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Day 259 Days of Recovery from Procrastination

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I’ve never seen anyone drink their way to happiness…

Or, as the linked post explains, I’ve never seen anyone procrastinate themselves into happiness.

Never thought of it quite so simply, but it sure does work.  Please take a moment and check the linked post out.

Each Day is A Gift… In Recovery. Outside, They Tend to Resemble Something Less Stellar.

A radio personality here in Michigan likes to start his broadcast off every day by saying, “Each day is a gift”.

Recently I’ve been on a kick, really enjoying the day for what it is – and with everything that’s been going on lately, that hasn’t been easy.  One of my favorite Uncle’s died last week, my wife’s stepmom’s brother was diagnosed with ALS, and we had another tragedy to deal with that makes the other two pale in comparison – and I won’t be able to write about that for at least a year, if ever.  We told our daughters, after protecting them all week, about that one and they were devastated.  My youngest spent the whole weekend in some stage of tears.

Recovery was never touted as being easy by the old-timers when I first walked in the door.  Nobody says it gets easier.  It gets better.  And it did get better because got better.  On the other hand, I always remember, on a daily basis, exactly what can happen if I decide to pick up a drink.  I can have my misery back any time I want it.

Sadly, I see people choose the misery on a regular basis.  It’s heartbreaking, what can happen – and how quickly we slide down the scale.  There’s no fighting gravity, though.

The only chance I have to feel that today really is a gift is to stay on the path.  And so I shall.

How to Talk About Bikes… and Dealing with Snooty One-upmanship: A Funny Case In Point

Trigger (heh) warning:  Don’t take this post too seriously.  It’s meant to make you laugh – and I’m sufficiently ironic and self-deprecating enough that if it angers you, well, it’s you.  Besides, it’s been a while since I’ve gone off on a good tangent, and if you knew the week I’ve had, you know I need to go off on a good tangent (sorry, friends, I just can’t get into all of it on this page – it’s not you, there are reasons).  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

Talking about bikes with some people is a bit like dancing with a cocky partner.  If you’re too nervous, invariably you’re going to step on their toe(s).  It’s a given.  And that cocky partner will seize the opportunity to smack you down.  On the other hand, if you’re sufficiently equipped and confident in the ability you do possess, you just might muddle through to get a compliment at the end.  Friends, I speak from experience.  I think I may have crippled a square dancing partner or two, though just momentarily, before I got my groove on – as they say – as a young lad.

Such is the dance.

I wrote about my new Trek 5200 handlebar upgrade yesterday, and after reading it again, I realized I’d employed a literary technique so impressive, it required its own post.  I wrote an update on that post, and this post is the in-depth explanation of that update.  Don’t worry, we’ve got some rain to let dry up this morning before we ride.  I’ve got the time.  If you do, take a moment.  Hopefully, this’ll give you a little chuckle.

We’ve all dealt with the snooty bike snob.  The person who knows everything about bikes, and isn’t shy about that knowledge, or the inference to your lack thereof.  They can be far more intimidating that the megalomaniac dancer mentioned above… and I’m here to help.

In the case of my Specialized drop bar on my Trek bike, in my last post, I preemptively sufficiently out-snootied a person who might think to leave a snooty comment about not mixing parts on branded bikes – for instance, I believe one of the Ten Commandments of Cycling is, “Thou Shalt Not Put Competing Brand Parts on One’s Bicycle”.  Err something like that.  Did you notice in that post? Here’s the line:

I’ve been okay with this because I love the drop, reach, and curve of the bar.

The fact I like the “reach, drop and curve of the bar” preemptively out-snooties a snooty comment.  That one line says to a bike snob, without actually saying it, “I have enough miles on that particular drop bar, and I’ve ridden enough other drops, to know that I prefer the Specialized bar.  See?  It’s great and subtle.  I didn’t overdo it, either.  I also kept some powder dry, as they say – and I did this on purpose.  The next step in this little, sordid, handlebar Hambo, would be for a snooty cyclist to take the bait and leave a comment about how loving the drop is no justification, that reaches and drops can be fairly matched from brand to brand.  Now, you’d think old mister snotty, there, would have a point – but because this is about bikes, specifically road bikes, I’d actually done my research before putting a Specialized bar on my Trek bike – because I’m sufficiently snooty enough to know you don’t mix parts on bikes… unless you’re sufficiently snooty enough yourself to pull that $#!+ off with your vast array of knowledge due to extensive research on drop handlebars.  

