt and your lawn clippings?

I tried one.  Once.  It was much worse than I’d imagined it could be.

They are great for weight loss though.  Blend one up, take a sniff of it (or a tiny sip if you must, to get maximum stomach turnage), then pour it right into the toilet.  Save yourself the trouble of trying to choke that $#!+ down.

That and a cup of coffee, and there’s your breakfast.  Three or four calories on the daily  count.

Wait, I’ve had an epiphany!  Why not just buy a bike, ride the wheels off it and opt for the bacon, egg and cheese bagel instead?

Yes, indeed.  That’s more like it.