It’s Taken Me a Long Time to Get Here, Again

For months, I have woken up filled with anger and angst about the politics of the United States. I’ve felt that it was my responsibility to be educated, to be involved, to raise my voice against injustice, to resist. But in the 24 hour news cycle this has become taxing — Taxing on my mental health, my family, and my friendships.

I’ve been keenly aware that my anger and angst, my resentments, have been eating me alive. I’ve also been keenly aware that these things are beyond my control. Intellectually, I know what to do, and yet, I have resisted. And I’ve felt trapped. Trapped by the fact that this is an “outside issue.” I’ve felt a strong need to talk about it in a safe place, a meeting perhaps, but have known that I cannot bring up politics in a meeting for obvious reasons.

I’ve been caustic in my criticism of this new reality on my social media outlets. Where I’ve needed to bring healing words, I’ve only brought sandpaper to rub the wounds of my friends. Continue reading

Another Gift of My Sobriety

Reconnecting with my wife has been one of the most precious gifts of my sobriety. In the depths of my drinking, there were times when I felt that I’d lost her emotionally — times when I felt like we didn’t connect at all — and I didn’t know why. The reason is quite clear in retrospect, but when you’re stuck in your shit, you don’t see it.

In the early months of my sobriety, when I was waking up to feeling things again, I was often overwhelmed and my defense mechanism was to retreat into myself. There were times when I felt that I was completely blank. Times when I didn’t know what to say or do. And during those times, I was fearful that things wouldn’t get better, even though people told me that they would.

Gradually, as I became familiar with feeling my own emotions again — my actual emotions, rather than emotions heightened or dulled by intoxication — I started to find that I wasn’t completely broken. I began to mend myself and my relationships.

When I was in the depths of my drinking, my wife would try to get me to come out of my shell. She would propose date nights, dinner and a movie. And I resisted. I didn’t think that I liked movies and dinner meant not drinking the way I wanted to. Those nights were pained. We would go to dinner, I’d pregame with a secret glass of bourbon before going out, and then order a drink at dinner. It would disappear before the server was back for our order.

We would go through the motions of having a date, but I wasn’t there. No conversation took place. Imagine two people sitting in near silence at a nice restaurant eating dinner, glumly. That was us. And it sucked, for both of us.

After I’d had a bit of sober time, learned a few things about myself, and started to actually relate to other people again, the idea of a date with my wife was appealing. Suddenly, it was actually something that I looked forward to, and that I enjoyed.

This past weekend, we took an overnight trip to Philadelphia on Saturday and had a great time. It was largely unplanned. It wasn’t until we were going to bed Friday night that we decided that we’d be going to Philly on Saturday.

Saturday morning we went to our son’s basketball game before we got ourselves together to head out. While my wife was busy after the game, I looked over a few hotels she’d suggested. One was totally booked, and the other was a bit more expensive that we really wanted, but I found another that looked like it would be nice and fit our budget. When she got home, I booked it on my app.

We packed up and took Mr. Grey to his cousin’s house and then got on the road. We got to Philly around 3 PM and had dinner reservations for 8:45 — late, but we hadn’t counted on the fact that this was the weekend before Valentine’s Day and just like us, others were celebrating too. Since we had a little time, we hit Reading Terminal Market and had a snack at Tommy DiNic’s.

I know you’re thinking that Philly is known for Cheesesteaks, and it is, but in my not so humble opinion the much better sandwich in Philadelphia is the Italian Roast Pork sandwich. Slow roasted pork, sharp provolone, and broccoli rabe. It may not sound as good as shaved rib eye, caramelized onions, and cheese, but trust me — its that damn good.

After that snack, we walked up Chestnut Street and ducked in and out of a few shops before heading back to get ready for dinner at the Butcher Bar. Dinner was a bit of a bust. The food was fabulous, but the atmosphere was just not our scene. Lesson learned, don’t ask your thirty-something coworker for restaurant recommendations when you are in your mid to late forties.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the Green Egg’s Cafe, where I had short rib eggs Benedict — yes, poached eggs atop slow roasted short ribs, with potato pancakes instead of english muffins. It was divine.

At several points during the weekend, I was keenly aware that we were having a lot of fun, just being together. We’d woken up and made a loose plan, gone to a different city and enjoyed the city as best we could during the short time we had there. It occurred to me several times that this is how things are supposed to be. I was keenly aware that we were having fun and it was a lot like when we were first dating. I know deep down in my soul that this is a gift of my sobriety. And for that gift I’m grateful.

