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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.

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Sometimes All I Have to Do is Show Up… Every Once in a While That Might Be a Bad Idea. Case in Point.

Coming home from work yesterday, I just wasn’t with it.  I had an upset stomach, it felt a lot like heartburn (and I don’t get heartburn.  Ever) and I was exhausted.  I sat on my bed with my cycling clothes next to me and all I wanted to do was sleep.  Wiped out is a better term than “exhausted”.

I figured it was stress so I set a goal of just suiting up.  Once accomplished, I set a new goal of getting out the door with my Trek.  Accomplished.

The next goal was ten miles.  Just put in ten miles and come home.  A little more than 30 minutes.  Accomplished.  Ten miles in I still had seven and a half to get home.  The new goal was 17-1/2 miles in under an hour.  Not bad for a recovery ride.  Accomplished.  58 minutes, 30 seconds.  Everything shut down and in the house, I showered up – and that’s when it hit me.  The first real wave of nausea.  Even under the hot water and after a ride just shy of room temperature, I was freezing.  Food poisoning.  Without question.

The rest of the night was a blur, in and out sleep.  I woke up at midnight after falling asleep at 7:30 and had a miserable time getting back to sleep.  I hurt all over.  Sleep consumed me eventually, though, and I didn’t wake up till just before the alarm.  The chills left sometime in the middle of the night, and I felt a lot better.  Still a little rough around the edges, but I’ll live.  It’s 3:45 am and I’m headed for the shower and my 2-hour commute in to work.  It’s going to be a hectic day and there’s no way I’ll be able to miss, so I’m going to suck it up.

If anything, it’ll be interesting.

And that’s a first, by the way – toughing out a bike ride in just an hour before full-blown food poisoning sets in.  Stupid, maybe, but it was actually a nice ride… except when I almost hurled on my top tube after two miles into a dead-east wind.  Woof.

For those who “listen to their body”, I’m pretty sure mine had a curse word or two laced into something about me being stupid.  Better than a swift kick in the butt, though.

A Perfect Ride, and the First In-ride Photos of the Year.

They don’t make many like Sunday’s weather. Impeccably sunny and a barely there wind from the west.

We rolled out in full arm and knee warmers. It was chilly (45° or 7C) but the sun was shining brilliantly so it didn’t take long to heat up. We made it a little more than 20 miles out before we stopped to shed clothing. From the moment I took my arm warmers off, I finally felt like we’d turned the corner on the winter that just wouldn’t give up.

Without question, it was the best day for a ride this year. It’s one of those days that proves all the time spent on that ridiculous trainer over the winter was worth every minute. It was one of those days you purposely try to get lost.

The ride home, with a tailwind, was enough that I had a smile stretched across my face for almost 30 miles.

We didn’t get lost, of course. It was still worth the effort.

A sweet 123 miles for the weekend.

A Bike Ride a Day Keeps the Gloom Away

My friends, I’m deep in it right now. The job I’m commuting two hours each way to is in the home stretch and I’m managing more than 100 workers…. and we’re on the hot seat.  Which means I’ve been getting out late every afternoon.  This will go on until it’s another trade’s turn to be on the hot seat (should be the electricians this week).

I haven’t been riding near as much as I’d like. In fact, not even close. On the plus side, when I can ride, my legs are fresh as a sunny spring day. On the other side of the ledger, an hour a day keeps me sharp, happy, and motivated.  Without my daily escape, life gets tricky.  The weather hasn’t been cooperating much, either.

Finally, after a soggy, busy week, I was able to get out for a ride with my friends yesterday for a 53-miler. It was quite chilly to start, but it warmed up just in time. We even had the sun make an appearance, and that boosted my mood immensely.  We were into a mild headwind for the first 26 miles before finally turning to loop home – roughly about the time the sun started poking through the clouds.

I can’t say it was the tailwind that got me smiling, because that really wasn’t much of a help at all.  It was a combination of being out with my friends and the sunshine warming me up that really improved my mood.  Before long, all I could think about was how lucky I was to be me; to have the friends I do, to be able to enjoy the fresh air without excuses or hindrances.  When we turned onto my street, I was a little bummed that my ride was over.  It had been a good one, but I could have gone another fifteen or twenty miles.

