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“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”https://apple.news/AbDg0IxIXSTOlwPP9yHudMQ
I’m not necessarily a big fan of Apple’s “all the radical left-wing narrative that’s fit for you to see” approach to news, but if you’re only relying on only one side of the media (whichever side, dears), or if you think yours is the “correct narrative”, you’re undoubtedly missing the incredibly important “other half of the story” your side conveniently leaves out to push its narrative.
With that being said and tucked away, I didn’t know Albert Einstein was a big fan of the pursuit of happiness, but according to the linked article above, in addition to his work on relativity and other big “physicist’s issues”, it appears he was big on happiness.
Interestingly, if you’ve read more than a post or two about recovery and the joy I get from riding with my friends, you already know I agree with his assessment.
Indeed, calm and modest are easy, fun and beautiful. Sure, money is awesome for nice vacations and seeing the world, but we rarely see how hard it is to stay rich. We tend to think it’s all Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. There are trade offs, though. It’s rarely that that simple.
I know what modest looks like. Though keep in mind, there are different levels of “modest” – I was without great means but I always had a roof, a car and a job, the exception being just before I found recovery when I was skating on very thin ice). Early in our marriage, my wife and I lived a very modest life.
In the end, life is what I make of it and I’ve always found the ability to be happy living modestly.
Though I wouldn’t kick being rich out of bed for eating crackers, either.
I don’t have all 29 anymore. I gave a bunch away to friends as the years have gone by. I always figured it’s better to get a coin that’s been around the block than a new one, anyway. Even though my anniversary was almost two weeks ago, I just got my 29-year coin Wednesday night.
Here’s the quick breakdown on why. My homegroup meeting is on Wednesday night from 8 to 9 pm. My anniversary was technically Thursday the 18th, starting at 12:01 am… so I was three hours short. Just before my actual anniversary. I had to wait until the following Wednesday to get my coin. This might seem a little strict, obviously I was going to make it, but it is what it is. We try not to take a minute for granted, let alone 180 to 240 of them. Anyway, we were up north at my wife’s mom’s house for Thanksgiving last week, so I couldn’t make my home group meeting.
So that brought us to Wednesday… and my wife had other meetings she couldn’t miss to give me my coin (she’s given me every one for the last couple of decades unless my sponsor took the task on the rare occasion). So my wife orchestrated it so her dad, who had come in from out of town, filled in to give me my coin (he’s got more than 38 years… it’s a bunch).
It was a special night. Though I’m only 51, I can fairly be called an old-timer.
Now, we old-timers aren’t good for much besides leading by example in showing newer folks that a) the program works by b) being there and generally of good cheer by c) talking about how the program is worked to achieve that good-natured temperament.
Rocket science this ain’t.
That said, there are a half-dozen reasons I still get my coins but there’s one that is above all others. I was given a great gift by my Higher Power the day my desire to use drugs and alcohol was removed enough that I could recover.
I was sober two weeks when I begged God to remove my desire for alcohol. I can remember waking up the next morning awestruck by what it felt like to be free. That was enough to get me working that program of recovery so I could grow into what I am today.
A lot of people struggle with guilt for having been saved and not having a decent answer for one of the harder questions we face in recovery: “why me”? I am not so afflicted. I know why me. I believe I was given that gift because I asked for it when I was ready to use it. Then I did. Now it’s my turn to pay for that gift by helping my fellow newer people in recovery achieve what I did.
And so I have a purpose.
I do my best to be the brightest beacon of light I can be on a stormy night that never ends, on a really small, rocky shore. That’s the job.
Otherwise, we can be pretty much useless. And that’s why people struggle with “why me?” “Being of maximum use to my fellows”, humbly, isn’t exactly the sexiest of jobs. We certainly never get rich doing it.
Freedom, happiness and contentment are the payoff, though. And that’s better than good enough for government work. Especially after what we have to go through to get there.
Recover hard, my friends. It’s a zoo out there.
Chucker texted yesterday, around noon, that he was looking to ride but he had an appointment to get his booster so he had to be done before 6:15 pm. Generally speaking, this is great for me. I’ll be home a little early and dinner will be at a normal time. It wasn’t even that cold out, relatively speaking (we still had a couple inches of snow on the ground)… maybe it was being cooped up and busy all day, maybe just coming back from a four day weekend to a dozen ridiculous demands, but I had zero “want to” to get bundled up to ride outside. In fact, I was looking forward to putting some time in on the trainer.
