Entirely a Shit-show, but Not a Shit-show Entirely: 2020 in Retrospect

I promise, this post will highlight some good things that happened in my life in 2020, but first I have to acknowledge some unavoidable and inconvenient truths about this past year.

There is no doubt that when the history books are written, 2020 will go down as an epic shit show of a year. In early 2020, it was evident that a major epidemic was brewing in China — a virus which would eventually break free of the Chinese government’s efforts to contain the damage and become the COVID-19 Pandemic. We watched in horror as first, Europe and then the United States struggled to control the virus. We watched an epic failure on the part of the Trump administration when they at first ignored the virus, then downplayed it, prematurely declared victory, and finally walked away from it while we suffer death rates in excess of 9/11 on a daily basis in the United States.

Our economy faltered and failed. The most vulnerable among us became victims as the pandemic ripped through communities and people who could not work remotely continued to go to their jobs so that they could put food on their tables, or lost their jobs. We watched as relief packages expired and our Senate Majority Leader blocked meaningful legislative action to assist those who needed it, as the chill of autumn crept in and people couldn’t afford food, let alone heat.

And if a Pandemic wasn’t enough, we watched again and again as police in America killed black men and women. Our cities burned during the summer as years of rage boiled over, but there were far more peaceful protests in the name of Black Lives Matter than there were riots. We watched as President Trump used protests as a politically convenient tool to further his agenda of hate and chaos. He used tear gas on peaceful protesters to clear a street in DC so that he could have a photo op in front of a church while holding a bible as a prop, upside down. He waged an very real press war on a very imaginary radical left that he calls Antifa. Let’s be clear, Antifa is Anti-Fascist. Every American should be anti-fascist — the Greatest Generation fought to destroy fascism in the 30s and 40s.

Yes, 2020 was a shit show. We have all suffered with isolation and fear this past year amidst the pandemic. However, I know that there were also good things that happened in my life this past year and I was reminded of many of them last night when I scrolled through the photos in my phone. Yes, it’s been a year of challenges, but I realized it wasn’t all bad.

Before I begin sharing some of the good things that happened this past year, I need to acknowledge that I am privileged. I work for an information security company that has been wildly successful during the pandemic. Our company has been successful in part because so many other companies were not prepared for a rapid shift to remote work and needed to make significant investments in their infrastructure as digital transformation accelerated as a result of the new realities of the pandemic. My job was 100% remote before the pandemic and the biggest change for me with respect to work was that I began meeting with my customers over Zoom rather than in person. I’m tired of this, to be sure, but I am also fortunate. Our company shifted to 100% remote for all employees early and has not gone back to in person work. We are truly fortunate because we get to work safely from home, day in and day out. This privilege has meant that I have been shielded from the harshest realities of the pandemic and for that I am truly grateful.


The year started off, much like any other year. I was blissfully ignorant of what has happening in China on January 1st 2020, as were most Americans. On New Years Day, we went to Harpers Ferry for a hike and enjoyed views of the Shenandoah. Over the course of the month, I began to hear the name “Wuhan” more and more frequently, but it was distant. It was something that was happening in Asia. It felt a bit like SARS to me. I was mildly afraid but not overly concerned despite the fact that during the SARS and H1N1 epidemics I’d been part of a planning exercise for a pandemic while working at a global media organization.


In February, news of the virus had started to become more urgent. My company typically hosts a technical conference in February for the global systems engineering and professional services organizations in Vegas. There was some talk about whether to cancel the conference, but it went forward. We were advised that our colleagues from APAC would not be in attendance and that if we felt unsafe, we could opt out of the conference. I went to the conference, despite some reticence. I have taken to going to couple of shows when I’m in Vegas now since I don’t drink or gamble. I saw Aerosmith on February 10th. It would be the last live show I’d see in a long time. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry put on an amazing show.


In the middle of March, I had my last in person meeting with a customer. I remember offering my hand for the customary handshake and my customer taking it and then saying, “oh, wait, we aren’t supposed to do this anymore.” Despite knowing that the guidance coming from the Trump administration that masks were unnecessary, I remember thinking that they would be a good idea. But they were hard to find and I felt that health care workers needed them more than I did.

