A little help from my friends
December 29, 2014 § 58 Comments
Since swearing off beer I’ve gotten a handful of messages and emails from friends who are also struggling with alcoholism. It occurred to me that I’m not the only one trying to find the season’s “merry and bright” while simultaneously fighting off the urge to get shit-faced drunk. Cycling has its share of alcoholics, and although I first thought that it was related to the intense, addictive quality of biking, the more I look around the more it seems like the world is chock full of drunks. My cycling friends are just more open about it.
The worst part has been the physical and emotional withdrawal, or that’s how it seemed, when going cold turkey plunged me into depression combined with intense craving. However, after three weeks of that hell, a good friend who’s been successfully fighting addiction for 25 years told me that that the hardest part isn’t quitting, it’s “staying quit.” How right he was.
The best part has been people reaching out. There are lots of recovering alcoholics out there, and it didn’t take me more than a few days to realize that “one day at a time” wasn’t going to cut it for me. In my case a day is waaaaay to long. Half a day at a time? One morning at a time? Nope, and nope. I’ve refined to something much more immediate: “I’m not having a drink now.”
I’ve also beefed it up with a promise to myself. Although I’m trying to quit outside of organizational help, the minute a taste of alcohol crosses my lips, I’m heading straight to AA. In other words, this is the first step, and it’s likely to fail, so I’ve got a Plan B.
Of course the only thing that really matters with regard to sobriety is this: “Has it helped your cycling?” In my case, no, but that’s because a lifetime of data has conclusively shown that nothing will ever help my cycling. Perhaps a better question might be, “Is your cycling any different as a result?” and the answer to that is “Definitely.”
First, I’ve lost three pounds. These are real pounds, not water goop loss. This has affected my cycling because my jerseys don’t make my tummy pooch out as much as they used to. It’s nice to think that over time, abstinence may help me go from looking like a reasonably malnourished person to one suffering from disease.
Second, when I need to run down to the bike shop in the evening — that’s any time after about 3:00 PM — I can, because I don’t have to worry about getting a DUI. It’s nice not being homebound at age 51!
Third, I’ve been able to shift beer money into cycling purchases. For the first time ever I’m riding full carbon wheels. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!
Last, and most importantly, I’m engaging in dialogue with fellow cyclists who are at different points along the same path. Some have offered guidance and let me know that whatever I need, whenever I need it, they’re going to be there for me. Others have asked for help, which is tough because I don’t have much in the way of answers except this: We’re going through the same thing, and to succeed you’ll need people around you to help you succeed. Flipping this switch from the inside, and keeping it flipped by myself, is too hard … at least for me.
Over the next few days the New Year merriment will be beckoning, and as I’m fond of telling myself, I may well have a drink. Maybe you will, too. But hopefully not right now.
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Well done, Seth, and carry on.
I can relate. I quit smoking and took up cycling, going on 4 years now. Changing one addiction for another. Plus, it really is hard to light up on a 40 mph descent or during the 3rd leg of NPR. The thing I found other than a whole new community, is a whole lot of support. keep it up mate.
Thanks. Yes, but if you actually do light up on a 40-mph descent you will be the most badass rider ever.
I’m there to support bother emotionally and spiritually . Send me a mail box address and I’ll send you my annual subscription for starters ?
Sent from my iPhone
Hang in there, Buddy!!!!
Merry and bright!
Seth, good luck with your journey ! I know you will help many by being open . Not being much of a drinker myself it’s amazing the comments , why don’t you have a drink? Oh you riding tomorrow so your not drinking ? Your so boring! Etc… I support you wanky ! To a heAlthy , happy 2015 😀
Thanks, Michelle. Yep, we’re boring. Oh, well!
No. You. Are. Not.
Big laughs! Thanks!
We are all just pilgrims.
(Please excuse a fellow traveler for a moment here):
Bubbly water (BYOW) and iced tea work for me in social situations.
No negatives whatsoever from me for the imbibers, and I’m secure in my being about all this. Be happy, show it, people will understand.
Most important: enjoy the season. You only get one a year, you know!
Happy New Year!
I would imagine that being able to write about it, also has its support benefits. An opportunity to fully flush out and elucidate your thoughts can go a long way in providing a fairly strong foundation to move forward on.
Yep. Writing is my therapy. Or was that riding?
