Fit Recovery

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This blog is written in plain, fly-over country English. The Author reserves the right to forego nonsensical, feel-good gibberish.

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Why I’ve Chosen Recovery Every Day of My Life, Since Just 22-Years-Old

When I turned 21, old enough to finally consume alcohol (legally) in the USA, and yes, the “legally” caveat is necessary, it was off to the races for me.  That whole year, from 21 to 22, was a blackout.  The year is and was, gone.

Insanity with alcohol started early with me, though.  Long before my lost year.  I had my first brush with death at just 17.  We called it alcohol poisoning back then, but you’d do just as well to call it OD’ing.  I almost choked on my first vomit of the night.  The only thing that saved me was a friend recognizing that I was about to hurl, so he kicked me over on my side.  Several pukes later, and a couple of dry heaves thereafter, I burst a blood vessel in my throat and damn near bled out.  I was a mess when my best friend and dad carried me into my parent’s home.  Head to toe, chunks and blood.  According to my buddy, my mom laid into me at that point, kicking me repeatedly.  She denies it to this day, but he always maintained it was brutal.  I made my peace with it long ago, I just add it for “color” to the painting.

I was seated at my first AA meeting shortly after that, but it would be a mountain of trouble later that I finally went to my second.  I was facing real time, too.  Not just a stint in the County jail.  I thank God I got what I got, and not what I deserved.  It was a steady circling of the toilet bowl.

Then the medical issues started popping up.  I had a bloated gut but was surprisingly skinny (6′ tall, 130-ish pounds).  The doctor at an out-patient treatment center said the bloating was a product of a swollen liver.  He’d run an enzyme test weeks earlier and said the results came back that I had the liver of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic.

I never did anything I liked half-assed.

I was, eventually, sentenced to in-patient treatment after more trouble compounded on the old that I still hadn’t jumped through all of my hoops for… and that’s where I had my breakthrough.  It was very sweet and exceedingly simple.  Somehow, with the fog cleared after two weeks in treatment, I could see what my life had become and I wanted better.

I tried quitting dozens of times before then, but could never quite bring myself to do what it took to really stay sober.  Until that moment, I didn’t want to quit, really.  I wanted to “moderate”.  To drink “responsibly”.  To learn how to control myself once that first drop crossed my lips.  It was two weeks into treatment that I could finally see the laughable folly in even attempting to control that which couldn’t be controlled.

I had reached the end of my rope and rather than trying to sew on another piece while I was dangling there (as I’d done many times before), I decided to tie a knot in it.

Once I made my decision to give recovery everything I had, there was no need to turn back.  It was “work for a happy life” or “misery”.  Some would say I chose the former and didn’t look in the rearview mirror.  I would have said that up until a few years ago.  It’s closer to the truth to say, after a year of sobriety, “there was no rearview mirror”.  Once I got my stride in recovery, I knew I’d struck gold.

I knew this because I tried everything to drink like a normal person.  Everything.  It was easy to come to the conclusion that I had a choice once my life really started improving.  And the longer I stayed sober, the better I got, and the more fun I had.  Life has become so enjoyable, all I wish for is another day, week, month, year like the last.  Today, it’s a choice between anguish and joy… and once you get to that point, it’s even easier to stay on the path.

It’s hard to believe, but I’ll turn 50 this year.  Six years of pain and misery followed by 2 years of hard work followed by another 25 of happiness and contentment.

In the end, I managed to stay sober this long, not because life was so good, but because I remembered exactly how bad it was.

In fact, ironically, you could say that the one thing that keeps me coming back is the one thing we try to banish from our lives with the steps; fear.  Of course, I’d be able to convince you, if I haven’t already, this a healthy and a welcome fear.  It is a good and useful piece in my recovery.

Riding a Bicycle; Eight Signs You May Not Be Doing It Right and What to Look For If You’re Not.

First, this is not going to be some “go out an buy a $10,000 featherweight road bike for your first ride” snob post.  To be fair, I wouldn’t know how to come at it from that angle, as I’ve never owned anything approaching a $10,000 featherweight road bike, myself.

do have a $6,000 featherweight road bike, and it is indubitably sexy.  If you can afford one, I highly recommend picking up one or two.  They’re unquestionably fun.