In my town, there is a special place called the Donut Shack. The Donut Shack was a local independent business that was started 30 years ago and had the best donuts ever. In 2019, the owners retired and sold the shop. The first new owners, ruined it. They sold within 3 months. The second new owners, destroyed it. It sat empty for a few months. I was quite sad. Early in 2020, I was alerted to the fact that a third set of new owners was working with the original ownership to learn their craft. March was special because even though we got stuck in lockdown, the Donut Shack reopened and the donuts are as good as they used to be!


My wife loves San Diego Fish Tacos, and along with her quest to find the perfect Caesar Salad, she regularly orders fish tacos when we are out. They are almost always a disappointment. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but cheese does not go on a fish taco. Neither does lettuce. As the lockdown began to stretch on, we started to get antsy and she started talking about the foods that she missed. Fish tacos came up. I scoured the internet and found a few recipes. I tried a few and in April, I perfected Baja Style Fish Tacos! There was much rejoicing and even my picky son loved them!


If you know me, or if you have been following along for a while, you know that is love bicycles. As the lockdown stretched into May, I started looking for additional ways to get outside. I had done a 4 weeks to faster 5K training regimen in April and was getting tired of running. I wanted to get out on my bike, but I have been struggling with tight hamstrings as a result of too much time in the saddle for a few years. When I was younger, I rode mountain bikes but after a few gnarly accidents I’d put my Specialized Rockhopper into retirement. I was dying to get out in the woods and one day, I decided to take my bike to a local trail. After that ride, I came home and said to my wife, “I don’t know why I ever stopped doing that.” Thus began my re-entry into the MTB world and began my quest for a new ride which proved difficult because everyone in the entire United States was buying bikes last spring!


In June, the fact that we’d been stuck in the same 5 square miles was really eating at us. We weighed the pros and cons of going on a vacation heavily. I was initially very much against the idea, but after talking with a few friends I warmed up to the fact that I could quarantine at the beach just as I was here at home. We rented a place and went to the beach. It was lovely. There were very few people at the beach and we had all our meals in the house. Many of the restaurants were closed entirely, but a handful were offering take out. We were very careful and wore our masks and abided by the rules of Delaware at the time. One day, I went out for a paddle in a kayak on the Delaware Bay. As I was paddling I found myself surrounded by a pod of dolphins! They were so close to the boat I could have touched them with my paddle, which of course I did not do. It was a special moment.


I’d long wanted to upgrade to a full suspension mountain bike, but since I hadn’t been riding on the trails, I never felt that I could justify it. As I started riding on the trails more regualrly, it became apparent that my 22 year old bike was in need of an upgrade. I wrestled with whether to upgrade to a 29er or a 650b ride. After a few test rides, it was clear to me that I didn’t want a 29er. My buddy Eugene let me ride his Yeti SB140 and I was instantly in love. I ordered the last one I could find in June. In July, my new bike came after a long process (the original bike shipped with a crack in the head tube). I rode it a few times at my local trail system and in mid July, I went down to Virginia one Saturday for an epic ride at Fountainhead with my buddy Eugene from work. It was great to see Eugene after a few months of talking on the phone and team Zoom calls. We tore up the trails and it was one of the best rides of the summer on my new bike.


August found us feeling cooped up again. We made plans to go to NY to see my wife’s family for the first time since the previous November, but they got thwarted when Governor Cuomo announced quarantine restrictions on visitors from Maryland. After some searching we found that we could get a cabin on the grounds of the Greenbrier in West Virginia. We did not want be in the main hotel because we wanted to be as careful as possible and the cabin presented us with a way to go but maintain social distancing. When we entered the property, the staff took our temperatures. If you had a fever you would be turned away. We enjoyed our trip. Nearly all our activities were outdoors and by ourselves. When we were with others everyone wore masks. While we were there, a good friend with deep roots in the local area pointed us to an amazing little cafe in Lewisburg, WV.


In September, the restrictions in NY were lifted and we went to visit my wife’s family. Because we did not want to put them at risk, we stayed in a hotel rather than at their house and we met outdoors for a walk and lunch at an restaurant with outdoor seating. It was nice to get to see them and also to see some of the first fall colors of the year. And of course, September was also important because September 23rd was my 5th sobriety anniversary! I remember early in the Trump administration saying that it would be a miracle if I got through his presidency sober. Well, not only did I get through four years of ignorance and chaos, but I also got through the pandemic (so far) without taking a drink. Miracles.


