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My Coronacation started March 19th before there was even serious talk of a lock down. I woke up at 2am with a tight chest – it felt like someone took zip-ties and closed off the upper quarter of my lungs. The dry cough started a few hours later. Fear hit me after the second cough.
And I went for a bike ride at noon… 24 miles took me 1:33: and change. It was the slowest I’d ever ridden a road bike. The fresh air did wonders, though, if nothing else, at least for my spirit.
Five days later my mild symptoms were mostly gone, though I’d lost some lung capacity. It would be three more weeks before I felt close to normal again – and I had good days and bad in the process. Some days I wondered if this was the new normal.
And then, as if someone took wire cutters to the zip-ties cutting off a quarter of my lungs, I started to feel like me again. And I finally relaxed.
We went on lock down on the 24th of March, a couple of days before I was set to return to work.
Since, with the exception of one week for bad weather, it’s been a mileage bonanza. While I was being paid to work from home till the 27th, I rode most every day unless the weather was horrible, and once I was laid off, I rode whenever the urge struck me. And the urge struck me often and repeatedly. Sometimes twice a day.
Recovery during this time was… interesting. I handled it better than I hoped or thought I would. In the good old American spirit, I went to several bandit AA meetings; you can tell me what you would like me to do, but it’s my choice whether or not I’ll do it, dear politicians. That is the American way. For the ninnies, we did observe prudent judgement and stayed well away from each other, meeting outdoors – farther away than what is recommended by the “powers that be”. I would say I used the time to my advantage.
My family life was fantastic. There were a few rocky points early on, but once we figured out how to make things work, we all thrived. Enough my two teenage daughters are sad that I’ve gotta go back to work so soon. I know, a bond between a father and his daughters are special, but c’mon… I never would have hoped for that!
That said, here I sit… one day and a wake-up and I’ll be back to work. I don’t think I’m supposed to have enjoyed this as much as I have, but I’ll get over it.
What COVIDcation taught me is that I’m working my recovery program correctly. It should have been a terrible time, fraught with problems and fear and all of the temptation in the world to take a drink to escape it all. Instead, I simply did the next right thing at any given moment and it turned out to be one of the happier times in my life.
I literally turned shit into sunshine. As recovery goes, that’ll do.
This is a relatively short post, but I’ve got a gem laying out in the open at the end – a shortcut into a decades long understanding of recovery. Don’t miss it.
I’m heading back to work next week after my layoff due to the COVID-19 virus and scare. I’ve been off for more than a month and a week. Prior to this, my longest vacation was two weeks and I only managed to pull one of those off in 27 years.
I was never sure of the money end of the layoff. We were told unemployment benefits would be available, but I didn’t trust it. The Federal Government had EIDL and PPP schemes but they ran out of money long before normal folks like me could even sign up. We immediately did what we could to minimize our bills. We even took the insurance off my vehicle (technically, it was put in “storage” so it was covered in the event a tree fell on it or something crazy). We spent wisely on groceries and ended fast food purchases. And my family thrived under the “lock down”. I had more fun than a fella should be allowed to have.
We spent most days together, watching movies, playing games, tending to yard work – we even taught my youngest to play euchre. And I caught up on about 20 years of sleep. It was, without question, a glorious time off when many were struggling, I enjoyed almost every day. Make no mistake, though. The reason we were able to enjoy this was that, even with some economic insecurity, we had enough money in the bank to make it, even if it would be ugly without assistance.
After three weeks, the money started rolling in. We got a stimulus check from the Feds, then a week later, unemployment started up. We could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
As recovery went, I spoke to sponsors when I needed, I attended some Zoom meetings, and I even went to a few “bandit” meetings where we’d meet in a parking lot on lawn chairs, using the parking stripes as markers so we were well beyond our “6 feet” or “two meters”. I felt connected with my fellow AA’s and my recovery grew and progressed. I was given a new understanding of “going to any length to stay recovered”, and I loved it.
I was grateful for every day I had (there were two or three where my wife and I struggled to figure out how to occupy the same house together, sunup to sundown, but we got there – in the end, we thrived even in that pressure cooker).