Now, I’ll give you, that last sentence may seem kinda nuts, but hear me out for a second…
Even though riding the trainer resembles a hamster wheel a little too closely, it’s simple. Throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, slap on the shoes, and ride it out, clean up, shower, done. I can start at 5 and be ready for dinner by six.
Riding outdoors, there’s messing with the lights, messing with the Garmin, removing all of that clothing, getting a whole pile of stuff to the laundry after a shower, does the bike need lube, does it need to be cleaned (we ride mainly dirt roads this late in the season), etc., etc., ad nauseum. I’m lucky if I’m ready for dinner at 7 when I ride outside.
The trainer is simple, and after a full seven months of trying to sneak in every minute I can outside, it’s kind of nice to
make take life easy for a while.
And so it was last night. I put Ocean’s Eleven in the DVD player, cranked up the Bose Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and cranked out some miles. And it was good.
I threw in a bunch of intervals, rode hard, and finished with two puddles of sweat under my bike, either side of my absolutely necessary CycleOps bike thong. With the oldest moved out at her university, the youngest over at her boyfriend’s family’s house, it was just my wife and I for dinner. We had a cozy dinner together and had some laughs, then watched Ocean’s Twelve to finish up the night – I fell asleep halfway through… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you start your day at 4 in the a.m.
While I know for a fact, come the second week of February, I’ll have had enough of my trainer, but I liked it last night. Sure, I’ll be clawing at the door to get outside, waiting impatiently for the biting cold to subside and for the sun to start climbing north in the sky and we’ll have to wait because that last two weeks of February feels like it takes about three months to go by… but it will, and then I’ll be scrambling for every last minute I can get outside again.
It’s the nature of things.
If the news didn’t make it across the big pond, there was actually a stabbing in line when a person tried to “cut” in line to get the raved about chicken sandwich in the USA.
The chicken sandwich is almost that good. Not worth being stabbed over, but it’s good enough to think about it…
In all seriousness, it’s a really good chicken sandwich. Among the best I’ve ever eaten. I take my family at off hours regularly… the drive-thru line is out onto the main road during normal eating hours. Still onto the street, and it’s been two or three years (I can’t remember anymore… that Covid year felt like five). That chicken sandwich is that good.
The spicy chicken is excellent, but really spicy. The regular is out of this world spectacular.
It’s a simple word, really. Sadly, many aren’t lucky enough to have a ready group (or sometimes even one friend) to ride with who can ride when their schedule allows, often at the drop of a hat. My friend Chucker and I are two peas in a pod this way. He and I get out of work at almost the same time, work 20 minutes from each other, and we live two mile apart. I can make it over to his house in six to eight minutes depending on how hard I want to push it to get there. If he’s had to work late, I’ll cruise by his neighborhood and get a few extra miles in till he’s had time to get ready. We ride most days of the week together.
Then there are days like yesterday. It was a special one for me. Phill showed up for the morning ride and the two of us rolled out to pick up Mike on the dirt road a half-mile down the road. The three of us picked up Chuck (not to be confused with Chucker) a mile or so later, and the four of us headed off down the road on our gravel bikes. This was a special group for me because Phill was the first guy I rode with who showed me the ropes on Tuesday night ten years (technically, nine years and one… two… three… five months) ago. Chuck helped us get unlost on my second Assenmacher 100 when we got dropped and took a wrong turn. Then there’s Mike. He and I have been thick as thieves on bicycles (without the crime) since I fell in with the group. We’ve put in a lot of miles together, the four of us.
Mike is incredibly slow on dirt roads because he hates his gravel bike and has no love for dirt. This meant a very slow roll, but time to talk like we normally wouldn’t on the asphalt. We took full advantage of it, recounting rides past and revisiting old stories that made us laugh and tales of woe that we were thankful to push through. The time passed like it didn’t matter. I don’t think we were passed by one car, either, in 24 miles. Maybe one.