In October, the restrictions on in person meetings of more than 10 people in Maryland were briefly lifted. This afforded my son’s scout troop the opportunity to meet outside with masks. We had about six meetings as a troop before it got too cold and the restrictions were put back in place as the virus began to rage again. We managed to get the only scout camping trip of the year in during the month of October. I vividly recall talking with other dads on the trip about how good it felt to be outside and how much we all needed that trip.


In November, we watched as 81,283,485 Americans showed the world that we don’t stand for fascism, white supremacy, and authoritarianism. Sadly, 74,223,744 Americans showed the world that these things are not deal breakers for them. The next 50 days would be filled with disinformation and flagrantly false statements from the president as he and his team of thugs worked to find any possible way to hold on to power. Every lawsuit that was brought was struck down by the courts because they were all baseless. It was a sad time in America. We have a lot to wrestle with as a nation. Somehow we need to find a way to bridge the gaps that exist between so many people. I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people vote more often than not out of fear than they do out of conviction. We’ve weathered a rough few years that nearly tore the country apart. But I have faith. Faith that things will get better. Faith that truth and justice will prevail. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently said when he paraphrased the 19th century Unitarian Universalist, Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”


December didn’t feel much like December. We lost my uncle Danny to cancer in December. He had been sick for a long time, and while it was sad to see him go, we all knew that he was finally at peace. Still, his death hit me more deeply than I originally thought. I’ve lost a lot of people over the years and many of them have been 65 or younger. As I am now 48, this can be scary and overwhelming. I know that I’m doing the right things to maximize my time on earth, but it’s still scary to see so many people die early in my family.

Between Danny’s death, the general malaise of the pandemic, and the aforementioned disinformation campaign coming from the White House, it was really hard to get into the Christmas spirit. There were no holiday parties to attend, and we didn’t get together for a family meal on Christmas Day. Still, we had a nice Christmas. I built a custom gaming PC with my son for him for his Christmas present and we got got a few more hikes in as well, including one at one of our favorite spots on the Chesapeake Bay.

Yes, 2020 was a shit show. There is no doubt about it. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We did a lot less than we would have in a typical year, but we were also lucky to be able to do a lot more than others. We were cautious about when and where we went and we wore our masks religiously. I’m sure that some may judge us for all the activity that we partook in. That’s fine, we made our choices based on our circumstances. When we were home, we were isolated and so we were reasonably assured that we were not carrying the virus. We were fortunate that we did not come in contact with the virus in our travels. Thankfully, we have our health and there is hope on the horizon in 2021.

Resilience in the Time of COVID-19

The mysterious universe seems to be built upon cycles. Stars are born out of gas clouds and cosmic dust. As the dust spins and collides, heat begins to build, and a proto-star is born. These proto-stars grow in size to become stars. Over the lifetime of a star it expands as it burns off fuel. Stars burn for eons until the fuel is consumed, at which point, they collapse upon themselves forming either white dwarves or black holes.

In this vast, infinite universe, 8 planets and one other object (sorry Pluto) orbit around one of these stars. Each circling the sun at its own rate according to it’s distance. Several of these planets are circled by rings and moons. We live on the third stone from the sun, and one revolution around the sun is what we humans call a year. Our moon revolves around the earth every twenty eight days.

Here on earth, we witness cycles as the seasons change from winter, to spring, to summer, to autumn, only to begin again, over and over — year after year. Tides come in and tides go out, about every eight hours or so. What we call day and night are the result of the earth spinning on its axis, gradually exposing the land and oceans to the warmth and light of the sun or the chill and the darkness of the universe.

Life itself ebbs and flows.

Only a fool would deny that we are in a crisis at this point. The Coronavirus was a pandemic long before WHO officially pronounced it so. Hundreds of thousands of cases have been documented, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of cases have gone undocumented. Over 14,000 people have died as of 3/22/2020 according to Johns Hopkins University

The stock market is down significantly. Businesses have been ordered to close. Schools are out. In my state, we have been advised not to gather in groups of more than ten. Our grocery stores are under-stocked, not because of a food shortage, but because people are panic buying. Many of us have never experienced anything like this, and for that we are fortunate.

