Guest Article: The Longest Road

Let us thank @The Oracle for contributing this guest article. We haven’t been putting up many guest articles so it’s good to have something substantial to begin with again. I don’t think cyclists are any more or any less addictive or OCD than anyone else. We are just humans who love to ride the bike. We don’t like to bring our personal baggage with us on the bike, hell we can’t even bring an EPMS, but sometimes we can’t ride away from it. .

VLVV, Gianni

I wasn’t an alcoholic when I left college, but I was on that path. I’d imbibed more than my fair share as a hard-drinking undergraduate at UW-Madison. Through the following years, my drinking was what I would have described at the time as occasionally heavy, but not problematic. Of course, I look back now on my 20’s and early 30’s in a new light. Now I see a pattern of worsening addiction. From a few beers a week and only occasionally getting drunk with friends, to several beers on Friday and Saturday nights sitting alone at home in front of the TV, to occasionally taking nips from the hard liquor in the evening during the week, etc. etc. At the same time, I was distancing myself from my wife and my young kids, and foundering professionally. I was becoming an alcoholic, but I didn’t yet see myself as such.

In my mid-thirties, I finally decided to stop just staring wistfully at my old Cannondale m300 mountain bike from college, and to actually do something with it. I started riding, and it was like finding a long-lost friend. A new mountain bike soon followed and then, due to the lack of trails in proximity to my house, road bikes. I joined local clubs, did indoor training in the winter, did my first centuries during the summer. I lost 20 pounds and was getting the most out of life. I found Velominati.com during that time, and began steeping myself in the traditions of cycling.

But I kept drinking. I did a lot of kilometers hungover during the latter half of my 30’s. Worse yet, I’d been known to ride immediately after having (more than) a few. God only knows how I survived those rides. I’d get home from a long ride and have a few beers (even if it was only 11 a.m.), and justify them as recovery drinks. I posted often on this site, and used the frequent talk of drinking here as a misguided rationalization for continuing to drink heavily even while riding harder and farther than I had ever done in my life.

Even with the growing evidence to the contrary, I still was in denial about my addiction. How could I be in the best shape of my life if I were an alcoholic? The alcoholic mind bends everything to its own use in justifying the all-consuming desire for more drink. I loved cycling.  It was quickly becoming my defining passion. I loved drinking, and (at least through the distorted lens in my mind) it went hand in hand with my cycling—a tradition as old as the two-wheeled machine itself.

It’s a powerful testament to the subversive effect that alcohol has on one’s mind. As my love for cycling grew, so also did my addiction worsen—these two great passions of my life were inextricably intertwined with one another. My alcoholic lifestyle and my cycling lifestyle were ingrained into one another. Alcohol twisted my passion for cycling into a reason to drink more and more. I was poisoning myself to death, slowly but surely. When I look back at it now, I was riding my bike faster and faster to escape the truth: I was an alcoholic.

Of course, one can only try to leave his demons behind for so long. A few years ago, I changed jobs and we moved to a different part of the state. At the same time as the move, my drinking became demonstrably worse. I’d have a beer or two in the evening, but only to cover the fact that I was drinking massive amounts of vodka, tequila or rum straight from the bottle. I’d binge all weekend long—blackout on Friday night; come to on Saturday and have vodka with my morning coffee, and drink straight through to Sunday. I engaged in dangerous behavior, putting both myself and my loved ones at risk. I still shudder at some of the horrible things I did. Somehow, though, I was never stopped for a DUI, I never broke any bones, and I was able to keep the full extent of my drinking hidden for the most part. I guess you might call it lucky, although I’d hesitate to even put that positive of a spin on it. I was nearing the bottom. I risked everything I had every time I picked up the bottle. I knew that in the back of my mind, but again that alcoholic voice was there to convince me that it really wasn’t that bad.