We wandered around, following our noses and even talked Mike into deviating from our planned route home to check out a subdivision. Once Mike is ready to go home, he can rarely be persuaded to change course. He’s like an old hound dog who’s been out in the field too long when he’s ready to go home.
After checking out what turned out to be a senior living mobile home park, I brought up something Chucker and I had been talking about several days earlier when we saw a pace-line of Canada geese that stretched for miles. There had to be hundreds of them, and Chucker wondered aloud how fast they fly, guessing around 25 to 30-mph. I Googled it the next day; 40 to 50-mph with a top speed above 60 (!). Chuck responded as I did when I first read the 40-50-mph cruising speed. Then he mentioned that the two at the back of the pace-line are likely named for a couple of guys in our group who are famous for sucking wheel (and have earned the right to do so – not a one of us is anything but cool with this as we prefer them riding with us however they can). I picked that up the hand off and ran with it and we were laughing our asses off for the next couple of miles as we figured out who went where as it pertained to a pace-line of geese.
By the time Phill and I got to my house, Chuck and Mike having split off for home, I stopped my Garmin on the slowest ride of the year for me – I could have comfortably ridden that on my mountain bike – and I’ve never been so thankful for a slow ride since I first turned a crank as a kid. It was one of the best rides of the year; one I’ll do my best never to forget. I hope we have many more like it.
That’s one of the best cogs in cycling. It’s the 53/11 of cycling. Hotdogs, tailwind, and friends. And that’s as good as it gets.
Saturday was easy but full. We rode gravel bikes well before sunrise so we could get back to head down to my youngest daughter’s last swim meet of the season. She’d seeded in all four of her events Friday evening (50 free, 100 free, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay) the night before with some fantastic personal bests for the season – she broke 28 seconds for the 50 free for the first time in all three of her 50 yard events and broke a minute for the first time in the 100. And she’s only a sophomore this year.
So Saturday was her finals, starting at 11 several towns east. After, she went to see a movie with her boyfriend and I took my wife out to dinner at her favorite burger joint, then to see the new Bond movie (which was excellent). I slept like a brick Saturday night.
I slept in Sunday morning till 4:30, thankfully. With DST over for the year, this was easy. The temp for the morning was moderate for this time of year at 42 (about 6 C I think) and it was supposed to be a glorious day so we had it planned to roll on the road bikes. The ride was phenomenal and a little over two hours. We got in just under 40 miles.
Before I even showered I had my wife’s gravel bike out for some much needed maintenance. Her seatpost was creaking something fierce and she wanted her saddle raised a sliver. Two birds, one stone. Then, I didn’t like how her steering felt so I took apart the headset, cleaned and lubed everything and put it all back together. Much better. At that point, I realized how stinky I was, so I dropped everything and headed for the shower. Afterward, it was back at the gravel bike to clean some things up and lube the joints of the derailleurs. Then, my gravel bike. I cleaned the crank and put it back together.
My wife sat down in her chair for a nap and I sat down for a quick lunch.
Next up was the lawn. The leaves are falling heavily and we had massive amounts of rain the last couple of weeks. That was followed by a dry spell that culminated in a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. As soon as I’d attended to the bikes, it was time to get after the grass. That took a bit more than an hour and a half and it wasn’t my best job, but it was good enough for government work.
We had a cycling club board meeting at three, so it was “quick, put the bowling balls in the car and head out” to get there on time. The meeting took from 3 to 4:30 and we got a lot done, or at least “talked about”.
From there my wife and I shot over to Grand Blanc and had dinner at Qdoba (our favorite). Then to the bowling alley at 6:00 for a few games (198, 164, 186) before taking it home.
I put Sunday Night Football on and was out before the first commercial. I woke up on the couch a while later and took it to bed.
I’d started at 4:30 in the morning and didn’t stop till 9:30 that night. I slept like a rock last night. Didn’t move until I woke up to get ready to go to the office. I still can’t believe I got that much done in a day.
I have a special place in my heart for the still sick and suffering.
When I think back on what I was like as a drunk kid, trying to make being an uncontrollable drunk work, I always settle on the jumping off point in my mind. Too miserable to keep drinking, but too scared to stop.
Life would be so boring if I have to quit, I thought.