Worldwide, people are worried, and with good reason. Fear seems to be ruling the day. And some of these fears are justified. We don’t know what we don’t know about this virus.

We do know that it can be deadly. We do know that it has spread around the world devastatingly quickly, despite the fact that we don’t truly know how it spreads (as of this posting). It would be disingenuous for me to tell you not to worry.

And yet, we (Homo Sapiens) are miraculous.

To our best knowledge, our world is the only world that sustains life. Conceivably, other life sustaining worlds exist, but we haven’t found them yet. Science tells us that we are the product of millions of years of evolution. We descended from other living organisms that adapted and changed in response to stressors and stimuli in this world. We share DNA with many other species on this earth including, cats, mice, pigs, and other primates. Ninety-six percent of our DNA is shared with Chimpanzees.

Our best genetic research indicates that Homo Sapiens began life in sub-Saharan Africa and gradually migrated to all corners of the globe. We are highly adaptable, having proven that we can not only survive but thrive in many different environments including the Arctic, the deserts of Africa and Asia, as well as more temperate zones in Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Asia. We’ve consistently beaten the odds as a species, and for most of our existence we did this without modern medicine, central air conditioning, heat, electricity, public water, and indoor plumbing.

We are the picture of resilience as a species.

Yes, we are going to go through some very difficult times in the near future. There will be losses, tangible and intangible. People are going to suffer. And while this is happening, it will be difficult to watch. We will feel helpless — because we are. We will feel powerless — because we are. We will feel lost, but we can find our way.

This won’t last forever. Yes, people will die, but most will recover from the illness. As more people recover from the virus, more people will develop immunity to the virus. And we may even develop a vaccine for the virus. Our institutions, our economy, and our way of life will recover. Just as the day turns to night, and the tides come in and go out, this will be prove to be another cycle.

Homo Sapiens is not about to be destroyed by the Coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19. This is part of the cycle.

Knowing that we are in a cycle, we can also know that we will recover. And knowing that provides hope in a time when hope is in short supply.

August is the Cruelest Month, Mr. Eliot

It’s August. That’s part of it. I’m approaching four years of sobriety and I can feel the squirrels prancing around in my brain.

I didn’t recognize it at first. I knew that something was off, but it didn’t occur to me that this “offness” could be rooted in the fact that I’m nearing in on 1460 days without a drink. Actually 1461 because of leap year, but who’s counting?

There’s something about mountains and craft beer. They seem go go together. When we were in Oregon I was somewhat overwhelmed by the number of craft beers on offer that I’ve never heard of before. Yes, I still look at the tap handles, and still look at beer menus. Maybe that’s not wise, but I do it. In talking with my therapist about this last week she observed, “beers and beards, where there’s more of one there’s usually more of the other.” And there were a lot of beards in Oregon.

I like to think that I’m generally immune to the prevalence of booze on offer in the world. It wasn’t always like this, but as I got more comfortable in my own skin, more comfortable with my sobriety, I found that I really wasn’t bothered by the presence of booze in many situations. Part of it is that I work in a sales job, and so, there are often functions that I must attend where others are drinking. I’ve actually had a bottle of whisky in the house since the day I quit, unopened. It’s a relic from my grandfather’s stash with a Maryland Tax Stamp still in tact from 1961. It’s also Canadian Whisky, which isn’t really whisky, it’s more like rot gut.

And for the first few days in Oregon, it was the same. But then we took a drive down the coast to Newport to go to an aquarium, which just happened to be directly next door to the Rogue brewery. I’d be hard pressed to tell you which Rogue brews I’d fancy today, but I really enjoyed Rogue Dead Guy Ale when it first arrived on the shelves in MD. And I was flooded with memories of good times. Memories of the early days of the craft beer revolution and exploring and learning about all various different styles of beer. No longer was I stuck with American Pale Ale Pisswater.