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Here’s a list of eight things that will help you identify something wrong and what to do to correct each item.

  • Your butt feels like you’re riding on barbed wire after ten miles.
    • Okay, so this isn’t exactly perfect, because one must get some miles in before one’s heinie stops hurting.  On the other hand, it won’t hurt bad enough that you actually check to see if someone put a piece of barbed wire on your saddle.  If someone did, check your friends – you’re doing something wrong there.  Just a guess, of course.  Otherwise, your saddle is one of these:  Out of position (too high, tilted too far forward or back), or too narrow/wide for your sit bones, or has too much padding.  That’s right, too much padding.  Those big-ass seats, all irony aside, stop blood flow to the nether-regions.  That’s no bueno.
  • Your hands go numb in the driveway.  On your way out.
    • Your hands shouldn’t go numb unless you’re on a very long ride.  Hours long.  If they do, there are a few simple things you can do to correct this.
      • The drop from the nose of the saddle is either too great or too little.
      • The saddle nose is tilted down too far, it’s sliding you into the handlebar.
      • You’re gripping the handlebar too tight.  Think of gripping a baby bird in either hand.  Don’t kill the birds.
      • If the drop from the nose of your saddle to the handlebar is off, you probably need to raise or lower the handlebar.  Lowering the bar may seem odd, but I had to do this myself on my mountain bike to get some of the pressure off my hands.
      • If you’re gripping the handlebar too tight, stop it.
      • In all seriousness, if you’re gripping the handlebar – hoods, bar top or drops – with a decent amount of pressure, you’re definitely doing it wrong.  The idea is to hold on just tight enough that if you hit a bump, you don’t let go.
  • Your neck hurts.
    • Your neck shouldn’t hurt too bad, from looking up the road.  If it does, the problem is related to the drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar.  Don’t raise your handlebar quite yet, though.  Do some yoga or stretches or anything to fix your neck first.  Low is fast.  Fast is cool.  Therefore, low is cool.  By default.
    • Riding is cooler than not riding.  If you can’t get your neck comfortable, raise the handlebar.
  • Your knees hurt.
    • Your knees shouldn’t hurt.  There are three things that cause this
      • Your saddle is too high (front of the knees will hurt)
      • Your saddle is too low (back of the knees will hurt)
      • Your cleats are misaligned.  Believe it or not, this is a really big deal.  You can do some damage if this isn’t addressed.  Your local bike shop should have what’s needed to get you sorted out.
  • Your feet hurt.  There are a couple of issues, maybe a few, related to the feet…
    • Your shoes are too small.  This ain’t hockey.  You don’t have to cram your size 11 foot into a size 8.
    • Your shoes are too tight.  One would think, especially for those who clip in, that the shoes should be ratcheted down pretty tightly.  This isn’t the case.  Snug does the job.  Tight increases pressure unnecessarily.
    • Again with the cleat placement – in this case, too far forward or back depending on where the pain is.
  • Your back hurts.
    • Check your bike setup.  Get your bike fitted if you haven’t already.  Doing so is incredibly important.
      • There are quite a few things that could cause this.  Saddle too far back, too far forward, too high, too low… you’d need a shotgun and a lot of hope to hit the answer on this.
  • Your butt hurts, but your saddle is right.
    • You need better shorts.  Click here and learn.  You don’t have to feel the burn.
  • You’re not having any fun.
    • Dude, how can one not have fun riding a bicycle?!  That doesn’t even make sense!
    • Seriously, if you’re not having fun, maybe try a different type of cycling.  Don’t like paved roads?  Try dirt.  Don’t like roads?  Try mountain biking.  It’s supposed to be fun, and a lot of it.

The Daily Reflections Post from the Other Day; I Was Once Lost…

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Anyone who has read my blog knows how I feel about my addicted past. I was a miserable, useless, POS. That description doesn’t bode well with today’s insufferable “love me as I am” movement which will create more relapse, demoralization, loss and death than it helps.  Very few, if any, will benefit from this extension of the long discredited “Dr. Spock” method of recovery.  It’s sad how intelligent people cling to idiocy in the name of “feelings”.

