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Am I Happy Because I’m a True Believer, Or A True Believer Because I’m Happy? The Best Reason I Know of for an Early Recovery from Addiction.
I’ve been kicking around a tough topic to put into writing for quite some time but I figured I’d just quit stalling and muscle through it and just hope for the best. I was pushed into this yesterday when I bumped into one of the lead architects on the project we’re working on. We exchanged pleasantries, and he asked how I was doing in the process. I gave my usual answer, “It’s another day in paradise”. His response surprised me. He replied, “I think you need to raise your bar for paradise”.
Never mind the obvious, that it’s odd for someone so high in the construction food chain to come back with “raise the bar”, but my response truly confounds people – especially when they find out I’m a true believer; this really is paradise – it’s supposed to be. As we parted ways, I added, “Well, once you’ve been through hell and found out you don’t have to go back, you’d be surprised at what passes for “paradise”.
That’s the key to my happiness. Well, that and a spectacular wife, but let’s not get lost in the weeds here.
The hardest part of my life – as long as I don’t pick up a drink or a drug – was lived 26 years ago. I survived addiction, a hopeless state of mind and body. I chose to accept the obvious and beat addiction through hard work and a desire to stop digging my own grave. By “hard work”, I mean exactly that. I didn’t sit back and hope for the best, I followed a plan to fix what was wrong with my character that kept me drinking. Once that was done, all that was left was to change everything else – and then, once that was done, all I had to do was change how I perceived and reacted to the life that happened around me. Folks, all of that takes a little practice – real recovery is dirty, messy, hard mental work and it takes decades to get really good at it.
So, looked at from that perspective, every day I wake up to yet another daily reprieve from my madness and my own personal hell. I don’t have to live that way ever again – and what I’ve got now, when contrasted against what I had, it becomes easy to understand why I see my life as a paradise on earth; I am truly free, and that’s a beautiful way to live.
I got home from work yesterday at a few minutes to 5 and readied my Trek for a ride. I pumped up the tires, filled a water bottle, and got dressed. A few minutes later I was cruising down the road in the sunshine, thinking about how good it is to be me… it was a wonderful ride, working on my tan and getting some much needed Vitamin D into my system. After pulling into the driveway with a smile on my face, I showered, ate some dinner, and fell asleep, thankful for another day on the right side of the grass.
I’ll likely do it all over again today, and it’s going to start remembering my daily reprieve from that hopeless state of mind and body. I can have my misery back anytime, all I have to do is pick up a drink or a drug. Choosing paradise has become easy.
In the end, the my answer is obvious; I’m happy because I’m a true believer. God has done for me what I could never do for myself. He relieved my of my compulsion to drink and I did the work necessary to make sure I don’t have to go back. I truly believe, down to my baby toes, that today really is another day in paradise. That is my choice.
Just a thought.
I don’t make bones about my faith. I don’t toot a trumpet from on high, either.
I believe that God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself in terms of finding and embracing a life in recovery. Too many things worked out too perfectly for me to see the light and sober up so early for me to believe differently. My life, flawed as it may be, turned out way too good – and after such a miserable showing early on when I was trying everything based on my own will – to believe anything other than “there is a Higher Power, and I ain’t It”.
Today is going to be a day for great rejoicing, and likely, great violence. It is unfortunate that some humans simply can’t bear to see others happy. It just is what it is. I can say this with utter certainty, though; there will be vastly more rejoicing than violence today, and we’ll hear much more about the violence than the rejoicing – and that should tell you something.
I prayed for peace and prosperity for all this morning. I started the day out thanking God for this wonderful life I have, for my sobriety, and for the ability to enjoy that which I have, immensely. I thanked God for the life that led to my wife and kids – and for everything that led up to that.
For those who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter. For those who don’t, Happy Sunday. And for those on the fence, Happy Easter Sunday.
It’s another day in paradise… as long as we understand; paradise is what we make of it.
Last year was my best cycling year by something like 700 miles – from 9,390 miles in 2017 to 10,115 last year. I rode 8,500 in 2016. With work this year, I have no hope of catching last year’s miles. The job I’m on now is a construction man’s dream – a unicorn job that, once complete and on my resume, will be a ticket to any job I want should the need ever arise to move.
The commute is killing my cycling, though. I’m already several hundred miles down from last year and I’ve accepted that this year is going to be more about enjoying the opportunities I have rather than trying to chase mileage goals when my schedule otherwise wouldn’t allow them. In years past, I could simply take off a couple of hours early to get my ride in – I always made the hours up one way or another.
This year, the job and commute simply won’t allow that. Last evening was a perfect example. After a long day, I arrived home and got the Trek ready for the trainer. While the temp was decent, call it average, the wind was absolutely howling – 27-mph sustained with gust over 40-mph. No chance I was riding in that. I was on the trainer and rolling at 5:18.
My daughter, however, had an honors ceremony last night. She was receiving her fourth varsity letter, this being only her sophomore year. She’s got, in order of achievement, diving, swimming, band, and this one is for academics – and she’s trying for a fifth this year in tennis (Her first year, too. Who knew? She’s a natural). The academics is the big one, though, obviously. As a parent, I only prayed my kids would be able to do a little better than their dear old dad. My girls are absolutely kicking my ass and I’m loving it.