I know that this is beginning to sound like I’m romancing the drink. And I am to an extent, but I also know that my struggle with alcohol was really a slow burn. I drank for nearly 20 years normally and only developed a problem after trauma was triggered when I became a father. So, I have a lot more time in the rear view where drinking was fun, light, social, than many others who have surrendered to the fact that they cannot drink normally. But when things turned, they turned fast and I found myself in a misery that I never want to experience again.

So, I was rolling around the coast of Oregon for a week, and slowly I started to find myself thinking, “What if?” — What if I had one beer and I was cool? What if I didn’t find that I wanted to get wasted after one? What if I have addressed the trauma and done enough therapy that I wouldn’t abuse the booze? What if I didn’t drink whisky, only beer? What if, What if, What if.

I did this in silence. My wife and son had no idea this was happening to me. I’m good at secrets.

As we were standing in line at the airport, about to get on a flight home, I found myself looking up a particular statistic about the risk of relapse in people who have been sober for 5 years. It’s fairly well documented that the risk of relapse is about 15% whereas the risk of suffering from AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) is about 13% for the general population. Did this mean I was coming in to the home stretch? Could I drink like a normal person again in another year?

These are the insane thoughts that ran through my head at 10:30 PDT on August 10, 2019. And they scared me.

I know what 12 Step tells me would happen, and I know it’s not pretty. I also know that there are many people who do return social drinking after they address their trauma. I have family members who remained sober for over a decade and then returned to normal drinking. The truth is, I don’t know what would happen if I were to have a single drink.

What I do know for certain is that my life has immeasurably improved as a result of getting sober. My health has improved and I have the blood work to prove it. My weight has improved, and my scale shows it to me every time I step on it — even if I’m not where I want to be. My physical strength and stamina has improved — I began running at 45 and now run 3 times a week and I’m about to run a 10 mile race in a week. My relationships with my friends and family have improved — I can be depended upon and while I can still pull out my “asshole card,” I do so much less often than I once did.

In short, I know that I’m better off not drinking.

I’ve been struggling to figure out where these thoughts came from. I know that it’s been a very difficult year for me emotionally. I have felt a bit like a kid caught in the rough surf at the break point in the ocean, as soon as I stand up another wave crushes down on me. And all the turmoil of 2019 cannot be discounted. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve been driven to seek escape.

But that’s not the entire story. As I said at the beginning of this post. It’s August. And while T. S. Eliot claimed April as the cruelest month, for me it’s August.

Subconsciously and consciously, there’s a lot going on in August. August always represents the end of summer. It is generally the peak of misery in terms of weather in Maryland. And it’s the month immediately preceding my sobriety date.

The squirrels run wild in my brain this time of year, and no one but me knows it’s happening. It always takes me a while to recognize it for what it is, and I go through some fucked up thoughts, but I don’t pickup a drink. I suspect that the squirrels might do this in August for the rest of my days. Every year, I make a promise to myself that I’ll remember this next year. And every year, I forget.

I’m Not Gonna Bitch and Moan — Well, Not Much

I’m in grave danger of writing a post that’s just a bitch fest. I’ve had a hard week and I want to bitch and moan about it. I’ll just say that both Mrs. TKD and I have been very sick for about a week and it’s been a struggle to get well, hold the house together, get the boy to school, and get out Day jobs done. It’s hard when one of us gets sick, but when we’re both laid out it’s even worse. It can feel like everything is falling apart.

In addition to dealing with being sick there were two celebrity suicides this week – potent reminders that external appearances can mask deep internal struggle. Bourdain’s suicide hit me hard. His love of food and culture as well as his respect and compassion for people who are different than he was have always struck a chord with me. It is strange that a man’s death can affect me as much as his did. He’s not someone I knew personally of course, but we get to know our celebrities through their work (at least on the surface — the part of their lives they let us see).

It’s Saturday morning and I’ve been trying to pull things together around the house. Trying to tackle the mountain of laundry. Feed the boy with the food that we have — slim pickings since it’s time to go to the grocery store. Opening up the blinds that have been closed for days to let some damn sunlight into the house. You know, make it look like humans lived here. And trying to feel better at the same time.

And I’m spent. Done. Over it.