Needless to say, my cycling suffered. It’s impossible to do long weekend rides when you’re in bed with the shakes and sweats all morning, of if you’ve started drinking rum at 6 a.m. to ward off the DT’s. I didn’t seek out any clubs, didn’t look for any cycling companions. I told myself it was because of my schedule or because I preferred to ride alone. Really, though, it’s because I didn’t want anyone to wonder why I never showed up for rides, or why I looked like hell when I did. Impossibly, though, my alcoholic mind continued to use cycling against me, even as I was nearing rock bottom. I was a weekend binger. Drink hard all weekend, sober up on Monday and Tuesday, and then feel decent until Friday rolled around again. I did a lot of short rides on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. My alcoholism seized on this as proof that I was really okay, that I didn’t really have a problem.

The spiral continued until one devastating night this spring, where I was a hair’s breadth away from losing everything due to drinking  The details of that night aren’t important; the point is that it forced me to finally come to grips with my addiction. I realized that alcohol ruled my life, and was destroying my life.  That was Day 1. I went through two weeks of paralyzing physical withdrawal, and months of anxiety (all part of getting cleaned up). My body was a wasteland—thin, dehydrated, out of shape, and suffering from overwhelming fatigue.  My brain was a mess as well–diminished cognitive function, short term memory, abstract thinking skills. I avoided the bike all summer; it had become a trigger, and I knew now that I could not have one drink, ever, for the rest of my life. I came to see the bike as a danger to my sobriety, and avoided it for months.  My love for the poison had destroyed my passion for the bike. Although I was clean, my alcoholic voice still whispered in my ear:  “don’t bother riding, because you can’t enjoy that ice cold beer afterwards!” I had no enthusiasm for riding anymore.

As I write this, I am on Day 100. A cause for celebration. I’ve come a long way since day one, and while I still have a long way to go, there are positive changes everywhere in my life. A little over a month ago, I started jogging regularly again. It’s amazing what a body can recover from.  The fatigue lessened, and I started putting some muscle back on my bones and color in my skin.  One day, with little thought about it, I pulled the bike down off its rack and hopped aboard.  Thirty kilometers later, my ass was killing me, I couldn’t breathe, my legs were jelly, and I had little hope that I’d ever get to the level I once was.

That ride was nothing special at the time, but when I started thinking about it later, I didn’t remember the pain of my first ride in weeks. Instead I remembered the little things about it:  the whisper of the tires on the pavement; the wind through the trees at the roadside; the smells of the late summer in the Midwest; my regular breathing and concentration on the effort; the sensation of freedom; the thrill of bombing down a slope at 65 kph; the quiet and peace of riding through a warm meadow with no one around for miles. None of this was groundbreaking, and yet each was profound in its own way. I’d found new reasons to ride that weren’t connected to drinking, and I’m in the process of rediscovering my relationship with cycling.

I still only ride a few days a week, but with each ride I discover a new benefit that was hidden from me before. I’m happy to have this part of my life back, and I can’t wait to see what is in store in the future. It is a victory over that alcoholic voice and, although perhaps not my most important victory in this lifelong battle against this disease, it is one that I will cherish.

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70 Replies to “Guest Article: The Longest Road”

  1. That took some balls, @The Oracle

    Huge respect to you for sharing this, and for your recovery. Best of luck for the future, both on and off the bike.

     

  2. Respect. Respect. Respect. For having the guts to share this. For sticking up for yourself – your true self – and staying on course on your way out of the dark pit. And for writing beautifully and soberly about it. Well done, sir; you’re an inspiration, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Congratulations on the first 100 days. Please do a follow-up on day 365 with the same good news.

    Best wishes

    David

  4. Wow!  So impressive. Truly very powerful and emotional. This is the best thing I have read on the internet in months.

    I know that you have contacts for any set backs that might try to occur in your life of sobriety but I hope that we can also be a help here and that if it starts to get dark, you can try to look for us for help in your clean path ahead.

     

  5. I’m very glad you are in the process of getting yourself out of that pit, and that you chose to share the story with us.

    I also came out of uni with a bit of a drink problem – I didn’t feel I could go to a social event without drinking heavily, and I didn’t know when to stop. Fortunately, my wife had the courage to call me out and make me think about what I was doing, and I pulled back from the edge.

    So although I’ve never been down in that pit fully I’ve had a good look and it’s not pretty. I can only imagine the guts it takes to pull yourself out.