“In A.A. we aim not only for sobriety—we try again to become citizens of the world that we rejected, and of the world that once rejected us. This is the ultimate demonstration toward which Twelfth Step work is the first but not the final step.”

— AS BILL SEES IT, p. 21

The world that once rejected us… but note, we reject the world first, almost every time.

The world was right to reject me because I rejected it.  This is as it should be. I didn’t care about one person on this rock who got in the way of my addiction. I would lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate to stay drunk and high.  I didn’t care what the effects were.

The world treated me as I was, not some silly notion of who I’d be if only [fill in the blank here]. I was treated as I deserved.

The result is different today, though I’m still treated as I deserve.  I am treated better by “society” because I treat “society” better.  I’m a productive part of it.  To wish otherwise, to hope that society will treat us as productive members of it when we’re clearly not, is folly.  It’s wrong-headed, ignorant, and narcissistic.

True happiness in recovery is only possible when we put aside that selfishness.

I only hope this post doesn’t cause anyone to spontaneously combust from the raw truth expressed here.

The Difference Between Making It In Recovery and Relapsing; What It Takes to Keep Coming Back

Grab a cup of coffee for this post.  This is a long one.  Apologies in advance, it took that long to get to the main point.  I couldn’t cut anything without a convolution of the process.

Well, my friends, we’re only a few days out from New Year’s resolutions when everyone and their brother is swearing off alcohol for good… this time.

You’ve said it before, I’ve said it before (more than twenty times, I’d reckon), and we’ve all heard it before.  You probably don’t really believe it when you utter it.  I surely didn’t.  “Hoped”, maybe.  Nor do we believe it, when we hear it said.

What it takes to recover and to stay recovered is very simple, but sadly, exceedingly difficult to maintain.  Note, I chose the word “simple” in lieu of “easy”.  Simple, it is – they fit the instructions on 164 pages of a book.  That’s all it took, 164 pages, plus time and practice, to go from lost cause to happily recovering.  Easy, it isn’t.

Now, to be fair, I only know of one way to recover from addiction.  It’s the “free” way.  I don’t have to pay for professionals to assess my life and tell me what to do.  I can do it myself, with the help of a friend, because honesty takes care of the important stuff – and I’m talking penetrative, deep, dark, scary honesty.  On the plus-side, I only have to worry about me – being honest about how I’m doing.  The way I know is the “whole life” repair kit.  If happiness were measured as wealth is, I’d be the equivalent of living on the ocean in West Palm Beach.  There are other ways for folks to recover, but I’m not familiar with them, so I’ll stay in my lane, as we like to say.

So, there isn’t a lot to making it in recovery, but it’s a bit of a puzzle to make it all work.  The tough part is, each individual makes their own puzzle pieces – it’s up to the individual to make sure they fit together.  Let’s look at my puzzle pieces because I know mine, yours may vary a little bit.

  • I can’t drink successfully.  I’ve tried so many times, so many different ways, so many combinations… I simply suck at living and using at the same time.
  • I can’t use anything else successfully.  Folks, this isn’t rocket science.  If I can’t drink successfully, I can’t smoke dope successfully.  I can’t shoot heroin successfully.  I can’t smoke crack successfully.  Etcetera.
  • Those first two pieces are hugely important, because they form this next piece; I can’t use successfully, so I won’t try.
  • That piece forms the next; I won’t try, I’ll use twelve steps to recover.
  • That forms the next; I’ll put my arrogance aside.  I don’t know what’s best for me.  I’ll take some advice from others who have recovered before me.
  • That forms the next piece; step one…  and so forth, eleven more times.

These are all absolutes.  If I have any doubt in my mind, I need to squash it underneath my heel.  Thoughts will enter the gray matter between my ears that will work against those absolutes.  Those thoughts have no validity anymore.  They must be discarded (this last paragraph is 20-year recovery stuff that you won’t find in the Big Book – taking it to heart early in recovery will be like cheating).

From that point, there are a few simple things that’ll help keep us on the path.  For me, it was reviewing those first four points, but simplified.  See, I asked my Higher Power for a deal the day I quit.  The deal was; God, I can’t do this alone, I need Your help.  If You help me, I’ll give recovery everything I’ve got.

Rather than going through each of the first four points, I often referred back to the deal.  Basically, it’s a Big Book principle; I can’t, You can, I’ll let You.  Simple.