When Mr. Grey said that the perfectly acceptable smoothie that I’d made him wasn’t acceptable, the stress ratcheted up a notch or two again. Then right after he’d finally gotten off the computer he turned in the TV and shut the blinds that I’d just opened. I lost it.

“It’s not the lions and tigers in the jungle, it’s the flys and gnats that will get you.” That’s what my first sponsor used to tell me.

The flys and gnats are ferocious.

Mrs. TKD suggested I head out for some time by myself. And honestly I could not see that this was the right thing to do. But I did it. I rolled out and I’m sitting at a Starbucks eating a sweet cinnamon bun (which I know had no nutritional value) and drinking a coffee and writing in my phone. And somehow I’m coming to a place where I can accept that this is just the way it is right now. It ain’t perfect but it damn sure ain’t as awful as my mind had made it out a half hour ago.

I’m accepting things. Life on life’s terms. And I’m reminded of page 417 once again, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems.”

Acceptance is difficult. I think that accepting things as they are is a fundamental challenge for all human beings. We want things to go the way we want them to go. Some would argue that this is the ego taking over. That this is “self will run riot.” That this is alcoholic thinking.

I’m not so sure. I know many people who struggle with accepting life on life’s terms who don’t suffer for addictions or substance use disorders. I think that the difference for those of us who do suffer with addiction is that our drugs of choice help (or helped if we’re in recovery) to mask our feelings. The difference is in our response to adversity.

As I’ve grown in the post few years I’ve found that my new tools serve me well when I remember that I have them and actually use them. Yes, acceptance is part of the answer, but so is taking a break — making some time to reflect and provide myself with much needed self care. And giving myself permission to eat that cinnamon bun which I know is not good for me, because right know, in this very moment it’s what I need to get through the day. A small treat that gives me a dopamine hit and makes me feel just a tiny bit better.

It’s Been a Struggle

The past few months have been a struggle for my son as well as for my wife and me. We have been working to address some challenges he faces with ADHD through medication for about six months. We have also been working with a therapist and attempting to work with his school during this time as well. Things have gone well with the therapy but the other fronts have been marginal at best.

I know from my own experience with antidepressants that finding the right medication and the right dose is a series of trials and errors. And we’ve had some real errors in this department with our son. We’ve watched as he’s tried various families of medications and witnessed rage, increased migraines, frustration, and stomach aches for six months. The boy has been through the ringer. There have been periods of relative success but we have not settled on a perfect solution.

We’ve struggled to find a great doctor. The first psychiatrist we worked with didn’t seem to have any ideas and frankly had the personality of snail snot. We bailed on her in January after we realized that she was about as confused as we were. We went to his pediatrician since we had no where else to turn and she attempted to help but When things didn’t improve she suggested another psychiatrist.

About a week ago we met with a new psychiatrist who seems to have better ideas and we believe we are on a path. I’ve dutifully kept the school up to date in all the changes, but to be honest, and without going into details, the response from the school has been less than stellar. We have a meeting with the principal today to discuss the situation and see if we can find a path forward.

My escape instinct has been strong too. I’ve had more than a few thoughts of escape. Thoughts of moving. Thoughts of taking a solo trip. Thoughts of obliterating my feelings. Thoughts turning in to the liquor store on the way home. Thoughts of that magical elixir and the sweet relief that it brings.

But I know that it won’t help. I know that escape is temporary and that my family needs me. And so, I keep doing the next right thing.

I keep going to meetings. I keep meditating. I keep talking to people who I trust. I keep tweeting with my #recoveryposse on Twitter. And I keep playing the tape forward and witnessing myself alone and depressed with a bottle. It’s not a pretty site and the pain is palpable when I take the initial thought to its final conclusion.

But I haven’t written here. That’s one thing that I have not been doing. It’s hard to write at this point. Partly because the pain is not mine alone. By not writing though, I have failed myself in a way. Writing has always been a way to work things out, to get to a better place.

And so, I’m writing. And I’m scared to publish. But I know that sharing my story (even if it’s not mine alone) is important. And I know that writing is how I share my story. But more importantly, writing is a part of my program for success. And if I’m not working my program, I’m not going to succeed in the long run.