    Well done mate, keep at it.

  6. Isn’t Wisconsin great. Our tradition of drinking is worn as a badge of honor by so many of us. I have lived here all my life (61 years) and also attended UW-Madison for law school. I tend to agree with the medical opinion that thinks you are born with the alcoholic/addictive gene. I started on my alcoholic path with binge drinking at 15 years old and progressed from there. I’m coming up on my 12 year anniversary of sobriety. Sobriety is really a beautiful thing. I hope you are part of a good 12 step program. Anyone can quit drinking, the trick is to stay that way. The 12 step programs teach us how to live life without alcohol and be happy in our sobriety. In my opinion, that is the only way we are going to stay sober. My obsession with biking coincided with quitting drinking. I hate to admit this on this site, but I was one of those kids that had a Schwin 10 speed bike that I swore I would never ride again as soon as I got my driver’s license. Before that, I road that bike all over creation. During the summer after 8th grade I fell in love with a girl at a church camp who lived 80 miles from me. On a whim, I thought it would be a great idea to ride my bike up to see her. My legs were so cramped the next day I could hardly walk. We have a fairly large hill in our downtown. I remember distinctly struggling up that hill as a 15 year old and having a guy on a motorcycle ride up next to me. He slowed a bit, looked at me and laughed at my struggle, then with a twist of his wrist he cruised away. That did it. I bought a motorcycle two weeks later and sold my bike as soon as I got my driver’s license. I owned plenty of motorcycles, but no bikes for the next thirty years. A couple of years before I quit drinking something got into my head to sell my motorcycle and buy two bikes for my wife and I. When we both quit drinking, I started riding a lot, but just around town.  It wasn’t long before I bought a road bike (the salesman just shook his head when I asked him if they would be putting a kickstand on it when I picked it up). I lost 40 pounds and started doing a lot of long distance rides (centuries, 200ks and one 300k). I’ve upgraded my bikes repeatedly since then and I ride at least 50k every other day now. I almost always do it solo. Biking is my meditation and prayer time. I guess I would be considered a “born again” bicyclist, as opposed those who have had a life long passion for bicycles. Keep up the good work. The first 100 days are the hardest. I live in Janesville so if you are in this part of the state, look me up. I love to talk recovery. Dan

  7. @dancollins

    Sobriety is really a beautiful thing.

    I love these stories, when people get sober and their lives begin anew. FFS, it sounds hellish beforehand. I have an American friend in europe that does AA online with other english speakers in the area, one of the best uses of social media yet.

    And I agree about the genetic component, I dodged that bullet.

  8. @The Oracle: I can only echo the comments made above. Never expected to read such an article on this site but it only makes it better. Thanks for sharing, and I think and hope that the sharing itself helps to continue to find the panache to stay away from it.

    This is what makes this community so powerful: we can b**ch about the smallest irrelevant things and act as if we’re the toughest dudes around, but then sometimes, we get these nuggets of gold of openness.

  9. Incredible piece! Oracle – great to see you back on the site. This is why this site matters to so many of us.

    If you want to come down to West Bend for a ride, just let me know.

    Good luck with everything!

  10. Best First Ride Back ever.

    Congrats for getting back on the right track in both ways.

    I hope it adds to the insight of people who’ve never been in that position, and helps you and anyone else who has been, or is, there.

    And just to lower the tone, it’s a close contender for bravest share I’ve seen this week.

  11. @ChrisO

    Best First Ride Back ever.

    Congrats for getting back on the right track in both ways.

    I hope it adds to the insight of people who’ve never been in that position, and helps you and anyone else who has been, or is, there.

    And just to lower the tone, it’s a close contender for bravest share I’ve seen this week.

    Wow . . . just wow on that other “share.”

    If any of you are tempted to click on the link, here are a few extracts to set the scene:Quote “But then when she pressed down on her stomach she felt a buzzing inside her. They tried to remove it using a fork handle and barbecue prongs but all efforts failed.”

    Her boyfriend could be a tad more sympathetic though: Quote ‘Lee’s not been scarred by it – he just thinks it’s funny. I think he should have one up his bum and take one for the team.’