If that describes where you, or someone you know is at, send them a link to this post.
What you think will be boring is a mistaken understanding of what life will be like when you quit. That’s exactly how it worked with me.
Think of a spring morning. It’s windy, cloudy, cold… you want to go outside but it doesn’t look good. You decide to throw caution to the wind and put on shoes and a jacket. And pants. You head out and ten minutes later, the clouds break and the warmth hits you like the rays actually came from heaven.
Now imagine that not hungover. Ahem.
That’s the difference between staying drunk and recovering, only better. It’s like stepping out of a blizzard into a summer’s day at the beach. And you literally don’t have a care in the world. You don’t have to have a care in the world because you cleaned up the wreckage of your past a decade ago and you quit throwing things in the heap you used to drag behind you.
Oh, life still throws us a curve here or there. I still learn new things about how I can be a better “me”. When it comes down to it, though… I thank God for being on the right side of the grass pumping air, every morning and every evening.
The key is working towards a good life. Recovery is tricky. You get out of it better than what you put into it… but you won’t get anything if you choose to sit on your hands and hope it comes to you.
I can promise you this, though. If you work a program of recovery, like it’s meant to be worked, your life will become so good you’ll think it can’t possibly get any better. Six months later, you’ll realize it did. All by itself. You will know freedom, peace and happiness, and it will be good.
Now think about what your potential is, drunk. What I describe above is worth the effort.
I’ve been to that place where I think life can’t possibly get better so many times I’ve lost count. I keep coming back, though, because it does get better. All by itself. And at this point, I want to see just how “good”, “good” really is.
Don’t be afraid. You’ll like it. If you don’t, your misery can be refunded. All you have to do is take a drink to start the vortex spinning again.
Recovery doesn’t work as often as it should… until we get to where people are actively “working on” their recovery. At that point we get to something like an 85% success rate (it’s something like 90% make one year, then 85% of those make five, but those numbers are positive so they’re not published often… the machine would rather count everyone who walks through the door to a meeting, like we’re all professional miracle workers or something and can simply zap someone who has no desire to do what it takes to live a life free of addiction into instant peace and contentment with a few magic words.).
I don’t know what the percentages are for making a quarter of a million hours, but I’m past that and I dig it immensely. It isn’t an easy way of life, trying to choose a humble life in this “look at me” environment, but it’s simple and gratifying. When all the accounting is done, I truly love being me.
Having arrived at this point in life doesn’t mean I’ve crossed a finish line, I’ve always been partial to the idea that the finish line is a casket (or in my case, an urn for what’s left if anything is salvageable – I’m hoping for, “nope, all of that $#!+ is worn out”, but you never know).
Working on recovery leads, inexorably, to gratitude, peace and contentment. The big three, if we work for them, are like a tractor beam. It’s awesome and inescapable.
The catch is, it only works if you work it.
And so I go about my life, working toward being the best me I can simply because I want to see exactly how good this can get. Unlike the stockmarket, in this way of life, past performance is indicative of future results.
And so it was, I got home yesterday and my wife and I had a meeting with our financial advisor. It was cool out, lower 50s (call it 10 C, maybe) and cloudy with an occasional misting that wouldn’t quite turn to rain. I had every intention of skipping out but my wife had a board meeting to attend, so I thought why not give it a go. I could always turn around if I wasn’t feeling it. I texted Chuck and asked him to give me a few to get ready, then that I’d meet him on the road. I wheeled my Trek out just as he rode by the house. I clipped in, let him catch up after he turned around up the road and we rolled out.
The roads were slightly, meaning barely damp in a few splotchy places. No standing water, no spray, just the appearance of moisture. Sorry, dampness?
The first mile was a little on the chilly side but I warmed up under the gloomy sky – and I almost forgot, there was virtually no wind. The ride was more a two-wheeled stroll, really. We had some fast sections, but when we stumbled on a good topic, we’d slow it right down till we got through the discussion. It was exactly as a mid-autumn ride should be. The three Fs, if you will. Fun & Friendly with a little Fast. While we felt a little mist here or there, the roads ended up drying out completely and we never got enough to complain about.