This was the existence I prayed for when I asked God to help me recover. My end was that I’d give recovery everything I had. I lived up to my end and my Higher Power exceeded His. It’s not perfect, but I have the tools at my disposal to enjoy life on life’s terms – even when those terms are challenging.
There once was a time, decades ago, when my recovery revolved around repairing the progression of my disease, repairing the damage done by an astounding use of drugs and alcohol in a short period of time and the wreckage I created to stay high. The focus changed for the better years ago. My focus is no longer on distancing myself from my addiction, but on growing in recovery.
During a zoom meeting, one of the readings touched on the progression of the disease and that was chosen as the topic. As I sometimes do, I had to modify that topic a little bit to suit where I’m at today:
Life today, for me, lies not in the progression of my disease, but the progression of my recovery. It has for a long time, really. It just took a decade or so to fully understand the meaning.
I enjoyed COVIDcation because working the steps when life turns sideways is natural. I have recovered from a seemingly impossible state. And with God’s grace, I’ll continue that today. One day at a time. Just for today.
Sadly, With All Good Things (And Thankfully, With All Bad), This Too Shall Pass; The End Of My COVIDcation Is Near
Our governor, who our attorney likes to refer to as “her highness”, has decreed that construction activities can resume as of May 7th, though she has yet to put this in writing, so as is quite normal, we’re all waiting around in limbo for her to provide the details – you know, just the way you want to open the economy, with everyone waiting around till the last minute to figure out how to start things up again. Brilliant. I think. Kinda… her spokesperson said that this was so but we need the official word.
This means, obviously, I’m being asked by one of our customers to provide manpower numbers starting Monday the 4th, even though that would be quite illegal, exceptionally inefficient and exceedingly stupid at this point to commit manpower before we know the details of how to send them back. Ah, how I missed work!
Anyway, it appears as though my COVIDcation will be coming to its glorious conclusion after the weekend. Or at some point next week. I won’t lie, I wish the governor would have kept it going till Monday (the 11th), but I don’t make the stupid rules, I just live by them (ahem), so it’s frickin’ time to get this dog & pony show on the road.
This has been the longest vacation I’ve been on since high school and while I’m supposed to hang my head in sorrow at the sad nature of things and moan about the fear and insecurity and scariness of it all, I won’t. Whether I had it or not (I’m pretty sure I did – I’ll know in about 36 hours when my cycling buddy’s wife gets her antibody test back, then I’ll get tested if they’re positive), I’m not going to participate in the self-aggrandizing over-the-top wailing and gnashing of teeth. Sure, the bug is scary for a few percent of the population. Sure, it’s deadly for a half-percent or so (if you think the mortality rate is greater than that, I respect your right to be wrong*). Sure, a few healthy people actually died (I think everyone’s heard a story about one or two)… but I’m not into the whole fear for the sake of sounding somber, caring and important, thing.
So, with what I thought was a week to get back into my schedule, I started yesterday morning. I slept in till some time after 3 am and didn’t take a nap. This morning I made it till 4 am! I think the hardest adjustment will be no more naps! I’ve made up for 28 years of 6-hour a night sleep in a month and it’s been fantastic. It’s time to get accustomed to my schedule again, though, so I have to put that $#!+ away and get on with it.
Sadly, this will also mean my mileage bonanza is going fade a bit. No more 40 & 50 mile weekday rides. On the the other hand, $!
Sadly, as it happens with good things, they pass. The flipside is, with bad times, they too shall pass.
And for that I am grateful.
COVIDcation has been an amazing, inspirational, fun time for me (it was a little scary when I had symptoms and I was more afraid for my wife). Several decades ago this wouldn’t have been possible, to enjoy this as much as I have. I’d have been out of money within a week and scrounging for a way to survive, or worse, find my next drink before the shakes set in. I’ll write more on this in the coming days, but my gratitude is off the charts – and that’s how recovery is supposed to work. The whole idea was to change my life and how I live it so I could get to a place where I’m a productive member of society and I can enjoy a happy existence. As that goes, my recovery, rather than my addiction, proceeds at pace.