    Kudos to Emma for turning this incident into a public service announcement. Yes indeed.

    I have an acquaintance who was an ER doctor in Madison, WI (a very large college town.) A colleague of his kept quite the collection of miscellany that had been retrieved from places they should never have been. It was quite the conversation starter . . .

  12. Well I did warn it would lower the tone.

    I thought at first it was a fake but it seems to be a genuine story.

    If people keep speaking publicly about things like that then ER doctors will have nothing to talk about at parties.

  13. @ChrisO

    Well I did warn it would lower the tone.

    I thought at first it was a fake but it seems to be a genuine story.

    If people keep speaking publicly about things like that then ER doctors will have nothing to talk about at parties.

    @wiscot

    One of the guys I work with’s wife is a surgeon.

    One word – coconut. And I’ve seen the X-ray. Mindblowing.

  14. @ChrisO

    Well I did warn it would lower the tone.

    I thought at first it was a fake but it seems to be a genuine story.

    If people keep speaking publicly about things like that then ER doctors will have nothing to talk about at parties.

    A rare day I am in the office and opened that link at work.  Fortunately no one was stood behind me.

  15. I’m 42 years old and I’ve been sober nearly 10 years, 10 months and 7 days now.

    I wasn’t quite as far down the road to self-destruction that Oracle clearly was but I still came off with a bit of a bump. Everyone’s addiction, and recovery from it, is idiosyncratic. What’s kept me sober for over a decade now wasn’t a 12 step programme (which work wonders for many people I should add) but rediscovering cycling, a sport I had given up in my early 20’s. Serious sport doesn’t really mix with wine, women and song. Within weeks of my last drink I had bought a bike and I’ve never looked back. Without a shadow of a doubt. If it wasn’t for cycling I would be a mess, hurtling towards an early grave.

    I’m quite literally cycling for my life.

    So reading Oracle’s story I’m kinda torn. I’m glad he’s quit and shared his story, both take guts. But his admission of being a drunk driver?

    Oh man…this might come across like a troll but…for that you’re a bastard.

    Like a lot of people that read and comment on this site I’ve got biking buddies that have come off second best to a drunk driver and have the scars to prove it.

  16. @Teocalli

    @ChrisO

    Well I did warn it would lower the tone.

    I thought at first it was a fake but it seems to be a genuine story.

    If people keep speaking publicly about things like that then ER doctors will have nothing to talk about at parties.

    A rare day I am in the office and opened that link at work. Fortunately no one was stood behind me.

    Yeah, sorry. In my synopsis, I should have stated NSFW.

    @RobSandy

    @ChrisO

    Well I did warn it would lower the tone.

    I thought at first it was a fake but it seems to be a genuine story.

    If people keep speaking publicly about things like that then ER doctors will have nothing to talk about at parties.

    @wiscot

    One of the guys I work with’s wife is a surgeon.

    One word – coconut. And I’ve seen the X-ray. Mindblowing.

    A coconut? Like one of those softball-sized, jaggedly-hairy, big-as-a-baby’s-head things? Without getting into details, wouldn’t you have to work up to something that size? Some people have too much time on their hands.

  17. Long time lurker first time poster here. Thank you @The Oracle for such a well written piece. You are an inspiration to all of us dealing with our demons. Keep on getting better  (on and off the bike).

  18. @wiscot

     

    @wiscot

    One of the guys I work with’s wife is a surgeon.

    One word – coconut. And I’ve seen the X-ray. Mindblowing.

    A coconut? Like one of those softball-sized, jaggedly-hairy, big-as-a-baby’s-head things? Without getting into details, wouldn’t you have to work up to something that size? Some people have too much time on their hands.

    Yes, one of those.

    Yes, I imagine so.

    And, yes.