And I am that guy.

The next step in the handlebar Hakken is to have the ability to really up the ante – because if someone is willing to break through preemptive snootiness, chances are, you’ve got a winner on your hands.  You’ve gotta have something in your bag to let them know you know your stuff equal to or beyond their knowledge.  The trick here is to be just enough of an @$$hole to end the conversation, without going overboard and causing your tormentor to do some research of their own – because at that point, you’ll be signing yourself up for a battle you just don’t have the time to deal with.

In my case I’d go with, “I know, there are Bontrager drop bars that come close to the Specialized Tarmac bend, within a couple of millimeters on the reach and a few on the drop, but that Tarmac bend just suits how the Trek fits me.  For me, it just works.  It’s the reach, drop and the bend that puts it over the top.”

See what I did there?  I was able to take it a step further without beating the assailant to a bloody pulp.  Sufficiently one-upped, but I didn’t want to take it too far.  The ability to go with the “Tarmac bend”, again, shows I’ve done my homework and I’m not just throwing parts at bikes.  It says, “I’m with you, bro.”  Which is nice.  But not too nice, because anyone willing to persist after all of that is a little iffy.  Not impossible to be friendly with, but definitely inching up on the line.

I’ve done this dance before and the next step can get a little messy.

You’ve sufficiently acquitted yourself and properly explained your choice at that point.  Any fair minded cyclist would allow you your dalliance of mixing parts after the second well thought out explanation.  And I mean any reasonable cyclist.  Every once in a while, though, you’re going to run into a super-snob.  You’re dealing with the ultra cycling snob who actually wears a cape with an U-C-S emblazoned on it.  I’ve dealt with this one a time or twelve in the several years I’ve been writing about cycling and recovery.  This person isn’t worth being friends with, or friendly to… but, because we are friendly and decent people, we don’t have to make this bloody.  Whatever their next comment is, no matter how over-the-top, it’s time for the end.  “Well, I appreciate your opinion and your strict adherence to the Velominati’s rules, but I’m happy with my choice.  I’ll take that you don’t approve under advisement and treat it with the care and concern it deserves.”

Which would be the equivalent of crumpling it up and tossing it in the circular file.  If that doesn’t work, and I’ve been up against this a few times, it’s time to ignore the person.  I’ve said all I’m going to say on it.  I’ve gone above and beyond to establish my bona fides.  I need go no further.

And that about says it.  Mostly.

What It Feels Like to Be Able to Ride Really, Really Fast

See also my post yesterday, from the club ride.  That notwithstanding, Monday…

Chuck and I were out on a perfect day for a bike ride.  Well, perfect except the 16-mph (call it 26 km/h) headwind straight outta Chuck’s driveway.  I’d been out early for some bonus miles, so I knew the ride west was going to suck pretty bad, but the ride home was going to be fun.  We’re never looking to push it on a Monday because we’ve got the big Tuesday night main event to save the legs for, but…

The weather for Tuesday night’s edition of the club ride is supposed to be perfect (it wasn’t quite perfect, but it was close).  It’s going to be fast, so there was a lot to save for (it definitely was that).

The headwind portion of the ride was front-loaded – everything was packed into the first half of the ride, which is the way I like it.  We were still in “take it easy” mode through the first subdivision with a tailwind.  Then we popped out onto Miller Road, our first long stretch with a tailwind and a bike lane.  Coming down a shallow hill, I had to feather the brakes a bit to let a stoplight change back to green… coasting… coasting… and green.  I started to put the hammer down with just 100′ of down left.  Nothing too serious at first, but I just love getting my  pedal bike up to the speed limit (30-mph).  I kept it at 27-mph to remain in the realm of “kinda takin’ it easy” and took the full two-mile tailwind, then another mile of crosswind, with a hint of tail at 20-21-mph before relinquishing the front to Chuck.  He took the next mile and change.