I admire you for going public with your commitment. You are probably not aware of what an inspiration you are to many of us. Whatever the reason you have decided to quit, you have put it out there now. It’s like signing up and pinning a number on. Some will support you, some won’t understand and a few may fall by the wayside when the common thread is noticeably broken. Now, it may seem, that all eyes watching you. That’s a blessing and a curse. But in those quiet moments, when you think no one is watching, that’s when you dig deep into your bank account of courage, discipline and whatever other attribute that you have developed, to hang on. Hang on with everything you got.
That same feeling I get when really suffering halfway through a race and I start cursing myself for not training hard enough, eating too much, etc., then suddenly (and for no apparent reason) the pack seems to slow down just a little, and become my biggest fan because I know I can make it. I know I will make it. For me, that sense of relief, of accomplishment, of pride in myself,is what motivates me to keep on keep in’ on. That’s every time I think I’ll just stop by some dark smokey for a tall cool one where nobody knows your name. After a bad day (or any excuse you can come up with to justify it) for just one. After a pack a gum, nobody will know but me. You’ll know. Dig deep, Keep on Keepin’ on.
My dad told me “Character is how you act when nobody is watching. But, sometimes it’s good to know that somebody is always watching”
Good luck to ya and K.O.K.O.
Fricking awesome. Thanks. And your dad was right!
I have the utmost faith in your ability to figure it out.
Or at least to blog about it!
You already know this, but your friends and readers are grateful for your thoughts and words. I, personally, am grateful for the struggles that you share as well as your candor.
You also already know that if you leave the door open just a tiny crack, it’s going to be wide open before long. I can appreciate your “not right now” mentality. If I may offer one bit of encouragement, it would be this: If you want help avoiding a “slip-up” during the New Year’s festivities, your best offense is a good defense–and that will mean not trying to do it alone (again, as you already know). Identify someone with whom you have absolute trust and commission, bribe, torture them–whatever it takes–into staying by your side and encouraging you to keep your promise to yourself. It’s much harder to convince TWO people to “jump off a cliff” then it is just one. Perhaps you can wear your roadID or something to remind you every time you see it that you are going home that night sober–without even a drop (if that is indeed what you want).
Don’t do it to avoid the guilt–do it to add strength to your resolve and integrity to your cause.
That’s good advice. And it really is harder to get two people to jump off a cliff, unless you’re a cyclist, in which case it’s 150 people all fighting to go off the cliff first.
I quit smoking by first convincing myself that I didnt want one now, too. That spread to a full day, then 2 and then a week. Before I knew it, a month had passed and then a year. Now it’s been 14.
Stay the course for now and it will become a long one.
Thanks. Smoking, I’ve heard, is harder to quit than drinking.
Endurance sports attract all kinds of prone to addictive behaviour. Pot, narcotics, sex, food, you name it. If they can lead a higher functioning life using endurance sport, then it’s okay. Ideally though, one deals with the underlying tendencies over some time.
A book suggestion: Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life by Tom Holmes It might fit your inner world. It might be nonsense for you. Either outcome is fine. It’s an easy read with pictures and everything.
Developing a persona that doesn’t drink could be interesting work for you. You may also find the drinking masked difficulties in other parts of your life. It’s all good material to work through. Try not to sweep the difficulties away. Dealing with the difficulties would provide GREAT content for your blog.
Best wishes and safe cycling to all.
Thanks. I will check it out!
Happy New Year Seth. Your resolution is already made and it should last the rest of your life. All of those who love you, family and friends will be grateful for your decision as it means you will be with us for a long time. You are respected and loved in the cycling community and that is a big deal in and of itself. Take care.
Thanks–Happy New Year to you, too!
Better not give up your cycling addiction! I won’t have anything to read if you do…
Hope to keep that habit going strong!
Seems like you have some great advice and support from your friends, Seth. I don’t have much to add, except that I hope you succeed at this, and that I hope it will get easier.
Fantastic to read you have gone three weeks without beer. Bravo! Also, great to read AA for B. You are brave, strong and a natural leader. I am cheering for you from the sidelines. Keep pushing. Your friend, Nancy
Will do! Thanks, Nancy. And I will make Plan C if i have to.
Wank, congrats on making the decision to not have a drink “right now” trust me when I say that the urge will subside but that drinking is just a symptom of alcoholism. I have been sober for 17 years and only now have I recognized there is a huge part of me that has gone down the shitter because I have not taken care of my spiritual health. I like you have a hard time with the “God thing” but AA helps. One of the benefits of AA meetings is we as alcoholics have filthy fuggin minds and 1 hour of AA will be wildly entertaining as well as educational as far as whT kind of alcoholic you are. Only you can figure out hat you need. With that said, continue to try to stomp on dicks
Is there an AA DS chapter?