Back in the Saddle, Again

Losing weight was not my goal when I decided to get sober, but I sure wasn’t opposed to the idea. Indeed, in the first month and a half of sobriety I was dropping weight like a bad habit. I dropped 17 pounds in about 6-8 weeks. But it was totally unsustainable.

See, like a good alcoholic, I figured that if I was going to get sober, I might as well go all in and count my calories and ramp up my working out. I figured, what the hell, right? And for a few short weeks, that sort-of was working, except it wasn’t. I was a complete mess and in danger of falling off the beam.

I quickly realized that I needed to focus on what mattered most and give myself a break in the exercise and eating department. And I did. And I ate a shit ton of sugary carbs. And I gained back ten of those 17 pounds. It was the absolute right decision at the time and I don’t regret it, even if my skinny jeans don’t fit and my new belts are a bit tight.

I’ve been thinking about when the right time to get back into the swing of things might since I was about six months into my sobriety, when I joined the local YMCA with all the good intentions in the world. At the time, I was going to a 6AM meeting every day of the week and I was getting burnt out on the meeting. I figured I’d mix it up and go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of the meeting. And for about a week, I did. And after that I might have hit the gym 3 or 4 other times in the past ten months. Today, I finally canceled that stupid gym membership, and it felt damn good to do it. That’s $80 a month that I can put to better use.

But, that’s not to say that I’ve lost my interest in recommitting myself to fitness. Quite the contrary, today marks the beginning of clawing my way back to a level of fitness I’d attained when I rode 1700 miles in 2012 and 1400 miles in 2013 and had only one month in 24 with no rides.

I was never a fast cyclist. I was never a great cyclist, but I was without a doubt a cyclist and I loved it. Looking back now, I can see that it was at the end of 2013 when things started to fall to pieces with my drinking — that’s when I stopped riding regularly. Indeed, a defining event that catapulted me toward recovery was when I struggled for 65 grueling miles on an MS ride in 2015 and was unable to even start on the second day.

I may not be the first person to commit to a new fitness program by ditching a gym membership, but I’m sure it’s not the usual first step. You may be wondering just what the hell I plan to do. How does one become fit without going to the gym?

The answer is simply I will be doing more of the things that I love. The other day, I was talking with my mother about my post election mental malaise and she asked, “When was the last time you went outside?” Confessing that I’d been some time she said, “Well, you’re an outside boy, you always were. You need to get outside and get fresh air and sunlight.” I knew she was right, even if I didn’t want to admit it.

And that’s why I know that canceling a gym membership is the right thing to do. Why didn’t I go to the gym? Not because I don’t want to be fit and healthy, but because I cannot stand the idea of cardio work that results in me moving without actually covering any distance. I was never one to utilize the strength training equipment (though I could probably benefit from some core training) anyway.

So, I’ll be walking, hiking, and biking.  And I’ll be tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal.  And with a little effort that weight that I wanted to lose sixteen months ago will come off.

Today, I got out for a ride in beautiful 51F weather. I only got 9 miles in, but the sun was shining, my legs were burning and my heart was pounding. And I felt good. Really good. Like I might do it again sometime. Like later this week.

I’m at the point in my recovery where I’m ready to tackle some of the other things in my life that need tackling. It feels good to feel like I’ve got a solid base upon which to start building. Yes, it was only nine miles, but there was a time when I only had nine hours of sobriety too.

Connection: Key to My Survival

Life has been moving very quickly in the past two weeks between work and family. I had a trip to Florida right before the inauguration. The following week I had a few health related appointments (nothing to worry about, routine things like an eye exam — turns out I need readers for my daily computer work). Of course, mixed in there has been the rush of being a father, with a son in cub scouts, and basketball. I got violently sick (Norovirus) towards the tail end of last week and didn’t really recover until Monday of this week.

I’ve been trying to keep with a cadence of at least one post per week, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to write since the inauguration of President Trump. It’s hard to believe its only been twelve days since the inauguration and only nine since we were introduced to the idea of “alternative facts.” Everything feels like it’s accelerated over the past two weeks, and the chaos with which the administration steeps its tea hasn’t helped much either. The truth is, I’ve wanted to write, but not about sobriety. Continue reading