As we were riding along, I was struck by how quiet and fantastic the Trek is behaving now that I got the right (rear) shifter tamed. I’ve never had it so good – and it’s been a great bike. “Buttery smooth” is a good way to put it.
We completed our loop and Chuck and I said our good-byes.
After a shower and a quick bite to eat, I headed out to a meeting where I talked an issue through with my sponsor, then related to it at the meeting because it fit an issue another guy was having with his family. Once the meeting was done, I stayed after for twenty minutes for the meeting after the meeting. Now, it’s a rare day I air dirty laundry at a meeting. Some people talk about every little issue they run into but I’m not that guy… I have a sponsor for that. In this rare instance, it fit. After the meeting I headed home, to find my daughter’s car in the driveway. Funny how things work out, is all I could think. My daughter and I had a conversation about that issue I’d spoken with my sponsor about and I made an apology that I needed to make and we laughed about how things had gone down. I’m being a little cryptic for space and time, and because the crux of the conversation is none of anyone else’s business… what is important is that I made my amends for a mistake I made, at the first opportunity I had because that’s how it works.
That’s how I got to, and beyond, 250,000 hours of continuous sobriety. One at a time. Then twenty-four at a time… then, out of the blue you look down at your Big Book app and see that you’ve passed a milestone without even realizing it. Because out of all those hours, the one I’m in right now is the most important. It’s the only one I can do anything with, really. And for that, I am grateful.
Recover hard, my friends. You’re worth it.
You know those days where most sane people wake up ready to ride, only to look outside and find rain blew in from out of nowhere to confound the plans and say, “Self, it’s a day off, then. Let’s fire up the NetFlix.”
The first half was me. I was not sane. Nor was Chuck, Winston or Mike K. After all, it was the annual apple cider (and cinnamon sugar donut) ride. I’d rather wax my own @$$ than miss that ride! It was only lightly raining, anyway, and it was due to stop just as the ride was scheduled to start, anyway.
My wife was sane. So was my riding buddy, Mike A. And a bunch of other people who’d planned on showing up.
Ah, the lure of a donut or two during a diet… the only way I can justify that is to ride to get them…
I only knew Chuck and I were showing up. We’d texted back and forth and I forwarded those texts to the group without response, then packed the car and headed to our meet-up spot, about a 16 minute drive from the house. It rained the whole way. As I approached the city parking lot, though, just as the future radar had shown, the rain lightened to a drizzle and stopped. We started getting ready. Ten minutes later, on damp roads, we rolled out.
The dirt was damp, even a little wet at times, but not horrible. We decided to ride it out, knowing the farther south we got, the more conditions would improve. Sadly, something like four miles in, we turned north and it started spitting on us, then picked up just enough for me to check my computer to see how far it was to get back… I remember thinking, at 8 miles, “Oh, crap, we’ve got more than four times this [mileage] left!” Then we headed south, about ten miles in… the rain stopped and things cleared up considerably. Eventually, the dirt dried and the sun even tried to break through the cloud cover. Unfortunately, the temperature was the one thing that didn’t improve. It was cold. I regretted not having shoe covers and a second layer on the bottom half. Thankfully, I was a little over-dressed up top, having opted for a light long-sleeve jersey under my heavy long-sleeve and vest. If not for being a bit overdressed at my core the ride would have sucked bad.
And Chuck had managed to find every big hill there was out there. We climbed the dirt version of “The Wall” (it’s actually called The Wall in Strava – PRed it), Maybley Hill (PRed it), Ratalee Hill (PRed it)… look, I could go on for a minute. When it was all done, hit eight PRs and four second fastest times yesterday. There was only one segment the whole ride that I didn’t best a previous time on. It didn’t show it on the average speed on my Garmin, but we were flying compared to previous rides (and thankfully, I didn’t ever feel like I was working that hard – I was out of breath a lot, but I recovered quickly).
23-miles in and we were as far south as we were going to get. Conditions had improved massively and I knew we were getting close to donuts. My mood improved immensely. Two miles later we were pulling up to the orchard… and our sweet reward for having braved some pretty crappy conditions.