We came up to the corner for the start of the single Strava segment on the route.  Almost a full mile long, I hold the KOM at 1m:59s and I wanted to get Chuck second place.  Our friend, Mike I. has had second place, 11 seconds behind me, for a while….  We rounded the corner hard, leaning into it at better than 21-mph and Chuck hit the gas, taking it to 26.  I let him pull half a mile, then came around and picked up the pace.  I was still accelerating as we started uphill to our turn, and the end of the segment.  I had my head down, hands in the drops, pushing with almost everything I had as we passed 30-mph….

Traffic picked up at the intersection as we approached just over 30, so I signaled a slowdown and started to back it down.  And we were on the home stretch, back to taking it easy again.

Chuck and I were three seconds off getting him second place, and I was kinda bummed.  We held a 26.3-mph average for the mile but needed 28, methinks.  I should have taken the front with fresher legs a little sooner.

There is nothing like cruising down the road, well north of 25-mph, tailwind or no.  Just remembering the exhilaration has me smiling as I type this, ten hours after I pulled into the driveway… and I get that on a daily basis, whenever I want.  All I need is an hour and my bike.  Tuesday night, I’ll get my fill I ate at the damn buffet as we hammer(ed) like that for 30 28 miles in less than an hour-twenty an hour-twelve and change, and I’ll be smiling again, tomorrow morning, as I write my post about the experience (that definitely happened exactly as I imagined it). [I know this is a little hacked up – I wrote this post on Monday for publishing on Tuesday, but I had so much fun on the TNCR, that post took precedence.  I apologize for this.]

The point is, I’ve never regretted how hard I had to work those first three years to get this fast.  I’d go out three days a week and push the pedals on my old road bike till I puked in my mouth… then I’d let up for a mile and try to do it again.  Oh, I’d ride all seven days, but three were for excessively hard “workouts”.  Now I reap the benefits of that hard work.  I get to feel like a little kid again whenever I throw a leg over the top tube… and that’s as good as it gets as I wrap up my last year in my 40’s.  I never hoped I’d be having this much fun at my age.  Nothing I saw out of my parents as I grew up would have led me to believe it was even possible.  Here I am, though, and it’s sweet.

 

Applying the Definition of “Insanity” to Recovery…

The definition of insanity as applied to recovery was ever thus; doing the same thing(s), over and over again, and expecting different results.

I’ve been reading a guy who fancies himself a victim because he is terrible at not drinking.  The problem, as he doesn’t see it, is that he does everything wrong.  Going by what he writes on his blog, it appears he makes the exact same choices he did when he was using and can’t figure out why he keeps getting drunk.  Oh, he’ll get some piece of advice that’s going to be the game changer, that’ll finally change his attitude so that he won’t pick up again… It’s a breakthrough, you see!  Then, sooner than later, he falls into an old pattern and he’s back out, wondering what the hell just happened.

Like I said at the beginning, the very definition of insanity.

My friends, that’s simply the way we roll.  Insanely.  The only reason for my success in recovery, the one single thing that set the recovery process in motion so I could actually recover, is that I quit fighting recovery.  I gave up every notion, read that again for the cheap seats, e-v-e-r-y notion that I could ever be, or live like, a normal drinker again.  That means near beer, too; near beer, near death, that means any form of dope (including pot), because I didn’t drink (or do drugs) for taste, I drank for effect.  Without the effect, there would always be something missing, something gnawing at the back of my mind that says, “Oh, hey, a you could switch to a real beer now… you’ve got this licked.  You’ve been sober for “x” days/weeks/months.”  That’s the fight I quit having.  

Not having the fight meant all of my old friends, all of my old life, all of my old haunts… everything was out.  Done.  Gone.  I quit fighting recovery so I could transform into being “normal”.  Because, my friends, once alcohol is added, I am anything but normal.