So in year’s past I would trade off the ceremony for a special dinner if the event intruded on my miles, or I’d come home early and hope my phone didn’t ring while I was on the road. This year, I’ve decided not to care so much about the miles. I’m still riding regularly, but I’m going to free myself of the drive to maintain such a lofty mileage goals.
Cycling is awesome, but the things that are happening off the bike right now are too sweet to miss chasing miles.
As I always say, especially in recovery, happiness is entirely about my acceptance and perspective. I am happy because I accept that I am exactly where I should be in God’s grand plan (whatever that is, I’m not smart enough to have figured it out), and I will enjoy the gifts I am given… no matter how hard I have to look for them. Today it is good to be me, and to borrow a friend’s phrase, today I won’t drink.
As a young lad in recovery I received word that a childhood friend of mine, Marty, had been found in his vehicle, parked across the street from a drug house, a bullet through his brain.
By “young lad”, I mean young. I quit drinking and mind-altering drugs, the last time, at 22 years, three months, eleven days-old. I kept coming back.
A few years later I heard that my best friend from high school had died from an overdose. The two of us were virtually inseparable through much of middle school and high school. We played saxophones, he the tenor. I played alto. We were in a couple of high school rock bands together. Heroin. His dad, always viewed as disinterested by us, was crushed. Cancer had gotten his wife, my friend’s mom, a few years earlier.
I went to his funeral, and kept coming back.
Early in my first year of sobriety, an old-timer responded to something I shared in a meeting with one of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard in recovery – and there are a pile of one-liners in recovery; “Keep coming back, even if your ass falls off.” A friend of his chimed in, “and in the unlikely event your ass does fall off, put it in a bag and take it to a meeting. They’ll be able to show you how to put it back on.”
My friends, I love to write about cycling, good times, noodle salad, and being a fairly happy guy. That’s all skippy, as long as one thing remains clear; that amounts to a hill of shit without recovery – there is nothing without my recovery. No cycling, not good times, no noodle salad, no wife, no life, no kids, no house, no pets, no friends… none of it.
And to be very clear here, alcohol will not take all of the good from my life. I take responsibility for my addiction and recovery. Without recovery, I will give all of that good stuff up to stay drunk. It’s what we do.
I will keep coming back. Even if my ass falls off. As long as I do that, I’ve got a chance.
I have three things going for me that have helped me to look, and more important, feel considerably younger than my age.
I quit alcohol and drugs when I was 22.
Almost immediately after sobering up I found that fitness vastly improved recovery.
I quit smoking shortly thereafter.
There’s no question my body doesn’t work as well as it used to, but knocking on the door of 50, I love how active I am at my age. I get the occasional ache and pain, of course, but to hear some people describe the pain they’re in at my age, and I simply can’t relate. And I’m infinitely thankful I can’t.
Some days it’s surprising how tired I am when I get home from work. Even so, I put on my cycling get-up and put my time in on the bike. After more than 50,000 miles I can count the number of times I felt worse after my ride on one hand – trainer or outdoor miles.
Fitness, extended youth, and happiness never happen by accident.
Ride hard, my friends.
The hardest part of kicking booze was the whole “kicking booze” part… Sobering up for a day wasn’t so bad. Two was even reasonable from time to time… three, though, that was pushing it. Four sucked, and I only got to five a couple of times. I managed two weeks one time. A day later, oblivion.
When I made the decision to quit drinking, I went at it wholeheartedly. My bargain with God was, “I’ll give sobriety everything I’ve got, if you’ll just help me”. By the time I woke up the next day, my desire to drink had been lifted – it appeared my Higher Power was willing to live up to His end of the bargain first. I’ve always looked at this as a small miracle.
After I’d been sobered up for a bit and found there was more to life than just meetings and working a program, I decided to get into fitness. In-line skating first. I was light and exceptionally fast. Back then I could hold a pace just slightly slower than I can on a road bike today. The guy I skated with regularly was a family man. He wasn’t a drinker, so he was safe for me to be around early in sobriety.
Eventually, as the story goes, I got into running, then cycling. All of my good friends, riding and running, have been some form of sober or exceptionally light drinkers.
Getting to the Title, while there’s no question fitness is of the utmost importance to my recovery, the recovery came first – and it’s always remained first. There is a very simple, but powerful, explanation for this distinction: Without recovery, there is no fitness.
Without recovery, my addiction(s) consume everything. There’s no wife and kids, no job, no house and cars… there’s no happiness, no friends. I will flush all of that to stay drunk. Always have, always will, and if I don’t remain vigilant in my awareness, my addiction is in a cage in my brain doing push-ups and pull-ups, just waiting for a chance to open the cage door that has no lock.
There’s nothing good in my life without recovery.
Show up. If you simply show up on time, you beat 50% of everyone in your field.
Work hard. If you’re willing to work hard, not “the hardest of anyone who has wielded a hammer, just plain old hard, you’ll beat another 40%.
From there it’s just a fight at the top, You’ll always be needed.
Finally, remember this little nugget. Everyone who works hourly thinks management and ownership is easy and the brass is making money hand over fist on the lowly hourly guy’s back. This is because you’re ignorant.
Management is twice as tough as hourly, and ownership is another twice over that. I should know, I’ve done it all. And I stepped back a notch. On purpose.
Don’t believe me?
Strike out on your own and find out for yourself. There’s a general contractor out there willing to finance you… right up till bankruptcy. Then you’ll be on your own. Good luck, and remember how easy it was to make all that money when you’re heading into court. 90% fail. Most spectacularly.