A Story Wherein Our Hero Finds Himself at Urgent Care on a Sunday Night

I’m sitting in the local urgent care center with a washcloth wadded up and held in place by a pair of boxer briefs. This is meant to stop the flow of blood that would otherwise have stained my jeans on the way here. I’ve done something dumb and it’s hard to believe that I still do these kinds of dumb things.

We spent the weekend at Hershey Park and did a lot of walking. I was feeling a fair bit of irritation in the nether regions because I had a sizable skin tag – emphasis on the past tense. I have discovered that self surgery is ill-advised.

As I checked in they asked me when my last tetanus shot had been and I was able to answer June of 2015. That was the last time I went to the emergency room after slicing my finger instead of green peppers. We were at the beach and I’d had three or four negronis in about a half hour while I was getting ready to make dinner. I haven’t had an occasional to go to the ER or an Urgent Care clinic since I quit drinking.

So what the hell happened tonight?

I was restless and irritable after getting home from the trip. The should have been fun, but really it wasn’t. The weather has been cold and it snowed. We probably should have known that an amusement park was not a good plan. But, we went anyway.

I had visions of us riding roller coasters in lightly falling snow at night while the park was lit with Christmas lights. I had visions of hot chocolate and good cheer. I had visions of lots of smiles. But apparently the park can’t run the roller coasters when it’s less than 40°. Something about hydraulics not working properly — you know, safety. Not to mention it wasn’t a lightly falling snowfall — it was snowing hard. And it was windy. It was bitter. So, it really wasn’t the weekend to be at the park.

Since the roller coasters weren’t in operation, my son was having none of it. He was miserable and he made sure we were miserable too. Every few minutes he asked me what the temperature was, in hopes that it had risen above 40. When he wasn’t asking about the temperature, he was telling us how rotten it was that he couldn’t ride the coasters, and most importantly that we were idiots. Ah, preteen angst.

To be fair, we had a few good times. We rode the bumper cars, we went on an indoor coaster, we played some of the games — but mostly it was a slog. A lot of walking around in the cold.

So, when we got home, I had this irritated skin tag that was hurting and I decided that I’d cut it off. That was the easy part. A quick pinch and a slice with a new razor blade and it was off.

An hour later it was still bleeding and my wife was urging me to go get it taken care of properly. I resisted. I mean, I always resist the things that I know I need to do whether it’s going to the doctor, getting the oil changed, or getting to the grocery store before we are out of milk.

But it became abundantly clear that the bleeding wasn’t gonna stop despite my best efforts. So I packed my loins and hit the road.

After an hour or so at the urgent care clinic, I walked out with a single suture and a little less pride. Mercifully, the doctor hadn’t given me a lecture about performing surgery on my own body. She actually advised an alternate method of removing skin tags in the future — though I have sworn that I’ll let the professionals do it next time.

I know that my rash decision was triggered by my mood. I wanted to take things into my own hands and solve this pesky little problem. Make it go away. Right then, right there.

Interestingly, this is not too far from how I responded to things that I didn’t like when I was drinking. I’d tried to handle things right then and right there by having a drink to ease the pain. The theory was that I could just make it all go away with a drink.

But just as taking a drink often not only didn’t solve things, but made them worse, this decision had done the same. There’s a lesson in here — quick solutions and taking things into my own hands rarely works.

I’d have been much better off to have relaxed a bit. Maybe listened to some music or meditated. That skin tag had been on the inside of my thigh for years and while it had been minority irritating — and certainly unsightly — it wasn’t something that needed to be addressed in the heat of the moment.

Practicing the pause is something that I’m not good at. It’s something that I strive toward. Pausing is a goal. I recently had a rough night with the boy that had resulted in a lot of yelling on my part. The morning after that night, I got up and intentionally started the day with a meditation on conflict de-escalation.

The meditation recommended noticing the pause when you inhale and before you exhale, and then the pause after you exhale but before you inhale. I’m not always good at remembering to do this, but with some effort, some work, I can get better.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Inhale.

