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A Merry Recovery Christmas to All!

The Holidays can be tough, my friends. Lots of emotions, lots of angst, lots of room to be thirsty…

They can also be glorious. Time spent with family and friends, additional meetings for those of us in recovery, a period of remembering that which matters most in Christmas: it’s a time of healing, forgiveness and renewed hope in something vastly bigger than we are.

This is my 29th sober Christmas. My first was spent in a treatment center. I had nothing. I had nowhere to go. I belonged exactly where I was, because God’s grace saved me in that treatment center. He reached down and touched my right on my heart and I could feel Him say, “it’ll be okay”. And it has been. I’ve come a long way.

Friends, in this Christmas season, I was reminded that I am still a selfish, self-centered man. I have gotten so much better over the years, but every once in a while, my eyes are opened to the fact that I still have a lot that has to be done. To be able to see this is a blessing, even if it comes with a sting… and has been the case since that first sober Christmas, I will figure my through it. When it’s all boiled down, I am the only person on this planet I can change. I can choose to look at others and the wrongs they do, but ultimately I’m only doing myself a disservice, because by carrying that resentment I’m distracting myself from what I can do to be a better me.

I will figure this out, and my wife and I will look back on this year in another 29 (or so I hope, that’ll put me at 80) and say, “Wow, look how far we’ve come”.

Merry Christmas. Don’t get thirsty, my friends. Get better. There are bigger fish to fry while we’re figuring out just how good life can be.

An Article I Found Interesting on the True Meaning of the Movie Die Hard

First things first, I don’t make a big deal about movies on my blog, because I tend to feel I have bigger fish to fry, but I am a massive fan of movies. Not Hollywood, so much, because movie stars tend to be tools and ignoramuses (a great combination, by the way), but I love the suspension of disbelief for a couple to three hours while a movie is playing.

One of the more enjoyable parts of the Christmas season for me, aside from the pinnacle of the season, in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Randy Quaid’s Eddie is explaining to Chevy Chase’s Clark the metal plate in his head was changed to plastic because “Every time Catherine would rev up the microwave, I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour.” Every year, without fail, I laugh to the point of tears over that one, perfect line. Aside from that, and the rest of Christmas Vacation, along with A Christmas Story, is the tradition of watching John McClane battle Hans Gruber’s bad guys at Nakatomi Plaza. It’s become a yearly thing with my daughters.

Rarely, however, do I put much thought into movies beyond their ability to allow an escape of the mind… until I happened on the linked article below, about the meaning of Die Hard:

One of Die Hard‘s themes is that it is the regular guys, the practitioners lower down the command chain, who are more likely to figure things out than those above them.

Never mind that the author called Duane T. Robinson, “Robertson” through the whole article, he gets the themes right:

In many ways, McClane’s opposite in the film is not Gruber, but Ellis, Holly’s cackling, coke sniffing colleague who tries to negotiate with the bad guys: “You use a gun, I use a fountain pen. What’s the difference?” Ellis learns the hard way that there is a very profound difference. Again, the the sophisticated (in his own eyes at least) Ellis is no more successful than Dr. Hasseldorf, Deputy Chief Robertson [sic], or the Johnsons at correctly identifying the nature of the threat posed by Gruber and his comrades and how to combat it. It is John McClane — “a dumb Irish flatfoot” as Gruber’s vengeful brother calls him in the third film — who does that. Die Hard celebrates the common sense wisdom of the Blue Collar American everyman.

And that’s what I love about Die Hard, one helluva Christmas movie. Do read the rest of the article, it’s quite good.

Finally, to put a big, red bow on this post, it never fails to amaze me, listening to politicians who live in their nice little Washington DC bubble, completely miss the pulse of the nation and resort to their spoon-fed, bubble wrapped DC talking points. I get this listening to the local radio station on the way home as the show hosts get their panties in a bunch about how tough it must be for people having to return to the office to work with omicron taking over the Covid scene… I was back in the office before there was a vaccine for the vastly more deadly alpha (or was is beta?) – and I worked through delta as if it wasn’t even there. Now they’re whining about the “vastly more contagious omicron” while completely missing the fact that it is also vastly less deadly. Omicron will crowd out delta (it’s already happening) and replace it… this is the best news since they were reporting on the success stories of record Christmas sales in 2019 and all they’re completely missing it.