Too often we like to complicate things.  Well, I can’t have a Higher Power because [insert reason/excuse here].  Surely, crack cocaine was my drug of choice, so heroin should be okay, right?  How about meth, maybe?  Of course, that’s not how we justify it, is it?  No, we like to go for “weed” which enjoys the dubious distinction (either ignorant or dishonest, take your pick) of being less damaging and/or addicting to the user.  In the end, though, a drug is a drug and using pot is just as bad as heroin.

The main point about all of this is “keep it simple, stupid”.  Recovery may be hard, but it’s definitely simple.  Making it complex only serves relapse, and making it complex is a choice.  Going back to making our puzzle pieces, the more complex we make the pieces, the harder it is to make them fit together.

So let’s look at how we can beat the penchant for making simple things, complex.  In my case, complex-ing recovery was all about ego. It’s funny how many things fall back to the ego – and I have a perfect example.

I had a problem with doing a Fourth Step.  There were a few things that were going to have to go on that Fourth that I didn’t want to deal with in the Fifth.  For that reason, I created a “problem” with not being done with the Third.  I couldn’t do the Fourth because I wasn’t done with the Third, you see?

Well, that only worked on folks in meetings with fewer than five years of recovery.  The old timers didn’t buy it (correctly), because Step Three is only a decision.  It just so happens that you have to practice continually making the decision.  Anyway, I was called to the mat by a woman whom I trusted implicitly (I also had a mild crush on her, to be honest…).  She gave me the old, “Look, you’ve been working on the Third Step for a month and you still haven’t gotten it?  What’s really the problem?”

And I fessed up.

I didn’t want to do the Fourth because there were things on my Fifth that could have meant a year or few in jail if I made my amends.  That’s why I didn’t want to really complete my Fourth…  And you can bet, that whole episode made my Fourth when I finally did it a week later, after discussing the sordid affair with my sponsor.

The point is, I made the Third Step puzzle piece so complex, it couldn’t fit with the Fourth Step piece.  I almost drank over that mess, too.  See, when you get close to your first year of recovery, many of us get a little squirrely because we come to find that “just being sober” isn’t enough.  We have to free that trainload of baggage we’ve been hauling around, sometimes for decades.  We find we have to work the program in all our affairs.  We don’t necessarily understand what’s happening at the time, but that’s the “why” of it.

In my case, I put my ego (and fear) aside to do what had to be done to be free of my addiction.  I never knew what “freedom” would feel like until I did the Fourth, Fifth, (Sixth, Seventh, Eighth & Ninth) Steps to rid myself of the baggage I’d piled up and had been lugging around.  Without letting go and getting beyond that experience, I’d have been drunk (and I’d likely died long ago, my liver just can’t take anymore poison).  Instead, “I found a new freedom and a new happiness” that I didn’t think was possible.  Just like they promised would happen.

And I stayed recovered.

And I lived happily ever after.

Because I made the puzzle pieces so they fit together.

And that’s how it works.

It’s Time to Burn Off the Donuts, My Friends. That @$$ Won’t Lose Itself! It’s Time to Get Ready for Spring.

I’m all kinds of fired up.  Play time is over.

My favorite new saying is “my ass won’t lose itself”.  It strikes my funny bone.  For me, November and December are playtime.  Time to go out and explore new roads and take it easy for a bit.  Come January, though, playtime is over.

My half-diet has begun and I’m not far off from mid-summer weight (I managed to only gain three pounds over a two-week vacation). All that was left was to start powering up the trainer workouts and that started last night.  My first two days back were spent getting my legs spun up after a two-week diet of tennis with my wife and daughters.  Saturday’s indoor spin was easy, but Sunday’s dirt road ride was decent.  I had to be asked to take it down a notch once and I had to watch my speed the rest of the ride.  The change of pace did a lot of good.

Last night’s trainer ride started with a five minute warm-up followed by fifteen minutes in a gear almost too hard to hold for fifteen minutes… another five easy minute’s to recover, followed by fifteen minutes in the harder gear and a five minute cool-down.

A light supper with a pre-dinner salad of spinach, romaine, cucumbers, and celery… better to fill up on the greens before dinner – an idea I got from my buddy, Mike…

Two months from now, I’ll be ready to head outside again lighter and faster, rarin’ to go.