  19. @Oracle – thank you for sharing – I’m almost 11 months sober – 40+ lbs lost – refound my love for cycling – struggled with rejoining the trail running scene bc of all the beer (same w cross and MTB) – and am still trying to figure out how to get some community (IRL) and make friends when every outing in my city involves drinking..  For all the struggles, it’s been worth it – I wasn’t as deep in it as you at the time I quit – but have been before and was scared I was headed there again.  I don’t have the cravings anymore, just a long way to go before I feel like a normal person in the world even though I don’t drink.

  20. @Oracle: fantastic, keep it up brother. I too share the addiction gene but have been blessed with an internal clock which tells me “that’s enough buddy” before trouble ensues. Too bad that mutation can’t be spliced in for you. Perhaps there’s a line missing from Ben Franklin’s quote, something akin to “but it’s one of the ways he can fuck with us.”

  21. @ORACLE: You will come through just fine. My last drink as July 1995, and I don’t miss one damn thing about it. Keep mashing the big plate.

  22. Was wondering where’d you’d disappeared to, and pleased to see you back at it on Strava. That’s a tough demon to dispatch, and I hope you can maintain the upper hand. A young co-worker attempted suicide a couple of days ago while in recovery from his drinking, so your post is particularly poignant for me. Certainly has me thinking about my habitual visits to the crafty beer store.

  23. As Layne Staley stated-Our pain is self chosen…

    You stop when only you are ready. For me it took an introspectve revelation that I was hurting the ones I loved more than I was hurting myself. Once I had climbed out of that dark vortex of addiction and depression I knew I was not going back to that shitty place. Knowing that there was a hole left in my life where addiction once lived I knew I needed to fill it with something else.

    Fortunately I too rediscovered the bike. My pain is still self chosen. but at least now it does not negatively affect those I love.

    Congrats on your 100. Stay strong through your recovery and I hope your bike and this community helps you navigate this path as it has helped me. For many of us who share this love for the bike and everything that surrounds it we can attest to our encounters as we enter the pain cave. It is lonely there. It is painful but it does not compare to the beasts of we encounter in the dark pit of addiction. Once again we must heed the golden rule. It is the only one that truly matters. Rule V.  VLVV

  24. While carefully considering Rule #40 today as I was changing my tires, I kept thinking about this article/post and am calling for a “move to strike Rule #47, your honour!”.

  25. Thanks for sharing, Oracle. Congratulations on 100 days, too.

    My old man was an alcoholic. It eventually killed him in ’96. Seizure from going cold turkey after a good 10+ years on the bottle. So I hope to hell the adict gene skipped me.

    You are tough as hell for realising you have a problem, doing something about it and seeing it through.

    All Velominati tough guy shit aside, I genuinely wish you all the very best.

    Now go kick this addictions ass. Sur la plaque.

    VLVV.

  26. @Oracle,

     

    Thanks for having the courage to share.  It is incredible how the universe works.  I was just surfing around after a long ride and found your article.  Although I am just a few years older, your story is almost a carbon copy of mine.  I felt as if I was reading the exact chronology of my descent into addiction.  You may have written this several days ago (and congratulations on 100 days!), but as I write this, it is 99 for me.  It has definitely been tough and a struggle, but after six weeks off, the bike has been a critical piece of my recovery.  The time for reflection and contemplation while riding has given me the peace to realize I can do this.

    Chapeau, and thanks again for sharing.

  27. @KogaLover

    While carefully considering Rule #40 today as I was changing my tires, I kept thinking about this article/post and am calling for a “move to strike Rule #47, your honour!”.

    I was sort of surprised to see references in the article and comments about the site and drinking – it’s never really occurred to me that it was anything which would unduly encourage or glamourise it.

    And I say that as a very light drinker who will go weeks without touching alcohol, not as deliberate avoidance but it just isn’t part of my life, so it’s not like I feel part of a drinking culture. (It’s why I had to leave Australia)

    But the article also says: I posted often on this site, and used the frequent talk of drinking here as a misguided rationalization for continuing to drink heavily even while riding harder and farther than I had ever done in my life.

    Misguided rationalization is the key bit for me. If you’re looking for justification it can be found anywhere and it’s dangerous to start taking individual rules too seriously. Would someone argue that Rule #11 (Family doesn’t come first) is encouraging people to neglect their children or divorce their wife?