Seth, I’ve been a “serious” cyclist for over 30 years. I’ve been sober for 2938 days as of today. I can tell you that I still think about having a drink every day. Why don’t I? Because every time I think about it, the words of a friend who helped me quit echo in my mind every time I’m tempted. He said: ” just remember that there is no problem in the world that cannot be made worse by taking a drink. ” This advice helped keep me sober when my wife was dying of cancer. It helped keep me sober when she died and in the painful aftermath. It keeps me sober today. I can say that in retrospect quitting drinking was the best thing I ever did for myself and for those that I love. The struggle continues however and it doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon. Take heart my friend. You’re not alone. Keep it up. You don’t know me, but if I can help, feel free to contact me. My contact information is on my website. Best wishes. Mark Preston
Thanks, Mark. That’s a great way to look at it — booze can worsen anything.
As a suggestion, you could attend an AA meeting just to check out the territory. Then if a real need occurs, you have some familiarity. Actually, one doesn’t even have to have a drinking problem to attend a meeting. And different chapters have different “personalities”. It would be good to pick one that resonates most with you.
That’s a good thought, actually.
Which carbon wheels did you get ?
FastForward full carbon clinchers.
This stands out to me as a very neat way (the re-allocation of fundage) to positively motivate your change. I bet you are just loving those wheels, even more so because of how you funded them. That is a positive choice and positive choices make a huge difference to most things in life. You can focus on what you’re doing instead of feeling like a sad sack about what you’re not doing. Great move mate.
Perhaps I should re-allocate my coffee budget similarly! I’ll be rolling on Super Record in about two weeks I’d say.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy fast wheels, and that’s close enough.
Impressed by your courage to blog about this journey and inspired!
Humbled by your honesty, and happy that you can help myself and others with your blog.
Best wishes in the new year.
Thanks, Brian — but no courage required. Those who judge are entitled to, those who can relate, well, good for them and me.
OK I’m now totally convinced I need to change my sign in name! :-)). But Seth knows its legit.
I wish you the best Seth and as far as advice, I can tell you this. Really you need to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing and just keep at it. That’s how I quit smoking and drugs (coke). I didn’t quit at the same time, but at different points of my life. I thought about my future and didn’t want to be in a hole trying to climb out. I couldn’t see myself like that the rest of my life. Just don’t kid yourself and just keep at it. It’ll make you stronger too.
Wish you the best for 015! 🙂
Thanks — and it’s a perfect moniker!
I’m so proud of you, Seth. More than anything, I’m proud of you for reaching out and accepting help. Not many people can do that, nonetheless on such a public platform. By doing so, you help others while helping yourself.
I’ve always heard that’s what friends are for. Turns out it’s true. Thanks, Tink.
23 years after my mom quit, she sat at the dinner table and looked at Jeanine and I and said she really wanted a drink. We were stunned She had depression and I assume drinking was self medicating before she finally went on meds. Are you self medicating?
I was so, so proud of her when she stopped. As a teen, I’d pour half a bottle of wine down the sink so she couldn’t drink the whole thing in one night. She changed when she drank and I hated it. She was sloppy and stupid.
When some people drink, they become stupid. Some people can hide being an alcoholic. Sorry if this is too harsh, but I didn’t think you did a very good job at concealing the fact that you have a problem. Maybe you remember why I’m saying that. Don’t be stupid Seth. Don’t drink.
Truth isn’t harsh!
Hang in there. It does get easier. Sometimes when we get the urge to drink the image in our minds looks like all the beer ads we’ve ever seen on TV; healthy, fit, handsome young people having a great time. It might help to play that image out to it’s logical conclusion of being wrapped around a dog piss soaked fire hydrant puking one’s guts into the gutter along with the hangover and horrible feeling of wondering what the fuck happened while having all that “fun”. And I hate that notion of giving up drinking. You’re not giving up anything, you’re gaining life. Good luck!
Nice imagery! Yes, the thought of a cold one doesn’t include the thought of ten and the aftermath.
3 years for me this week. The absolute BEST three years of my life. It took a while to adjust to changes in my social life (especially with my mountain biking friends) but it was never awkward or uncomfortable. You’ll get there. And, if not, Plan B!
Thanks! Nice to have a backup!