Look don’t touch 


Pedaling my way across Germany was a kind of hell because I’m an alcoholic, not a recovering one but an active, big chain ring, I’D LIKE A FUCKING DRINK RIGHT NOW AND HURRY THE FUCK UP alcoholic. That was a problem because Germany was filled with beer and everyone was drinking and 99% of the drinkers were drinking responsibly and all I wanted was JUST ONE LITTLE DRINK I PROMISE I’LL BE GOOD.

It was very unpleasant and so every time my knees started to buckle and my hands started to shake and my mouth got dry I would resolve to have a beer but first I’d have a coffee. Then I’d sit down and have the coffee and would resolve that before I had the beer I’d have something to eat and after that for sure I was going to wash my throat with a fresh tasty German beer.

Then I’d finish the food or the cake (usually cake) and tell myself that the beer would have to wait until I was done biking for the day or walking for the day or daying for the day. And somehow through this process I was getting to bed every night sober in the paradise of beer.

Each day, though, was as mentally exhausting as the Flog Ride, straining as I was to bust loose.

Then I got a note from a pal who has been going through some alcohol difficulties of his own. He said that he was really looking forward to the end of September so that he could reward himself with a drink. At first I thought he was kidding but he wasn’t.

“I’ve reprogrammed my brain,” he said. “I’ve taught it that there’s a place in my life for alcohol but I have to use it in moderation.” This shook me to the core. We were five days into our ride when I got the message, I was beat, and every kilometer we we seemed to be pedaling past a beer garden filled with happy people and very tasty-looking beer.

“Have I been doing this wrong?” I wondered. “Shouldn’t I just be reprogramming my brain and using alcohol to my benefit instead of my detriment? Why am I putting myself through all this trial and denial?” It was worse than the Nancy Reagan Sex Abstinence Program (which I’d never tried but had been scarred by even learning about) and I felt like a fool and resolved to really truly actually have a moderate beer that evening, and possibly two moderate ones. But not three. Okay, three moderates ones, but not four,

The closer it got to beer time, though, the more worried I got. Hadn’t I been down this road before and didn’t it always end in a headache and too many numbers to the left of the decimal point on my credit card bill? My brain didn’t feel reprogrammed anyway, it felt like the brain of a raging drunk who’d been denied his life fluid for too damned long and couldn’t wait to get smashed.

The more I thought about it the clearer it became: My friend and I are different. He has a programming problem whereas I’m an unreconstructed drunk. This was terribly depressing because I knew the statistics: Only 5% of alcoholics succeed with abstinence or AA-type abstinence programs.

That makes sense because when you have a bad drinking problem and you quit, for it to work it has to be forever. I’m an impatient person on the best of days; forever isn’t a time frame on my planning calendar.

I got off my bike and leaned it against a tree as my son and I sat on the grass and shared an apple, tired and many miles from our day’s destination, which itself was only a waypoint on a long journey. I considered the metaphor.

Then I catalogued the good things that had happened since I got on the misery treadmill of moment-by-moment sobriety.

  • I’d won a bike race.
  • I’d started doing the dishes.
  • I’d lost 20 pounds.
  • I was in the middle of an amazing trip with my son.
  • I had saved several thousand dollars and invested them in 100% carbon products made of full carbon.
  • I’d decreased my social media presence by 99%.
  • I’d begun flossing.

Instead of life spinning wildly out of control, thanks to the sobriety-misery treadmill it was merely on the verge of spinning wildly out of control. If you don’t think there’s a difference in quality of life between those two states, you’re wrong.

My son and I finished the apple and contemplated, briefly, the long and tiring road ahead. “We’d better get going,” my son said.

“Yes,” I answered, throwing my leg over the top tube. “We’d better.”