Like it or not, willful or not, the betters miss what we in flyover country see plainly and simply so consistently it boggles the mind. It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.

When In Doubt, Protect Thine Recovery; Don’t Participate

I love my family deeply. My sisters and brothers are awesome. My mom is deeply caring and fantastic. And we’re all a little nuts.

This year for Christmas, my sister is flying in from LA as she always does but she’s recovering from lung surgery. They had to take out a part of her lung that was cancerous – and the surgery was not without its problems. So, as you could guess, it would be real bad if my sister caught a respiratory virus – especially a highly contagious respiratory virus that kills people with underlying medical conditions… like, I don’t know, having a third of one of your lungs removed a month ago.

You can probably see where this is going, it’s like DEFCON 2 at my sister’s (who will be hosting this year’s festivities, as she has for the past several years, God bless her). There are rules and regulations that must be followed, an air purifier (or three) was purchased, booster vaccinations were required, as is a rapid test within 24 hours of showing up to the party… and my daughter was playing tonsil hockey with a kid at college a few days ago who just found out… you guessed it, he has Covid! It’s a party now! WOOHOO!

That sent my recovering sister, we’ll call her Karen for the sake of this post, into orbit. As of yesterday a rapid test wasn’t going to be good enough. She informed us, from LA, that we should be able to find a place that would do a Rapid PCR test. Somewhere. After reminding us, yet again, that she can’t catch Covid (obviously). Now, nobody had mentioned masks yet, but I expected they’d be handed out on arrival and I’m no fan of those stupid things (if they work, why don’t they work?).

And that’s precisely when I threw in the towel. I texted my sisters that we’d be staying home.

This decision was not without its problems. My sister, the LA sister, wants to see us this year and is feeling a little guilty and upset that we’ve decided to skip the drama and stay home this year. My mom, though, was glad for our choice. My other sister, the hostess, sadly can’t escape the drama but backed us in our decision and she’s bummed we won’t be there because we’re half of the life of the party…

The point of this post, folks, is to say sometimes you just have to do what’s best and avoid a shit show.

The stress, the drama, the… mess, sometimes you have to leave others to that swamp and take care of your recovery (and, as in this case, your family). In that kind of environment, one where even a rapid test wouldn’t really be enough and we’d probably have to put our daughter, my little big girl, in a corner to appease my sister, well some shit just isn’t doable. I’m not willing to put my family through that. For anyone.

The only trick, of course, is to bow out gracefully. We recovering folk are an honest lot, yes. At the same time, we have no room for brutal honesty. I did my best.

Would you be OK if you died tomorrow? Attempting a great life in recovery…

I’ve come a long way since the days I was scrounging around for enough change to get drunk for the night. I’ve come a long way since almost going out Jimi Hendrix style. Since picking out which pillar I’d crash my car into. Since running out of options.

You couldn’t say I’ve done recovery perfectly, but I don’t think anyone would be so arrogant as to say, “Yeah! Nailed it!” Those are the people who usually end up drunk a few weeks later and in a ditch a few months after that, wondering what just happened.

As a thought experiment, I like to contemplate what it would be like if I did die tomorrow. Heck, today. Would I be ready to meet my maker? Would I have resentments that I didn’t properly take care of? Or would I lay there, as the light faded and think, “You know what, I’m okay. I did well with the gift of my sobriety. I lived a happy, fun, free life and I did my best to pass on what I was so freely given, to make a difference in other addicts’ and alcoholics’ lives… let’s see what’s next.”

And it’s with that last thought that I try to live my life. I do a fair job of cocking it up from time to time, but I keep giving it my best, hoping I’ll earn a place on the right side of the Pearly Gates.

Now, here’s how I use that thought experiment for good: I like to try looking at my life from the perspective of a spectator. How am I handling the relationships in my life? How do I interact with my wife and kids, with family, with my neighbors, the men I sponsor, with friends (blog and in person) and acquaintances? Am I doing my part to attract rather than promote? Am I that sad fella standing on a hill with his trumpet, hoping someone notices how awesome I am? Am I living the best life I can?

There’s always room for improvement, but I like how I’m doing so far – and I’ll keep working at that room for improvement. One day at a time.

Recover hard, my friends. There are no “do overs”… only “cleanup on aisle seven”.

