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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 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.

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.

When I Sobered Up, I Used to Hope My Life Wouldn’t Be Boring… I Have a Hard Time Packing It All In

I woke for work Thursday morning at 3 a.m. when my alarm went off.  I drank my morning “wake up” two cups of coffee, showered and left at 4:23.  I put a full day in and left at 3:15 p.m., arriving home at 5:15.  Thursday’s a meeting night so leaving work late messed me up a little bit.  I had to get dressed quickly and get my butt out the door with the Venge if I was going to get a ride in.

I opted for a 30 minute ride because I was so short on time.  I figured I’d do some intervals and call that good, shooting for an 18-ish mph average.  After the first mile-and-a-half I got out of the saddle and hit it hard, sprinting north of 26 and holding that for a couple of power poles.  Three more power poles and another sprint.  Then another, and another.  I’d taken my average pace from 18-1/2-mph to just north of 20.  Rather than rest, I decided to hammer the rest and finish the ten-mile course in less than 30 minutes.  North and south weren’t much of a big deal – I was holding 22-mph easily.  The problem was going to be a three-mile stretch into the wind, heading east.  I carried some decent speed through the corner and put my head down, trying to stay just above my 20.4 mph average.  I got caught at a stop sign by traffic after the second mile, but with only one to go into the wind, I knew I’d make it.  9.91 miles in 29:21 for a 20.2-mph average…. Not bad for short on time.

I cleaned up and headed out to meet my sponsor for dinner at 6:30.  I was two minutes late.  We had a nice dinner and headed to our meeting.  After some decent discussion, we packed it up and I took him home.  I crawled into bed at a few minutes after 9 p.m., exhausted.

Most days are like that, anymore.  Packed with so much to do, it’s hard to get to it all.  I once naively worried I’d be bored in recovery.  That was more than a few 24-hours ago.  I’ve come to learn that I have a tough time fitting everything in.

 

I Love My Bike – Part 2(0,495); A Most Glorious Time of Year

Sadly, my cycling brother down in New Zealand is just having to dust off the arm and leg warmers.  We’re just getting to a point we can finally think about leaving them in the drawer every once in a while.

Tuesday night’s club ride was a wind-driven sufferfest from the parking lot.  In fact, that’s where I was dropped.  In the frickin’ parking lot.  Now, to be fair, that was the first time I wasn’t paying attention when the group left and I struggled to catch up.  Six of us were caught at the back of the parking lot as the group pulled out.  We took off immediately to chase them down but once we hit the headwind I simply couldn’t reel the lead group in – and after a half-mile in a 20-mph headwind at 20+ mph, I flicked out for the next guy to take a turn and he promptly dropped down to 17.  That effectively ended out chances of catching the group right there.  I tried one more time to bridge the quarter-mile gap but I didn’t make up much ground and I would have been out of gas even if I had caught the lead group.  The six of us went on to have an enjoyable cruise, if it was a ton of work in the wind.  That kind of gnarly windy ride is normal for this time of year in Michigan – April is a wet and windy month for us.

Contrast that mess with yesterday’s ride.  The wind was so calm I couldn’t tell which direction the wind was even coming from – and I pulled for 22 miles out of the 22.75-mile route.  Chuck found he’d gotten a flat when he went to get his road bike ready so he was relegated to riding his gravel bike because he didn’t want to make us any later than we already were.  I felt sorry for the poor fella, I was on the Venge, so I pulled for almost the entire time.  It was an easy, fun-paced ride, too.  One that made me grateful for being on the right side of the grass, pumping air.  There’s nothing better than a great bike and having an hour to blow off some steam to clear the mind.

As one would expect, I slept like a baby last night.  It’s as good as it gets.