The Trek 5000, 5200 & 5500 in the USA; More Wins than DJ Khaled

In the United States, one bike stands above all as the winningest bicycle frame in the history of bicycle racing history*; the Trek 5000.  First introduced in 1992, the Trek 5000 frame was one of the first production full carbon fiber bicycle frames.  In the US, they caught on like a wildfire and hung on until the 5000 was dropped for the Madone after the 2007 run (only the 5000 was available that year).   Of course, if you look at that 2007 Madone 5.2, you should see some many characteristics inherited from the 5200.  That said, fifteen years is a long time for a frame to hang on.

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On one hand, by today’s standards, the frame is not all that impressive.  There’s barely any “aero” to it (the front fork is kinda aero), and it’s a little on the squishy side when laying down the serious wattage.  On the other hand, with 25 mm tires on a 23 mm carbon fiber rims**, the bike feels like riding a cross between a Corvette and a limousine.  With alloy wheels and 24 mm tires, at the right pressure, the ride is almost as good.

There is a trick to this frame, however.  In the last few years, it’s become popular to use a wider tire than was used in the good old days.  Back in ’99, people were riding 20 and 23 mm tires exclusively.  Nowadays, 25, 26 and even 28 mm tires are the new norm.  If you’re using 19.5 mm wide alloy wheels, there’s a limit to the tire width you can use in a Trek 5000 frame.  Anything more than a 24 mm tire will likely rub the inside of the chainstays when climbing out of the saddle or when leaning the bike into a corner, thus pooching the paint’s polish (or worse). Other than that minor shortcoming, though, the frame is pretty fantastic.

I’ve put upwards of 45,000 miles on my 5200 frame and I bought it January of 2012 and it’s still going strong and beautiful.  I can only imagine how many miles it had on it before I got my hands on it, but it was a lot.  I’ve got a friend who has the same frame, 2003, who has more than 130,000 miles on his.  The word “durable” doesn’t do the Trek 5000 family of frames justice.

*The history of bicycle racing history… the redundancy was for comedic affect.  I’m sorry you missed it.

** 25 mm tires on 23 mm rims vs. 25 mm tires on 19.5 mm rims:  If the two paragraphs dealing with tire and rim widths were confusing, please allow me to explain.  When a 25 mm tire is placed on a 19.5 mm rim, the tire resembles a light bulb – it’ll go wide at the sides before rounding out.  That same tire on a 23 mm wide rim, will just be round.  It’s that light bulb-ing effect that will cause the tire to hit the inside of the chainstays when sideways force is applied to the wheel.  Therefore, with a wider rim (23 mm) the same 25 mm tire will work where it wouldn’t with a narrow (standard) 19.5 mm rim.  The only trick left for that will be the brakes.  My 1999 Ultegra brakes wouldn’t open up wide enough to accept the wider 23 mm hoops.  I ended up opting for Shimano 105 (7000 series) brake calipers so I could use my older alloy wheels or my carbon fiber wheels (as long as I swapped out the brake pads).

 

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Freezer!

Well, I did go for a lovely ride outside yesterday morning, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the cold.  I was the cycling equivalent of Ralphie’s brother, Randy in a Christmas Story… with the winter onesie.  I was still freezing.

It’s never easy coming back from the mild southern Florida temperatures back to Michigan in the winter.  Those first couple of days are always brutal.  No sunshine, lots of wind and cold, usually some ice…

We rolled out shortly after 8:30 am with the temp just shy of freezing.  Starting out was a little comical as I only had about four square inches of skin exposed to the cold and it was still too much.  I ended up pulling my neck gaiter up over my nose to keep my beak warm (I don’t have to do that till we’re down in the low 20’s!).  Once we got going, though, I was Frankie Fresh Legs – it was glorious.

The ride was also mercifully short, thank goodness.

I wore a smile the rest of the day – it’s good to be back.

Last year’s totals (Outdoor):

223 Active Days
371 Hours
6,218 Miles
120,241 Feet of Climbing
Overall Mileage (Indoor and Outdoor):  8,184

2019 DALMAC – The Wall

DALMAC - 2016 The Wall

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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