Sometimes, You Just Need to Stop and Count Your Blessings

The past week and a half have been difficult. Even though the horror of Las Vegas didn’t directly impact me, it certainly made me pause, and certainly made the media go into it’s usual frenzy. Closer to home, I had my weekend plans go sideways, not once but twice — first we couldn’t go camping, then even the short hike I planned got scrapped. Monday of this week started with its own insanity. As I dropped off Mr. Grey at school, I looked at my calendar on my iPhone and discovered that didn’t have the free morning I thought I had, but rather had back to back meetings starting in 45 minutes. The first one was at a customer’s site. I was un-showered and unshaven. It was a mad dash, but I made it, clean and shaven. That afternoon, we discovered that my son had brought home lice, a discovery which would send me to the drug store, and result in him staying home for a few days. While these problems aren’t insurmountable, it’s felt a bit like I can’t get a break lately. In times like these I’ve learned to remind myself of the things for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for my health. Two years ago, I was convinced that my health was failing, that the downward spiral had started, and that it was irrevocable. I had pain in my right side, under my rib cage, that the doctors couldn’t diagnose. I was convinced that it was the beginning of a failing liver. Of course, I wasn’t honest with the doctors and told them that I was a “social drinker” even though I was really a blackout drunk. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Probably because they weren’t looking for the right things. I was convinced that I would be dead before my 55th birthday, which was a little over twelve years away.

I am grateful for the support of my family and friends — especially Mrs. TKD. I asked here the other night why she still loves me. Given that I was such a nightmare for so long and given that I can still be a gigantic asshole from time to time, it seems like a legitimate question. She smiled at me and joked, “it’s a habit.” Last night after a particularly difficult night with the boy, after we turned out the lights and before she started to drift off I thanked her for continuing to practice here habit of loving me.

I am grateful for the gift of music. While I don’t consider myself a musician, I do love music. When I was still drinking one of the health consequences I suffered was a temporary loss of hearing in my left ear. One day I woke up and couldn’t hear a thing out of it. It felt like it had closed up, like they do when you have a horrid head cold in the winter, but only on the left side. This loos of hearing would come and go and sometimes I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for days at a time. Sometimes it was only a few minutes. I went for hearing screening and it was confirmed that I do have some midrange frequency hearing loss, but that I wasn’t deaf in that ear. The doctors never identified this as being related to alcohol use, but again, I told them I was a “social drinker” so they had no reason to look there. I believe, however, that this was related to my alcohol abuse because since I quit drinking, I’ve never experienced this problem again. I remember distinctly being terrified that I might lose all my hearing and never be a able to listen to music again.

While the past week or so has been trying, I’m not facing the end of the world. Most of my problems are high class problems, most are first world problems — well, except for lice, lice is most definitely a third world problem. And most of my problems, even lice, are easily managed even if they may seem disastrous in the moment.

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.

Circling the Drain — Taking 30

Countdown to 30 Days
Countdown to 30 Days

Update:  This is a post from another blog.  I migrated it to this blog because it’s an important part of my story.  This was posted just over three years before I fully surrendered and accepted that I am an alcoholic.

For some time now, alcohol has been more powerful in my life than I would like. There are occasions when I can drink a beer or two and that’s it, done, no more. But more often than not, it doesn’t stop at a few. And, worse that more often than not has become nearly a daily occurrence.

I’m drinking to excess daily. I don’t know exactly how I got here, but pretty much every day ends with drinks as I’m cooking dinner and that extends into the night until I put Mr. Grey to bed. When he goes to bed, I’m usually just drunk enough to fall asleep in the bed with him, and that’s what ends the drinking.

This cannot continue. While this hasn’t impacted my ability to function in my job or in my life, I recognize that it’s a problem.  I recognize that it will impact my life — sooner or later. I haven’t hit rock bottom, but I’m circling the drain.

It’s time to break the cycle.

I’m worried that I’m biting off more than I can chew.  But I’m committed to taking 30 days off from booze.

I expect it to suck. I expect it to be challenging.

The 4th of July is next week, normally I’d have a few beers. I have business meetings in two weeks where I’d normally have a drink or two at happy hour. My MS Ride comes up in 3 weeks, and I’d normally have a beer or two after the ride. There are likely to be family events and get together’s with friends where I’d normally have a drink or two. And I’m publicly stating on the Internets that I’m not drinking for 30 days.

Today is day one. I’m planning to make it a habit to write about the experience each day, not only to keep track of how this goes, but also to keep myself honest.