I remain sober because I understand the definition of insanity.  I accept it for what it is.  And I quit trying to outsmart a disease that can’t be outsmarted.  Ever.  The insanity is trying to live a drunkard’s life without being drunk… and one of the hardest habits to break because being a drunk wasn’t bad all of the time – even at the end, when I was completely out of options, there were still some good times.

That’s what it takes for me to be happy, though.  I don’t know of any other way… but to quit being freakin’ nuts when I quit drinking.  If someone else finds a way to keep doing the same $#!+, but actually get different results, well more power to them.  I don’t expect I’d follow along, though.  To even try would be insane.

Either I am, or I am not.  There is no betwixt.

Just a thought.

60,000 Miles on a Bicycle, and What It’s Taught Me About Life

Last Sunday, I rolled over 60,000 miles since I started keeping track in 2011. In terms of a special milestone, it’s not all that special. There’s a phone book of people who ride that in a year, worldwide. It’s my milestone, though. I did it, and what’s important is that I’ve had fun putting almost every one of those miles on my bikes.

Cycling has evolved for me over the last eight years. The first few weeks weren’t all that impressive, until I bought a decent bike. An adult mountain bike. After that, a cavalcade of road bikes… and it was Katy bar the door from the moment I first rode my Trek 5200. I dropped 20 pounds so fast it actually scared my wife. I was skinny. Then I learned how to eat, ahem, for an active lifestyle and have been okay ever since. It could be said that I certainly do enjoy eating a lot more.

Anyway, I’ve had my bikes, one or the other, all over the place – especially all over our home State of Michigan, and after all of those miles, I’m still excited when a big tour rolls around. Who am I kidding? I still get fired up, just to run a quick loop around the neighborhood. For those who ride a lot, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I write that cycling has been my source of fun, rather than a source of exercise. The fact I burn a lot of calories just comes with the fancy pedals.

I headed out last evening to hammer some miles out with my friends and, unlike the stock market, past experience is an indication of future returns. I was driving home with a big smile on my face, thinking about how lucky I am to be me. I’m nothing special, of course, but I do believe I’m a blessed guy to have the wife, kids, friends, bikes and life that I have.

I don’t have a whole lot of money. I don’t have a big, fancy house. I do have a smokin’ hot wife, two awesome daughters, some great friends, a good job, a stellar, clean life, (ahem) six bikes, good health… and some fantastic memories.  Above all, though, I am happy.

What I’ve learned over the last 60,000 miles is that the miles don’t matter.  It’s the spending time, regularly, with friends and family making memories.  As we get older, most everyone wants to slow down time.  The only way I know to do that is to take the time to enjoy life.  A little bit, every day.  When I take the time to savor where I’ve been and where I’m at, life slows down just a little bit… and it’s vastly sweeter.

And that’s enough to make any ex-drunk get a little misty. Keep coming back, my friends. It gets good enough, if you work for it, that you simply can’t believe that things worked out so well.

Why people new to recovery feel like they are missing out when a new drink is invented

I read a post the other day from a fellow recovering drunk who was lamenting, I think it was, a new craft beer that had been released.  I quit long enough ago craft beer was made by my buddy’s dad in the garage and tasted like… well, really not good.  The craft beer of today wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s eye yet.  Hell, I quit before Zima and slightly after ICE beer.

It’s been a long time since I felt I missed out on a new drink.  Hard lemonade, hard cider, hard seltzer water… and there is a very simple explanation for this;  I don’t like prison more than I wish I could have a Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.  Well, let’s put this into proper context; I don’t like prison more than I wish I could have 24 Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandies.  You know what I’m getting at?

I default straight to the misery, and that’s why I don’t miss out.  The trouble for newly recovered alcoholics is the new misery of quitting can tend to be only slightly less miserable than drinking.  Especially if one is trying to white knuckle it.  Blur the lines too much and drinking can win out.  For someone like me, who continually works a recovery program and keeps a vivid memory of what my drinking misery was really like, it’s easy to pass because my life, with all its fleas, is awesome.

And awesome is good.  Prison?  Not so much.