Which was a little ironic, because after I showered and cut the grass, my wife came home and asked if I’d go out for a leg-stretcher with her – real slow, just an easy effort to get the blood flowing.  We cajoled my youngest to ride the tandem for a bit, so I gave her the Garmin, put my new Varia radar taillight on the back and explained how everything worked (a friend bought the new Varia because it’s a little more “aero” and gave me his old one last week)… funny how a little technology will keep a kid into something they really didn’t want to do – she spent the whole ride letting mom know when there was a car back.  My youngest only lasted a little less than six miles on the tandem, so I put that in the house and took my Venge out for the final ten miles.

For the rest of the night I felt like I was “back”.  After all last week stuck on the trainer, it was nice to shake the cobwebs out on the road.  My mood is vastly improved – and we’ve got another 70 planned for this morning, so the melon committee might even be under control later this afternoon.  I’d bet on it.

Cycling Every Day; How I Trained My Body to Keep Up with My Desire to Ride (It’s not Difficult, but It ain’t Easy, Either).

I’ve been riding every day for the better part of four years now.  I took 21 days off all of last year.  I went more than a month without a day off several times, and managed to average 29 miles a day when I did ride.

For a working fella, there’s a trick to riding every day.  I had to acquire an off button.  Technically, this off button doesn’t shut me down, it shuts the voice in my melon that wants to push it every single day I ride.  My first three years riding, I didn’t know any better so I pushed it almost every day until my legs were smoked.  Then I’d take a day or two off.  I worked in scheduled days off, too, because everyone said I had to take time off to realize my fitness goals.  I didn’t like that much at all – cycling was my way to clear my head and refocus on why I love life so much.  I wanted to ride every day for that benefit alone.

Eventually, as I grew into the sport, I learned that it was okay to take an easy day on a regular basis.  Self-knowledge is about as useful as toilet paper in the next stall, though.  I had to train myself to be okay with sitting up and enjoying a ride now and again if I wanted to ride daily without over-training.

So, for me, that voice says that if I feel good, if my legs feel alright, then I should take the opportunity of being out on a ride as an opportunity to increase my strength, stamina, and fitness by pushing it a little bit.  For years I didn’t even know I should shut that down and I ended up with over-training issues and even a couple of minor overuse injuries.  Once I learned that I could ride every day, pain-free and without repercussions, if I simply told that voice to sit down and shut up, my level of enjoyment increased exponentially.

As in recovery, riding is more about managing my melon than my legs.

And that’s my secret to a happy bike ride.  Fast, or my approximation of slow.

Ride hard, my friends. And enjoy the ride; most aren’t lucky enough to know the joy of riding a bicycle or running.

A KOM, Baby. A Great Day for a Bike Ride

We had a decent group for yesterday’s 56-miler, and some fantastic weather conditions. Well, fantastic for what we’re used to. It was only 38° (3 or 4 C) at the start, but at least it was sunny and the wind wasn’t terrible. I think we had about ten in our group and we got rolling just after 9 a.m.

The first couple of warm-up miles were a little tough, with a stiff breeze out of the north, the chill was in the air. After I warmed up, though, it wasn’t so bad. Then, with the sunshine, the temp rose quickly. We covered the first eight westerly miles at 18-mph, then we turned south. Now, we had a 10-mph north tailwind pushing us along and Greg met us on the road and there’s a Strava segment going into the town of Byron that starts at the top of a little descent and finishes just before the City Limits sign heading due south – it’s one of my favorite sprints in the area because getting up to 30-ish mph isn’t all that hard going down the hill. I’ve been tied for fifth with 25 or 26 seconds for years, and Greg rightly had the KOM at 23 seconds (my buddy, Chuck was tied for first). He’s definitely in the upper tier of the A Group. I knew I was at least going for it with everything I had with that tailwind pushing us down the hill – I just had to get there in perfect shape – that’s a long 23 seconds.