    Changing Rule #22 on the other hand…

  28.  

    Changing Rule #22 on the other hand…

    As in: you prefer to wear a baseballcap? Or prefer to wear a cycling cap also during non-cycling related events?

  29. @ChrisO

    @KogaLover

    While carefully considering Rule #40 today as I was changing my tires, I kept thinking about this article/post and am calling for a “move to strike Rule #47, your honour!”.

    I was sort of surprised to see references in the article and comments about the site and drinking – it’s never really occurred to me that it was anything which would unduly encourage or glamourise it.

    And I say that as a very light drinker who will go weeks without touching alcohol, not as deliberate avoidance but it just isn’t part of my life, so it’s not like I feel part of a drinking culture. (It’s why I had to leave Australia)

    But the article also says: I posted often on this site, and used the frequent talk of drinking here as a misguided rationalization for continuing to drink heavily even while riding harder and farther than I had ever done in my life.

    Misguided rationalization is the key bit for me. If you’re looking for justification it can be found anywhere and it’s dangerous to start taking individual rules too seriously. Would someone argue that Rule #11 (Family doesn’t come first) is encouraging people to neglect their children or divorce their wife?

    Agree completely. Though, I think it was just a crafty way to justify the contemplation of a triple crank.

    This piece highlights the beauties of this community, notably how the pendulum can swing from serious issues to comments about new ways to get coconuts through airport security (that’s what they were doing, right?)

  30. @KogaLover

    Changing Rule #22 on the other hand…

    As in: you prefer to wear a baseballcap? Or prefer to wear a cycling cap also during non-cycling related events?

    The latter, but with an exemption.

    My personal view is while cycling, wear a helmet if you wish or wear a cap, not both.

    But those who don’t wear them as God and Eddie intended have no business setting rules for those who do.

    And if you don’t hide your light under a bushel then I think you have the right to wear it whenever you damned well please.

     

  31. @Oracle, thanks for sharing your story of strength and hope, as they say in the rooms.  I’m glad that you found that point where you decided for yourself, before you lost loved ones, work, permanent health issues or worse.  Yes, everyone’s bottoms are different and some, seems like yours, are truly harrowing.  But they all share the fact that we did some shit things in addiction, indefensible in hindsight, and that guilt can last longer than the obsession to use or drink.  And that in no way is asking for any absolution or sympathy.  We own it and try to be better every day.

    I took to the bike after getting clean, and it has been a godsend.  We do choose our poison, and maybe always looking for a steep hill to ride up, despite the fact that I’m 100kg and just shit at climbing. The pain in legs and lungs is the substitute, a way of feeling something that is not getting high.

    It’s true that at cogals and such, drinking beer and the like is an integral part of the experience.  Not taking part is somewhat isolating, but that’s OK.  Everyone has always been generous and non-judgmental.

    I had 10 years and relapsed.  One day at a time my friend, and keep coming back.

  32. @ChrisO Your attempted hijacking of The Oracle’s incredibly brave confession and testimony was crass and classless. Surfing the Net with a good buzz on, discovering and reposting misogynist stories about stupid sex acts completely undermines the importance of supporting our comrades on two wheels whatever their trials might be.

    Cycling and alcohol do NOT have to go hand in hand, although I admit that for some they do. We are not all doomed to a sordid culture because some choose that path. Not all hard core cyclists are hard core drinkers- anymore that all Aussies are rowdy unruly rugby players (or all Yankees as stupid as Trump!).

    Full disclosure: I drank too much age 17-36; quit one day and haven’t looked back for 25 years

    I recently rediscovered the healing power and pleasure of suffering on the bike: no drinking or drugs involved, except perhaps for legally prescribed antidepressants, as I descended into the abyss of self-pity and despair after my VMH of 37 years walked out on me. As a teenager she carried my Dettos while I registered for crits; later she famously said “You’ve been grouchy today- why don’t you go out for a long ride?” Now she gets the Steinway piano and the nice paintings, since I get to keep my bikes. But no matter how low I might feel, when I go for a ride “to get my angry out” I always come back a better, braver man.