And that’s as good as it gets.
* For the Washington Post story I linked, you actually have to read the words in the story, rather than just looking at the misleading “doom and gloom” headline. For instance:
The new serological data, which is provisional, suggests that coronavirus infections greatly outnumber confirmed covid-19 cases, potentially by a factor of 10 or more. Many people experience mild symptoms or none at all, and never get the standard diagnostic test with a swab up the nose, so they’re missed in the official covid-19 case counts.
The crude case fatality rates, covering people who have a covid-19 diagnosis, have been about 6 percent globally as well as in the United States. But when all the serological data is compiled and analyzed, the fatality rate among people who have been infected could be less than 1 percent.
I was more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a roomful of knitting grannies on rocking chairs when our governor decided to shut construction down. I wasn’t worried about work, we’ve got Millions on the books for when we go back. I’m going to be busier than a one-legged pirate in an ass-kicking contest. I was worried about how my home life would go. There were so many variables! Meetings, money, family dynamics, my daughter’s boyfriend… but my biggest fear centered on how my wife and I would do in the same house with little to no break from each other.
The meetings, I’d work that out. My recovery has always been (and as long as I intend on staying sober, will always be) the most important thing in my life. Without recovery, I have nothing. I’ll give up everything good in my life for a bottle. Without fanfare or fail.
I’ve done what I needed to do, including riding my bicycle to my sponsor’s house and/or shop, fourteen miles from my house, just to sit out in the driveway to talk with him for a bit about how things are going. I’ve done a few zoom meetings and, while they’re better than nothing, they leave a lot to be desired for me. I’ve also attended a couple of bandit AA meetings, but I won’t make much of that in writing. File that under, “Motherf***er, don’t tell me I can’t go to a meeting for my sobriety. Some shit is just too important.”
The money was easy; we had enough to ride this out in savings as long as we didn’t spend frivolously. We were in much better shape than many, through diligence and not being too stupid. We received a stimulus check from the feds a couple of weeks ago and that helped bridge any gaps, then unemployment kicked in and now we’re doing very well. I’ve maintained contact with the president of the company I work for and he’s ready to roll as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted. I should also add, for posterity’s sake, that we chose the path that would bring in the least government money. Not the most, the least. I canceled two other options that would have had us swimming in cash.
The kids would take a little effort, but they’ve been great and we’ve managed to come up with an enjoyable routine. They’re doing online school now, so we don’t see much of them until they’re done. We eat dinner together, almost daily, then we clean up and play games together until it’s time for bed. Not much in the way of television, either, though I watch more than my fair share of movies (I have a ridiculously large collection).
My main worry was with my wife. I’m a very good man, but I’m a handful. When I have an office to go to, we get a break from each other. We have the whole, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing, even if it’s only while I’m at work. I was worried she’d grow tired of my presence around the house pretty quickly.
And I wasn’t wrong.
What I hadn’t seen coming, though, is we worked it out and our ability to work through the issues and come to a place where we’re both happy surprised me. In the end, my worry was unfounded and this mess has had a tremendously positive effect on our family unity.
Then there’s the cycling. Oh, happy days, the cycling. My March wasn’t my best, but the weather for the month absolutely sucked. It was cold and nasty most of the month and I still managed to squeeze 728 miles into it. April was the big deal. The weather wasn’t much better but I was able to get out most of the days and only put in five days on the indoor trainer. I took two days off during the month and the other 21 days were spent out on the road where I was able to average better than a whopping 45 miles a day. Put all of that together, (and two more rest days for today and tomorrow – rain, lots of it) and I’m sitting on 1,046 miles for the month. 951 outdoor, 95 indoor, though I still may ride the trainer tomorrow, to get my legs spun up for the weekend. Many of those miles were spent riding with my wife, which made it all the better. If that wasn’t good enough, and it is, I’m down more than ten pounds since April Fool’s Day.
Friends, it doesn’t have to get any better than that. This is so far beyond good times and noodle salad, I can hardly quantify it. The main axiom in recovery was ever thus; trust God, clean house, and help others. When I do that, good things happen.
And so they have.