Awesome quote by Marx, carved on the wall!
Awesome quote by Marx, carved on the wall!
Lake, with water
Lake, with water
Lake overlook
Lake overlook
Dutch neighborhood in Potsdam
Dutch neighborhood in Potsdam
Glienickerbruecke, site of spy swaps!
Glienickerbruecke, site of spy swaps!
Wall marker in Potsdam
Wall marker in Potsdam



For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and keep up with the super exciting planning for the 3rd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

32 thoughts on “Look don’t touch ”

  1. Seth, it happened again. Trying to open your post goes to a page to sign up for s subscription. Maybe you can fix it. Really enjoying this journal of your trip! Thanks. Polli Schildge.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Hi Polli, small world seeing you here!

      Good one Seth. It was in the back of my mind when you started this that there would be a certain (lot) amount of tempting distractions along the way. Good thing to have your son with you on this one. This is now the trip I took across Germany with my son Woodrow, and not the The trip I took across Germany and regretted not drinking a beer.

      Keep up the good work.

      I’m still making progress on Blossom’s one breakfast morning chapter at a time.

    1. If you get the Error Duck, click on Cycling In The South Bay and you get the blog. Tamar

  2. Seth, hang in there! I have a fabulous life today that could not be way less fabulous if I added alcohol. Hi to Woodrow.

  3. Germany must be like New York for alcoholics. If you can stay sober there, you can stay sober anywhere. Congratulations on adding a few weeks to your tally amidst such temptation.

  4. Don’t silence the guy that wants a drink. He needs to wash some dishes. I know he doesn’t want to DO dishes, but do dishes.

    The guy that wants a drink did okay too. Right? He got coffee. That’s okay. That other guy in your head got an amazing trip with his son, gave another trip to your wife. Seems pretty good. We know that OTHER guy in your head pretty much ruins it for the guy that just had a great time with his son.

    Yes, you gotta deal with that guy that wants a drink. He’s great to talk to while you are doing dishes. Don’t stop communicating with that guy who wants a drink. He gets coffee and to do the dishes.

  5. As friend says “I think of how proud I’ll be of myself if I don’t”. I’m very glad that sometimes you think first, then do (or not, as the case may be.)

    I’m rooting for you and proud of how well you’re doing, but know that I’ll be here thick or thin. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way.

  6. Well done Seth. Despite Germany being beer paradise; you won. In the wisdom of Dirty Harry; a man’s got to know his limitations.

  7. Seth,
    Way to hang tough against “the urge” in the “land of indulgence”! Every time you get that overwhelming “urge” pull up a picture from this trip and take a good hard look at it. The great memories will crush the shit out of “the urge”!
    Rooting for ya, brother!

    1. Yes, I’ve read it. Scary article if you’re trying to *quit* quit. The numbers don’t look good.

      1. Maybe quitting *quitting* is an answer. Some of the other alcohol treatment options used in places like Finland look like they’re more effective – and sane.

        Abstinence in many things is unrealistic. Your story is addressed in this quote – as I know you are aware. “Sinclair called this the alcohol-deprivation effect, and his laboratory results, which have since been confirmed by many other studies, suggested a fundamental flaw in abstinence-based treatment: going cold turkey only intensifies cravings. This discovery helped explain why relapses are common.”

        Jus’ checking out all the options for myself too …

        1. If you don’t abstain, and you can’t moderate, and you don’t live in Finland, what’s left?

      2. I agree, but compared to other methods, it’s cheap and equally effective.

        Addiction is a very difficult public health problem to solve.

  8. wanker, good things happen when you are a miscreant, reprobate fuck up who doesn’t drink. I will have 18 years sober next week and like you the AA thing really didn’t pan out. Yes, it really does suck when you know you are too much of a fuck up to enjoy even one beer and it seems as though the desire for just “one taste” is like a burning fire that never consumes and only burns but when you look at your kids and your are proud of them and yourself it is all worth it. I have followed your Germany trip every day and every picture of you and your boy I can see a happiness that goes forever. keep it up and just be a fuck up who doesn’t drink….ever

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: