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What Would It Be Like to Go Cycling with Jesus? And Other Heady Thoughts On Cycling and the Sheer Joy It Brings.

This is what I was thinking about last night as Chuck and I were heading toward my house, maybe five miles to go.  We had a glorious tailwind, it was above 40 degrees and I was about as close to perfectly dressed as I’m going to get.  We were cruising, after all those trainer miles over the winter, and the pace was fairly enjoyable – I would put it in the “barely moderate” category.  I was in Chuck’s draft and I said to him, “I like to think about what it’d be like if Jesus got a chance to ride with us”.

I like to imagine the look on His face on throwing a leg over a Specialized Venge Tarmac (I started writing this post last year before they did away with the Venge) or Trek Madone 9…. the look of trepidation, the uneasy wobble as he tried to clip in the first time (maybe we’d give him some platform pedals for his first go)…

Then, after learning to ride, would naturally come teaching Him how to ride in a group, you know, the particulars; watch the overlap of the wheels, watch up the road, no, bicycles don’t work on water because you can’t get traction on the water.  You know, the basics.  Then, I like to imagine the look of sheer joy on His face as He cruised around with a group of us in a pace-line.  I love to think about what it would be like if Jesus could feel the joy and exhilaration of coming around the final corner on Tuesday night, full out as the pace ramps up from 25 to north of 30-mph.  I’m immensely grateful that I can and feel that regularly.  Then I wonder if maybe Jesus does get to sense of what that’s like through me.

This is my understanding of God in recovery.  The whole “God is my co-pilot” doesn’t make any sense in recovery.  Technically, if we’re doing it right, God is the pilot.  Anyway, “I get it” kind of, but the whole pilot/co-pilot thing is a little foreign to me as I’m not, you know, a pilot.  The thought of how much fun Jesus would have in our pace-line, though, and having the chance to lead Him out (or vice-versa, even better yet), that’s something I can connect with.

I like to think of how big smile on His face would be after we cross the Lennon City Limits sign and we’re all bumping fists and patting each other on the back, thanking each other for the hard work and effort on another fantastic ride, acknowledging each other’s part in the group… I like to think Jesus would see that and say, “You know, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  That’s how it’s done.”

… and just like that, I was on the home-stretch to my driveway.  The first, glorious ride of the new season in the books.  We took the gravel bikes out as the snowmelt was gnarly and messy, but was it fabulous to be out in the fresh air, even if I ate some salty road spray a time or two. I thanked my friend for another fantastic time on the bike as he rode off toward his house.  I felt a little like Kurt Warner as I walked my bike up to the front porch.  I gave a little, “Thank you, Je-sus!” and smiled again as I rolled my bike into the house to tell my wife about the ride.

I haven’t slept as well as I did last night in months.

Peace, Contentment and, Dare I Say, Happiness Are Possible; I Just Never Found Them at the Bottom of a Bottle

Before I begin, please take note that I didn’t specify what kind of bottle.  I suppose I should have added syringe and bong/pipe as well, but you get the idea.

I was especially lucky when the entire population of Michigan decided I should end my drinking/controlled substance career I happened into recovery at the early age of just twenty-two years-old.  I was really just a puppy at that point.  I was… call it fortunate, because I knew down to my baby toes that I would be completely, irrevocably fucked if I continued to drink.

And remembering this has been the gift that keeps on giving ever since I quit.

You see, knowing your best thinking has gotten you into such a deep hole that you can’t possibly figure out how to stop digging, let alone work on climbing out – that brings with it a lot of freedom.  When our back is against a wall and a freight train is bearing down on us, well, we either move or get run over.  You read that right, that brings us freedom.

How is that possible, you ask?

Well, it’s very simple, really.  When you’re at that point you don’t know whether to $#!+ or get f***ed, it becomes increasingly easier to stop fighting recovery with fear.

Please read that again, that last paragraph.  Two sentences.  “Oh, whatever will I do for fun if I can’t smoke and drink anymore, whoa is me!”  That becomes, “I don’t care, just make the freaking pain stop!”  I recovered, and I deserve to be recovered, because I stopped fighting the fear of recovery.  Folks, if the cure for cancer were to go to three meetings a week, work a few steps, and say a few prayers, the line to get into every meeting would be out the door, stretched around the block.  That’s simply how I looked at recovery.  If you’d have told me standing on my head in the corner twice a day, three minutes at a time would help me recover, I’d have done it.  I’d have looked at you funny, but I’d have done it, because it was either that or the freight train.

Let’s look at this another way.  I love people who absolutely will not… can not simply give themselves to the notion that there’s can be a Higher Power out there for their recovery’s sake.  Really?  Look, I had a pretty high bottom, but I also did some deplorable shit in my using days.  Nobody gets to the jumping off place just before recovery on a winning streak.  After all the heinous shit we did, the Higher Power is just a step too far?  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see why that would be.

For God’s sake, I almost drank myself to death before my 30th birthday.  I can remember getting lost after getting hammered at a strip joint one night and I ended up pissing my pants while driving my car, trying to get home, hammered… but  I can’t allow the idea that there might be an HP out there who will take away my character defects because that’s just a bridge too far?  Folks, after all the crap we did before we were good and ready to quit, after all of the lying, cheating, stealing and conniving, the HP isn’t the road block to get hung up on.  Don’t let that small thing get in the way of peace, contentment and happiness.

There’s a better way.  And remember; we only say “God” to keep it simple.  If you need a starting point, an ashtray won’t work as a higher power.  I know some people claim it can be broken down to a base level, but the old ashtray is bullshit.  Choose the power in the group to start.  It is a Higher Power of our understanding, after all, whatever your capacity is at that point, so try the power at the meeting that helps us stay sober through situations that used to have us hanging on to the edge of a toilet as if we were rock climbing so we could puke at the top before you go do an ashtray.

At least that will get you used to the idea that it’s okay, after all that nasty shit we did that will be on a fourth and fifth step very soon, to put a little faith in something you can’t see or touch.  It’s not the end of the world.

It’s the beginning.

Don’t let a Higher Power be your roadblock to happiness.  The alternative is the freight train, and you definitely don’t want that.  We’ve been through too much to let something so simple get in the way of contentment and peace.  And if you absolutely, positively can’t get the HP behind you, read the chapter “We Agnostics” in the Big Book.  It starts on Page 44.

In the end, the AA way of life isn’t for everyone and it’s not the only way to sober up.  It’s the only way I know, though, to switch from being a drunk with one foot in the grave to a happy, content, peaceful, productive member of society.  I’ll admit that I was fortunate, though.  While I had other hangups about the program, the HP was no roadblock for me.

Why Alcoholics Anonymous Works Where All Else Fails… and Also Why It Fails; The Higher Power. Part Two of Many.

Now it’s a series…

This won’t be a post in which I try to convince anyone they should believe in God – the attempt is almost as useless as trying to convince someone they shouldn’t believe… or better, that they’re an addict or alcoholic in the first place.  As discussed in the first post, the decision that one is an addict or alcoholic has to be arrived at… or not.  The fun part is, those who do believe think those who don’t believe in God are just as nuts as those who don’t believe think those who do are nuts for believing… and that’s why that conversation is so hard – there’s just too much damned ego on both sides getting in the way – I’m stupid, you’re stupid, and we’re all stuck on stupid when it comes to a Higher Power (or for the others, higher power).  For this series, I am going to do my best to remove my (rather large, but competently caged) ego from the equation and take AA’s position; believe or don’t, but find a power greater than yourself to believe in. (Even if it’s what happens when one alcoholic meets with another over a cup of coffee and a resentment, working for a solution; miracles happen every time, and that’s good enough to call yourself a member and open yourself to a new and exciting way of life.)

I believe where we drive off the path when it comes to God, it often boils down to ignorance, self-centeredness and, not ironically, ego.

On one hand, you’ve got God’s cheerleader squad who, for some Godforsaken reason, insist on adding that they believe in a “Higher Power, that they choose to call their savior, Jesus Christ” every time they open their mouth in a meeting.  This is, for the agnostic or atheist, bad for business.  What they hear is, “you’re supposed to believe this in AA too, and you’re an idiot for not believing the way I do”, and it rightly turns them away.  That behavior isn’t in the Big Book.  Or the other Big Book, for that matter.

The atheist or agnostic is missing the point at the same time, though.  They’re looking at this in anger, rather than compassion.  What that person, the cheer leader, is really saying is, “I’m so insecure, I’ve done such wrong, I’ve gotta try to buy my way into heaven by shouting from the hilltop that Jesus is my savior.”  All I can think of is the warning in the Bible to be weary of the guy on the hill with the trumpet.  And that helps me remember that which is most important:

Folks, this is nothing to get angry over.  The correct response is to feel sorry for that person because that is a sick person.

On the other hand, we’ve got the atheist or agnostic, who, at every mention of “God” in a meeting, gets steamed.  As long as a meeting goes off without a mention of God, they’re fine, but they always wait to share till the last, so that if God makes an appearance, they can clamp down like a bear trap about how there shouldn’t be any “God or Jesus” mentioned in a meeting.  They’re the exact opposite that of God’s cheer leading squad.  And they’re just as sad and sick as the cheer leader.  Now here, I have to rely on speculation a little bit, because I only think I understand the atheist or agnostic… and not unlike the cheer leader, even if I had them pegged perfectly, their ego wouldn’t allow for them to be put in that box anyway.  And that’s a huge problem, especially when we have to exorcise the demon that is ego in the first place.

Again, though, when I’m on my game I can see the anger that comes from the atheist as I would a sick friend just the same.  The exact same way I treat the cheer leader.

The most important thing to recovery is that we somehow find a power greater than us.  My (and everyone else’s) best thinking landed me at the doorstep of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  If we know anything, we know we can’t fix the problems we created with the same thinking that created the problems in the first place – and I suck at changing my own thinking – especially when we’re egomaniacs with an inferiority complex to begin with.  Belief in God as a Higher Power makes that simple.  Relying on the group’s collective wisdom, as I understand it, would be the next best thing.

However, while some love to say that you could make your higher power an ashtray, I highly recommend against that silliness.  For the purposes of “working the steps” an ashtray is right up there with an actual ass.   The point is, all you have to do is find something greater than you.  What happens when alcoholics and addicts meet to overcome their addiction is the very definition of “greater than me”.  By myself, I’m not very good at recovery.  Sitting in the middle of the wagon, I’m pretty excellent at it, therefore it’s a power greater than me.

The point is, don’t let the concept of God throw you off from the greatness that can be achieved in AA.  There’s a whole chapter devoted specifically to those who have a problem grasping the idea (We Agnostics pg 44 – 57).  For those who don’t have a problem grasping a Higher Power, save tooting on your Jesus horn for those at church.  You’re not impressing anyone, and you’re likely doing as much harm as good.  Jesus, like AA, is better through attraction than promotion.  You want other people to come to you to ask you how you could possibly be as calm and happy as you are.  That’s when you let them know that Jesus saved you.  Putting the cart before the horse is a ham-handed way of going about it that’ll turn off five times more people than it turns on.

The second reason people don’t make it in AA is they have a problem with the God thing.  Don’t – there are enough workarounds to get you where you need to be.

And for both sides, don’t look at the other as wrong, evil, stupid or worse.  They’re not.  Look at them as you would a sick friend.  You wouldn’t look at a person with late term lung cancer and proclaim, “Wow, I bet you’re sorry you smoked so much now!”  You don’t have to play Captain Obvious.  They just don’t get it.  Yet.  With time and a little bit of effort, rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed the path.

Just follow the freakin’ path.

UPDATE:  Please scroll down to the comments section for Bryan B’s perspective.  It’s excellently succinct.

Recovery and the Great Debate: Which came First, the Chicken or the Egg

Once we sober up and come out of the haze that once distorted our perception, we tend to want to dissect every little part of our life to figure out why – you know, because our thinking up till that point has been so spectacular.

Why do resentments mess with us so much?  Why are we powerless over alcohol?  Why must we only look at our part in a situation where someone else wronged us?  Why must we find a Higher Power, something greater than ourselves, rather than go with self-reliance (because that obviously did so well for us right up until we sobered up)?  Why this, why that, why the other?

Those who remain miserable (by choice, I might add), push the silly debates that don’t have simple answers.  My resentment is different, I was really wronged and I don’t have a part in that, it’s all their fault and I have a right to be angry!  So I’ll hang onto that resentment because it serves me so well, you know, being a victim and miserable and all…  I don’t need a higher power because I’m so all-fired special that I can make self-will work for me!  I don’t need the Fourth and Fifth Steps, I can skip those…  This is what we call “the which came first, the chicken or the egg debate”.

Who cares which came first?  They both taste great fried.

You can work whatever program you like, whatever you think will work.  Just don’t come whining to me when you realize you’re a miserable shit…  Of course you are!  You skipped all of the important stuff that everyone else does to get better!

Let go of the great chicken and egg debate…  It doesn’t matter which came first and never will.