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I’m Having a Bit of Writer’s Block… But Because Life Is Grand?

I haven’t written a word in three days. I had a work thing pop up that’s provided a lot of unnecessary stress that I’ve been processing with the help (or hindrance?) of my new sponsor. I had an awesome meeting Wednesday night with some excellent friends. I’ve been working hard with a couple of sponsees, enough I don’t think I’d pick up another till I get done with my own fourth.

I’ve also been doing my GCN research and I should have a ton to write about… like their latest video about the differences between a modern road bike vs. Si’s 10-year old Specialized Tarmac SL3 – a fantastic video that shows a massive gap between the two… if you’re riding with shallow alloy wheels on the Specialized. I’d love to see the difference were they to put a set of period carbon wheels on the bike (or even something a little more modern). Many in the comments agreed that the gap would close to a margin of error. Still something, but not much of something.

Anyway, while I’ve got a little stress at work, I don’t believe it’s something that can’t be sorted out quickly and be back to better than normal with a little more “give a $#!!+”.

Everything else, my wife and my marriage, our home, our kids, the people we work with in recovery, and our cycling friends are, for the most part, cruising along and awesome. We’re into planning rides and signing up for them at the moment – planning our summers out. It should be a great one and I’m entirely looking forward to what my wife and I can do on our new tandem and her new (old) road bike.

My wife and I wake up together, thanking our HP for another day and for the journey we’ve been on (and what remains ahead).

It’s good times and noodle salad. And thank God for that.

Recovery and Workin’ Steps, Baby. How Free Do I Want to Be?

I started working with a new sponsor the other day. Let’s just say he’s not gentle. I’m starting a new fourth step and I’ve got a month and some change to get it done while he and his wife head down to Florida to get away from the worst of the winter. We’re right on the edge of the worst the winter will have to offer, so they’re heading down just at the right time… and that gives me time to work on a big fourth.

At first, I thought to myself, “a fourth step? Really? The more I thought about it, though, the more appealing the idea was. I’ve got a few things that I really want to unload.

So, humorously, as these things tend to work out, I’ve got two guys I’m sponsoring plus me working on the fourth and fifth. It’s going to be a busy February.

So, the question for today is how free do I want to be?

My answer is, free enough I want to do another fourth step.

Willing to Go to Any Length to Remain Sober…

I’ve asked a man, with direct lineage to my sponsor, Mike who passed away in 2009 to sponsor me, and he’s accepted… and made sure to point out that I have to be willing to go to any length (and put up with his bluntness). He then stated, after 30 years of recovery, I should have a pretty good handle on 1, 2 & 3, so I should probably start on 4 right away.

At first, of course, you can imagine my reaction; What?! A FOURTH Step? I’m on TEN, ELEVEN & TWELVE!

And then I thought, Well, Jim, any length is any length… and think of the good that can come from it! Let’s see just how free you can be.

I got over myself in about fourteen seconds and now I can’t wait. In fact, I’m sponsoring a new guy and he’s going through his first so we’ll be able to work on it together.

Plus, my new sponsor is one of the few people who display the ability to make other people feel better about being themselves with unconditional love. That’s what I want.

I’d have been able to remain sober another fifty years the way I was going, one day at a time, if I’d kept after it as I have in the past. But what better have I to do than find out just how good good is?

And so it begins. Again.

I love this stuff.

Contending with My Mortality While Using… Knowing The End Was Near and Looking Back.

I’m finally beginning to see why people soften as they age. I can see why we don’t take to violent movies the same now that I’m into my fifties. I can finally understand why they don’t send old people like us to war. I’m on the back nine, in a golfer’s parlance, and it’s beautiful back here…

The glorious thing about a human liver is that, if you choose to beat the ever-loving shit out of it in your youth, if you stop abusing it soon enough, it’ll repair itself. I had less than a decade left when I quit alcohol and drugs. Estimates were seven years. I would have been dust twenty years ago had I not turned it around.

As a kid, I tended to think I was on the immortal side. I thought the doctor was just trying to scare me. I’ve seen family, on my wife’s side, die. A week after, “The doctor says if I just quit for a year my liver will get better and I can go back to drinking”, she was dead.

I couldn’t see life without alcohol and drugs a week before I quit. I couldn’t see how it could be any fun to live without an escape from the fear, from the nagging down, from the misery I caused myself and others with bad choices and thinking. How can you have fun if you can’t escape, was the line of thinking.

I know the answer today; you build a life you don’t have to escape from.

There’s a downside to that, though, even if it’s technically an upside: Life is so sweet I’ve actually come to cherish it.

My life isn’t perfect. I don’t have caviar dreams and, the irony is sweet, the champagne wishes were flushed long ago. Every morning I wake up, though, I’m grateful for being on the right side of the grass. I lead a happy life today, and I care enough about it that it’s changed my attitude and outlook.

I went from hoping my days were numbered to hoping that number was huge.

Folks, recovery from addiction, especially early in life, is better than cheating death. I wasn’t even all that good at the work as is evidenced by the what I’ve had to correct in the last year… and things turned out so much better than I could have hoped, I’m thankful I’m not the architect of my fate. If I’d have tried to sit down and map my life out as a recovering 24-year-old kid, I’d have shorted myself.

If you’re struggling, don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. Remember perspective. If you can’t think of a reason to be happy, or to even keep breathing, try looking at it differently; why not repair the damage so you can help others in your same spot recover from their pain, too? The key is in helping others, folks. If you’re struggling, try it. If feel you have nothing to give, the answer is to work at it till you do.

Recover hard, my friends. It’s beautiful out here.

I’m Starting to Fantasize About Riding My Trek Outside…

I’m sitting here at the dining room table, trying to figure out what I want to write about and I’m looking over at my Trek sitting in the trainer. I’ve been daydreaming about taking it outside for days… just not in the amount of winter gear it would take to legitimately ride the thing without getting hypothermia. In my daydream, I’m in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, bombing down the road with my wife and friends. The sun is shining and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, even if you could catch me.

Yep. A lot like that.

That’s not all, though! In fact, the vast majority of my rare daydream time is spent daydreaming about rocketing down the road with my wife on our new tandem… the silver paint job, the special factory applied decals on the top tube with our names and anniversary date… all light and sassy (the new tandem is going to be sixteen pounds lighter that the one we just sold). I actually dreamt about it last night.

Just two months to go and we’ll be outside again. I’m ready.

The Joy of Loving without Fear

Since I changed how I live with my wife last year, trying to do away with selfish and self-centeredness, I’ve been exceptionally fearful and I haven’t written much about it. When I was wrapped up with how awesome I was, I’d built up walls that protected me from hurt… and my wife wasn’t afraid to dole it out from time to time.

Then, just like that, the way I’d been living just wasn’t good enough anymore and I started to change.

Now, to the point of this post; my wife and I used to sweep a lot of hurtful stuff under the rug because we were both afraid to fully talk about anything for fear of that leading to a massive fight. Forgive the phrasing, but when you sweep stuff under the rug, eventually it piles up to a point you have to walk around the rug rather than over it. That was us.

With this new way of life, I chose to ditch the fear. My wife, too. We began talking about some serious issues that caused a lot of fear and pain in our marriage and, when we got to something my wife felt I’d done wrong, rather than look for ways to deny it, I learned to own my stuff. Fearlessly and without flinching. If my wife was mistaken, I’d look at my behavior and, if what she was saying was reasonable, I’d say something like, “I never had that in my heart, but I can understand why you took it that way”. We didn’t justify the other’s feelings if they weren’t accurate, but we didn’t hold them against each other anymore, either.

Today, after eight months of practicing this, nothing goes under the rug. Nothing. My wife and I can talk about anything that we need to without the fear of the other taking advantage.

Now, it wasn’t always like this. My wife used to hammer me by weaponizing what I said. She’d take a snippet of something I said and turn it into a strawman that she could easily strike down. I got frustrated with that approach so I learned to just clam up and not talk about anything important. Before long, that morphed into not caring and withdrawal from the marriage. My wife did the same and would throw in the silent treatment in… until everything blew up under the pressure and we got into a massive donnybrook.

The miracle was that we started working together on these things rather than trying to make points off of them. Today, if I’m feeling a little hurt, I can say so and my wife won’t turn it back on me. We’ll talk it through. That shoe also fits on the other foot as well. My wife can come to me with anything and we negotiate that stuff out. We’ve gotten so good at negotiating, we rarely bother with fighting anymore.

We’ve built our marriage on a solid foundation. Today we don’t have to worry about sweeping anything under the rug. In fact, I’m pretty sure we can throw the rug away.

It’s My Birthday (And Now My Daughter’s Too)…

We were talking with our daughter, my wife and I as we lay in bed the other night, I asked my daughter if she was coming up on 60 days alcohol-free… and she said she had another several days to go, that her day was on the 18th. November 18th.

So as she was talking, I blurted out, “Wait a second, the 18th is my day! We share our anniversary!” To which she responded by bursting into tears and said, “Dad, that’s so f’in’ cool! I love you!”

I celebrated 30-years in recovery November 18th. My daughter sobered up 30-years, to the day, after me.

And that’s why we do it, folks. Good times, noodle salad.

That’s my girl!

What Nice Thing Can I Do For My Spouse Today?

Having a penchant for being blindly self-centered, I have a little cheat that helps me remember that I’m a part of a team today.

Every Thursday at 1:00 in the afternoon, I have a reminder that pops up that says, “What nice thing can I do for Jess today?”

I’ve started driving home, only to turn back around and head back to my wife’s office to blare our wedding song on my phone as I held it above my head, standing outside the door (that one was a winner – WHAM!). I’ve stopped by the flower store a few times. I stopped by the bakery and picked up the most ridiculously decadent chocolate cake I could find. Most times it’s something simple, just to let her know I was thinking of her. Maybe folding the clothes before she gets home, or going the extra mile in getting dinner ready.