Christmas Holiday Tips for Those in Recovery Dealing with Virtue-Signaling Family Members

Folks, the silly season is in full swing! We’ve got variants, masks, mandates, vaccines, attitudes and frayed nerves and family… what could go wrong when you drop a recovering alcoholic or addict in there?!

In these trying and troubled times™, we have to remember we’re all in this together©!

If you’ve had it “up to here” with over-blown, silly clichés, masks, mandates, and virtue-signaling, we have to get a little radical to get through the hoopla of Christmas parties sane, happy and above all else, sober.

My first big tip is “don’t participate” when the rhetoric gets cranked up. Look, someone is bound to broach the political or religious boundary when the conversation gets going. The hardest thing I have passing up is a softball with a perfect arc that you can just wait on and crush. Take the “omicron variant”. Someone will bring up that it’s 70 times more contagious in the hopes of stoking fear because they watch too much CNN. I like to say that I see the contagiousness of the new variant as a positive. The new variant is more contagious, sure, but it’s also vastly less deadly. Omicron will push out the more deadly Delta variant, so we’re actually several steps closer to the new Covid virus being “the common cold” and going back to full normal. This is a perfectly logical and reasonable response based on reality and science.

There’s one problem with that: you’ll open up a can of worms that can’t be shut because you’re not demonstrating proper fealty at the alter of Covid Panic™. Even though the scientific soundness of that response can’t be disputed with what we know about the new variant, those invested fear merchants can’t allow sanity to stand. You will be opening yourself up to name-calling the likes of which you won’t be prepared for.

Better would be the simple, “Look, let’s not get into the politics of a virus, please. Not at a Holiday dinner. We’ve had enough of that. Can’t we just have a nice time together?”

If that’s met with derision, and it likely will be, then we move to, “I’ve tried to be reasonable here. If you want to take this further, we can. I was just hoping to avoid the hot-button argument topics. We’ve had enough of that shoved at us to last a decade.”

If that doesn’t work, go with “Omicron is a good thing” as detailed above, and sit back and watch jaws drop.

Dealing with family members is often really trying for we in recovery. The less we can participate in the ugliness, the better. Try being being a light of good cheer, ignoring those who lead with negativity. Look at it as your reaction is being “fished” for. Try not taking the bait. This is often easier said than done (I speak from experience).

Finally, remember these things when dealing with an ugly situation over the holidays:

Recovery comes first. We don’t have to be mean about it, but we always protect our recovery. If a situation brings us too close to a craving, leave that situation and get your ass to a meeting where you’ll find friends. And yes, you can leave because you knew to leave yourself a way out before you put yourself in a potentially stressful situation to begin with. Second, go to your meetings, then schedule a few extra over the Holiday weeks if you can.

Family is what it is, my friends. Try not to read too much into it and enjoy it the best you can. For those times you can’t, get the hell out and find some friends in recovery. Chances are, there are more than a few going through the same things you are. At the very least, you’ll have a few good stories to tell over coffee.

Rough Day at the Office? When in Doubt, Pedal It Out.

Yesterday was one rough day at the office. If I could have jumped through the phone and put a knot on someone’s melon, it would’ve been tempting. Thankfully, that’s quite impossible so I kept myself out of trouble.

The point is, by the time I got home and pulled into the driveway, I was wound up to a point I needed my head fixed. This isn’t hyperbole, it was certainly nothing to be worried about, but the adrenaline had been pumping so hard, for so long, I was on high alert for several almost ten hours, I had to get out on the bike. It’s the only thing that will burn that stuff up so I can sleep at night.

And so I readied my bike, got dressed and headed over to pick up Chucker. We rode. And once we got going, we rode fast. We started out quite slow…

In between efforts into the wind, I’d tell Chuck about what happened in my day and he’d tell me about his. My description was short and explored the colorful full range of the many uses of the “f” word.

And that’s when I looked down at my Garmin and saw we were doing 16 to 17-mph… into the wind. And we kept the hammer down. There were a couple of breaks after that, but just enough to catch the breath and it was right back on the gas again.

I pedaled that $#!+ of a day out.

On arriving home, I cleaned up and made myself some dinner. Mrs. Bgddy was off at a choir recital for our nephew. My wife wanted to surprise him by showing up (we weren’t invited), but I begged forgiveness so I could ride the angst off, so I was on my own.