We went through the indoor maze to get to the donut line (or where the donut line normally is), to find a sign that directed us outdoors for our mid-ride snack. We made a bee-line. The line was mercifully short and after about a minute’s wait, I was ordering my two donuts and hot apple cider. As we walked over to the outdoor picnic tables, the line quintupled in length. We’d gotten there exactly at the right time.
We sat and talked and laughed… and ate and drank our spoils.
Our break wasn’t too short but was long enough and we headed to our bikes to roll out. I hadn’t noticed it while we were eating but the clouds had broken and I was squinting against the sun… and it was awesome. We donned our helmets and gloves and rolled out. We only had a little less than twelve miles left and the dirt had dried up nicely. The pace really picked up in quite a few places and just about the time my tongue was going to get rubbed raw from dangling down on my tire, Chuck sat up and said, “That’s enough of this.” I can’t put into words my gratitude.
The remaining five or six miles was controlled but fast in places and definitely fun… though I noticed going from the little to big ring up front was a lot more work than it should have been. That was going to need some attention later on.
We rolled into the parking lot with smiles on faces and the sun shining down on us – a much better situation than what we’d rolled out in. I looked at my bike and knew I was in for a long cleanup on aisle five. The bike was covered in mud. Still, I couldn’t help but feel grateful on the way home. I’d had a great time with a few friends for the better part of three hours, and without them, I’d have sat it out on the couch.
It was worth all the work I’d put into the Diverge later on – new shifter cable, new (matching) bottle cages… finally… and about an hour’s worth of cleaning and drivetrain maintenance. She runs like new, now.
People not in the know tend to paint we recovering types with a broad brush. They often claim we “talk weird, like [we’re] in a cult or something”. They often, incorrectly claim we are too “religious”, there’s too much talk of God and Jesus.
Like many stigma-related stereotypes, those two are based on a sliver of truth, wildly exaggerated. I can’t say they’re untrue, but they’re not true, at the same time.
We do speak… um, with an authentic eccentricity that some can find odd. Some of us are very religious, not unlike normal society. We have our atheists and agnostics as well. Unlike many parts of society, we don’t discriminate. We take everyone who wants to live a life free of the bondage of alcoholism, addiction and abuse.
I happen to be a little more pragmatic about God. I capitalize the G (if you’re writing about Bob, do you write bob? No you don’t). On the other hand, I believe in attraction, not promotion. I’d rather show you God’s grace by being an example of it than trying to convince you of it.
I’d rather a person come up to me and ask me how I could possibly be so content (or happy, as the case usually is), to ask what my trick is, than to try to convince everyone that God is the answer by shouting it from the rooftops.
A cat on the fence howling at the moon tends to get a shoe thrown at it. Know what I’m saying?
That out of the way, let’s get down to what’s real (and what really puts people off about “program people”). Those in recovery, meaning those who actually practice the principles of recovery, not everyone who show’s up to get a paper signed for the judge so they can get out of trouble, have a cheat. We literally cheat our way out of a sad, unhappy, discontented life. Well, that depends, I suppose, on how you want to define “cheat”:
We are taught the true nature of happiness as an inside job from the day we walk in the door and sit down at a table. We learn how to be happy and peaceful in our own goodness and to reject resentment because resentment, even against those who have wronged us, is the root of our later stages of addiction. We put the focus solely on ourselves. In fact, if done correctly, we learn how to look at our own part in someone else’s mistreatment of us. We learn the only thing we can “fix” in the world is in the gray matter betwixt our ears. Period, end of story.
Once we learn how to be good and to be okay with that goodness, we cease looking outside ourselves for “things” that artificially make us feel happy. Happiness becomes an inside job.
Once this is mastered, we learn to protect our happiness from outside influences that typically despise easy-going happiness.
After that, we learn how to take those influences and show them grace, peace and forgiveness. (This is where I normally reside, so I don’t know what’s next – but this is pretty freaking good! I like it a lot).
This isn’t to say this choice of lifestyle is perfect. I run into challenges that take a run at my peace and happiness on a regular basis. Sometimes I fail for a while. Sometimes I can’t see my part in things. Sometimes I just want to be pissed off for a minute… but in the end, I always fall back to the tried and true cheat of looking at myself when I’m tired of being miserable. It’s the only thing that really works. Every time. Without fail.
Recover hard, my friends. The alternative sucks.