I’ve never missed a Thursday in eleven months. Almost a full year, now.

If you want to know how to let your spouse know they’re special and loved, I can’t think of any better way. Try it. You’ll like it.

The simplest (possibly fastest) way of saving your marriage. Sadly, this isn’t a clickbait post; it’s simple, easy it is not. Part One: Owning My Own

My wife has her numerous flaws. If not for her flaws, and I mean this literally, she’d have picked a better man. Every time I look at my wife’s issues before mine, or worse, as the excuse for mine, the wheels fall off.

And that’s all I’ll say in this post about my wife’s flaws, with the exception they will be mentioned once in the context of my own.

When Jess and I set about righting our marriage, I had the blessing of understanding that I was deeply flawed and self-centered. It’s almost as if I was given the reflection of myself through her eyes. I asked God to show me who I really was and “self-centered, egomaniac with an inferiority complex” was not too unkind. Sure, I’d done some good work on that through the program, but this was a vastly deeper level that most sponsors simply wouldn’t have the depth of knowledge to coax out.

And I’d be willing to guess most have this blind spot, though I call it a blind spot for a reason. You really have to dig to see it.

Anyway, from the day I saw who I really was, I set out to be accountable for that person, not the guy I thought I was. In a short sentence, “I owned my $#!+.” Now, in literary parlance, we are taught to refrain from the ease of cursing. A curse word is a crutch for conversational cripples, as they say (Easy, sparky, it just fits with the words crutch and conversational, and is used solely in terms of being conversationally inadequate. If you can’t see that, before you run to the comments section, please pull your bottom lip over your forehead and suck. Hard.) This is one of the rare occasions where the curse word is the perfect fit.

I had to learn how to worry about my own issues because those are the only issues I can do anything about.

Now, if you’re like me, and you have a problem of your own, you’re thinking, “But how do I let my spouse know when they’re treading on me inappropriately?” How do you let your spouse know what their issues are if you can only concentrate on yours?

First, if you read that second question and thought, yes, that’s exactly it! You just might have a problem. You have your own shit to deal with, and probably a lot of it but you’re not without measures to negotiate for peace on your own behalf. Nicely.

This part is simple, too, though a little hard to live by. For the first four to six months I didn’t get to say a word about my spouse’s flaws. I had been an arrogant, ignorant fool and my wife deserved to see the new me for a while; to see that it wasn’t just a gimmick. I worked on my own stuff and owned that stuff when my wife brought things up. Without fear but also without taking a lashing for it… but oddly enough, I didn’t have to worry about taking a lashing. I think Jess was so surprised she just rolled with it. A simple, “You know what, you’re right. I’ll look at it and make the necessary changes.” was all it took. I simply try to remember this; I was blind to my behavior and my wife put up with it for a long time. She is trying to help me move through the marriage less stupidly.

That’s what works for me.

After that period, I learned how to nicely ask my wife to help me understand her words or actions better. I’d start with “This is how I perceived [insert what she did or said here], help me to understand what I’m missing.”

If putting it like that starts a brawl, I’m out. I have no idea where to go from there. My wife was so over the moon that I tried to understand her before jumping to conclusions, she talked about it for weeks.

Our New Tandem is Almost Here… and An Unexpected Note on New Bikes

Jess and I spoke with the owner of our local shop yesterday and he gave us the report he’d spoken with Co-Motion just the other day and found out our tandem is coming along right on time; it looks like the very end of February or beginning of March at this point – perfect for the start of the 2023 season.

Jess and I were getting excited yesterday, talking about new adventures for next year after having been through our total marriage makeover which is proving to be better than either of us hoped for.

My biggest problem is I haven’t made enough to retire at 53-years old. Had I, it’d be all over but the shouting. Sadly, I’ve got another decade and some change before that’s a possibility, but I can be patient on that front. We still have a lot of excellent adventures on the horizon.

Now, on another note, I have had to change my understanding a little bit on new bikes; they’re not terribly over-priced… at least, not as much as I once thought. The Trek Emonda, at 18 pounds and costing $5,000, comes out the door with Shimano’s Di2 105 groupset and legit 35mm carbon wheels. Folks, for what I have into my bikes and considering what the world has been through, that’s a fair deal.

Even Specialized has a fairly legit equipped Aethos that comes with DT Swiss wheels and SRAM Rival eTap 12-speed for $5,200.

I’d go with the Emonda any day of the week and twice on Sunday for $200 less than the Specialized, by the way.

If Specialized were to quote Ken Miles (or, technically Christian Bale) in Ford vs. Ferrari, “If that was the beauty pageant, we just lost”. Even with the eTap drivetrain.

All of that said, I’m liking Trek a lot more these days. I’ll have more on why at the start of the season. I’m glad I own a Trek that I love to ride.