I had a small supper, then cleaned the mud off the gravel bike, then I sat down to watch the Red Wings (hockey) game. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I slept like a baby last night. I woke up charged and ready to go…

And I just, through reasonable discussion, closed the deal that had me hung up yesterday.

My friends, “when in doubt, pedal it out” was ever thus.

Another Glorious Winter’s Night on the Dirt

My buddy, Chuck loves winter cycling. I don’t hate it, since buying the perfect winter cycling jacket. I’m a long way from “love”, though.

Every once in a while I run into a night like last night that ups the affection a little bit. The temp was a full 10 degrees above normal, for which I was grateful because it’s been abnormally cold since mid-November and it’s getting old already. The temp was going to drop like a rock once the sun fell, though. I opted for a light long-sleeve and a thermal with a vest and no tights over the leg warmers and bibs.

The decision on the upper layers was smart. The lower layer, I’d come to find, not so much. Thankfully, I did wear my foot covers so my feet were mercifully toasty.

With the exception of being slightly under-dressed, the dirt was awesome. Better that two mile-long paved stretches we have to put up with on our weekday fully paved “Jimmer” route.

As the sun sank behind the western horizon, Chuck and I were treated to a spectacular light show that Michigan winters are famous for – the only trick is being out in the cold to see them. Last night’s was so fantastic, I couldn’t help but stop and snap a picture.

We ended up seeing more deer than we could count, that sunset, and the temp was above freezing the whole ride… and we ended up with a 15-mph average that felt like warp speed the second half of the ride because we were in the dark (have you ever noticed how fast slow is in the dark? It’s freaking awesome!).

I pulled into the driveway with 22-miles and a smile on my face. As I cleaned up for dinner, all I could think was, “If I’d have been home on the trainer, I’d have missed that.”

Some days are great for the trainer, there’s no doubt about it. But I’m glad I didn’t miss last night outside. Even if it was a little chilly.

You Never Know When You’re Going to Need Your Program (So It’s Good to Keep It at the Ready)

I’ve never heard of anyone making a perfect run at recovery, where they decide to sober up, work their program, clean up the wreckage of their past, and bam. That’s it for the bad stuff. Life just doesn’t work that way.

See if this sounds familiar: you’re cruising along and you realize there are a couple of things you’ve been neglecting, things you can do a little better at. You thank your HP for opening your eyes and ask for the strength to fix what needs to be fixed, confident that strength will be there, and you go about it.

And that’s precisely when the wheels really fall off.

This is where you’d better hope you’d been working at that program, that it isn’t as dusty as that Big Book on the shelf (there’s no dust on my Big Book app, however). And while we’re at it, if you’re like most in the program, it’d be a good time to pick up that phone.

Rather than take a deep breath and calmly assess the situation before getting to work on one thing at a time, all of those things you’ve been neglecting (not because you were working a bad program, but because things were going well and you didn’t even see there were issues you were neglecting in the first place – this happens, don’t stress about it. We just go about rectifying the problems), it’s all too easy to lash out and make matters much worse (I had to work extensively on this in the past, and still work on exercises to stay calm when I’d otherwise go).

In truth, when things really go wrong, with the right perspective, this can be looked at as a positive. A few little things are easy to shuffle around and make it feel like we’re making progress while we’re just doing busy work to appease our ego. When things really go wrong, it’s easier to put the brakes on and really take a step back and assess what the f*** just happened.

The key for me is that I know myself. I know exactly when every button has been pushed and I go from manageable to RED DEFCON 4. If I don’t stop and take a deep breath, extract myself from the situation (either physically or mentally), and reflect, I won’t be able to control what happens next. I don’t look for the cool one-liner, I don’t morally berate anyone for “going there”, or anything else. I stop and extract myself from what’s going on immediately, if not sooner.

And then I have to go to work.

Look, shit happens. There’s no reason to get down about it. Stewing in that shit just makes you stink. Get in the solution and work those steps like your life depends on it. It very likely does.

Recover hard, my friends. And don’t f’in’ drink. Even if you ass falls off. And if it does fall off, put it in a paper bag and take it to a meeting and someone will show you how to put it back on.

Einstein’s Theory on a Happy Life Might Be as Good As Relativity

“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”

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.

Why, At 29 Years In Recovery, I Still Get My Coin

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.