I’d just come off the front, if memory serves, so I was decently far back in the draft so all I had to do was keep up with a tailwind. It was easy going. A half-mile to go, I got down in the drops and got ready. I decided I’d go at the top of the hill rather than wait for the gravity assist to help. I exhaled and pushed all of the CO2 out of my lungs, letting them fill on the inhale with fresh air. I gave it one more and waited for the hill. Just over the crest, I hit the gas. Greg and Winston were up front and they both hit it a split second after I did so I ended up timing it perfectly to jump on Winston’s wheel – I had the perfect lead-out train. I glanced at my computer and saw 36-mph as we neared the bottom of the hill. Only 300-ish yards to go and I was sitting perfectly on Winston’s wheel. I was in the perfect gear. I feathered the brakes to stay off of his wheel, once, twice – and then I dropped the hammer. I came around Winston, then Greg, putting every last ounce of ass into my pedals I gapped Greg and Winston and took the City Limits sign still pounding on the pedals… I had absolutely no clue how fast we’d gotten to, other than the one time I glanced down and saw 36-mph (58 km/h) and I had no idea how close I was to the KOM (I don’t do live segments on my Garmin) – I had a feeling I was nipping on the heels of it, though.

That was just 14 miles into the ride and my legs felt like Jello for a couple of minutes.

Thankfully, we’ve got a gas station we always stop at just up the hill in town so we stopped for a minute to use the facilities and have a little snack. It was starting to warm up a bit so a few of the guys took the opportunity to shed some clothing. And that was about the end of the tailwind for the day. The crosswind miles weren’t bad at all, but the headwind miles were pretty rough.

In a bit of foreshadowing, when I sent the text out that we were doing to Cohoctah loop, Chuck texted that the wind was supposed to be out of the north, so maybe it was better to do a north to south loop. I’d already set things in motion and had texts from Greg who wanted to meet us on the road, so I suggested we just keep it how it was. Jonathan chimed back that, as he understood it, I just offered to pull the group all the way home in the headwind… Actually, Winston did the lion’s share of the headwind but I took my lumps, too. I was only ever four bikes back and cycling back to the front of the pace-line the whole way home.

I was good and ready to be done when we pulled into the driveway. I was in the house after fist bumps and a few chuckles about the headwind before I checked Strava. Sure enough, 22-seconds and a legit KOM. My average for the two-tenths of a mile was just over 36-mph, my max speed was 36,9. I crossed the City Limits line eleven miles an hour over the speed limit. A cherry atop another perfect Sunday morning ride with my friends.

That’s as good as it gets.

Why Am I So Lucky?! Just a Typical Recovery Story

Why am I so lucky?  I take the time to contemplate this now and again.

I’ve been active all but five years of my life.  Not “I broke five bones and had seven operations” active – in fact, I’ve never broken a bone (knock wood).  My level of activity is best described simply as, “I get my ass off the couch and move” active.  I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but I’m not that far off, either.  I have decent genes, but I’ve got heart disease on mom’s side and Alzheimer’s on dad’s – they’re not great, either.

My brother-in-law once said that it was spooky how much I looked like my dad.  He’s right, too.  I am a chip off the old block.  My mom happened to be there, we were helping my sister and brother-in-law move to a new house, heard him say that and chimed in, “You do, but you’re a much healthier version of your dad.  You look much better than he did at your age… because of all of the alcohol, I think”.

I am, without question, a much healthier version of my father in terms of pickling and fitness….

I don’t live in any physical pain anymore.  Cycling fixed almost everything that ailed me on that front, including an unrelenting bad back.  I don’t have knee problems, feet problems, or disease problems (now that I’ve been in recovery).

On one hand, I often think I might be some kind of freak because I haven’t aged like a lot of other people.  On the other, I don’t put much stock in the whole “freak” angle because, in truth, I lead a simple, clean, healthy (relatively), happy life.  More important, I have a happy outlook on the life that I’ve got – I excel at staying positive.  Combine that with no smoking, no alcohol, zero drugs, an actual program of recovery (not just white-knuckling it), a relatively diet, and a veritable $#!+ ton of daily physical activity… Well, looking at it that way I don’t think there’s much luck to it at all.

Nor is my story special….  In fact, I’d say I’m run-of-the-mill in terms of recovering folks.  Maybe slightly above average, but not by much.  Everything good in my life started with recovery, and that’s why I keep coming back.

Modern treatment and what is now deceptively termed “evidence based” recovery is often based on something other than recovery.  It’s based on managing a decline, or slowing the spiral to the drain.  It’s based on the kooky notion that a person like me has a hope of drinking successfully at some point.  That’s all good enough for government work, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve touched the burner on the stove enough to know the f***er’s hot and I don’t have to grab it anymore.

That relapse-based decline management system may work for some, but not this guy.  I’ll take happy and healthy over a managed swirly.  Any day of the week and twice on Sunday.