  33. @David Beers

    I’ve made two posts directly addressing issues in the OP, one of which contained a tangential but humorous link in 17 words, and another responding to a direct question.

    On the other hand we now know all about the details of YOUR divorce and YOUR drinking and what YOU got and how much self-pity YOU felt. In a post where you refer to your wife of 37 years as a VMH.

    But apparently I’m the misogynistic one who for some reason wants to hijack the thread.

    The good news is that if Donald Trump wants to endow a chair for Self Awareness and Gender Studies he’s found his man.

    And for that I am truly sorry for now hijacking the thread but I’m afraid I don’t respond well to direct personal attacks with keyboards.

  34. @universo

    @ChrisO

    your personal views are not gold

    Are you implying that only personal views that ARE gold may be stated on this site? If so, I’d appreciate a sort of opinion scale, so before I offer my personal view on anything from caps to potential TdF winners I can make sure I’m at the golden end of the scale.

    Thanks.

  35. Never feel the need to post but this one hit home.

    Seeing a friend in terminal decline due to his alcohol addiction makes you realise how damn awful the stuff is for the wrong people, and how it can sneak up on even the stongest.

    I know it’s a daily battle, but it is one that is always worth fighting.

     

  36. this is an interesting thread for me.  i have lived and worked in the French Quarter in New Orleans for twenty years.  an alcoholic’s Disney World if there ever was one, this neighborhood puts you right up against it every day, in every way you can imagine, and in many ways you can’t imagine unless you, too, live and work here.

    over the last twenty years, if i’ve learned one thing for sure, it’s this:  alcoholism and addictive disorders are really a bell curve.  there are those few (like an ex of mine that could buy a pack of cigarettes one weekend and two weeks later the half full pack would still be on her dashboard) who will never be addicted to anything, just like there are those few on the opposite end of the curve that will be a mess no matter their circumstances or environment.  the rest of us, a VAST majority, fall somewhere in the middle of the curve.  for us, how slippery the slope gets and how far we slide down are in no small part influenced by our current circumstances and environment.  i’ve known a hundred or more folks that are completely capable of living a normal, functional life outside of my neighborhood, that can’t help but turn into a raving maniac boozehound inside it.

    we never really know what someone else is going through, and i’m a very lucky man to have been able to live and earn a good living here for as long as i have, given my generally delinquent disposition and worldview.

    one thing that keeps me sane is to always consider, every time i see or hear of someone in difficulty, that there, but for the grace of God, go I, and be very, very grateful for who i am and what i have.  for most of us, life is a marathon, not a sprint, and none of us know what lies around the next turn.

    every so often, an instructive bit like this piece will turn up in an unexpected place.  gifts, for those of us savvy enough to grok.  thanks a million, The Oracle.

  37. @ davidhill  @all

    @universo

    @davidlhill@all

    sharing one thought is all

    Fair enough – apologies.

    I spent the better part of my morning yesterday trying to keep alive a young man who had overdosed on heroin amongst other things who I knew would most likely die (which he did in the afternoon). In my work I see people who have both acute presentations and who have reached the point of end organ disease through their life choices. One of the things that I have learned is that I do not always know what burdens they carry but I do know the burden carried by their families as a result of these events. Sometimes they share them with you as @Oracle has. Sometimes they keep on carrying them.

    This site is a welcome reprieve. Though it is not filled with the gallows humor which can be greatly needed at times, the banter within posts or a well time fart joke can do quite a lot to lessen some of the smaller burdens we carry.

    So I second @Oli‘s motion to steady on.

  38. @ChrisO

    Oh for Merckx’ sake Chris! Stop, just stop. I did NOT accuse you of anything other than poor taste and judgement for posting a link to a story about sex toys that had nothing to do with Oracle’s post. And you know nothing of my journey other than my illustration that “when everything else in your life sucks, you still have the bike, and if misery loves company the suffering will set you free.”

  39. @Cary

    this is an interesting thread for me. i have lived and worked in the French Quarter in New Orleans for twenty years. an alcoholic’s Disney World if there ever was one, this neighborhood puts you right up against it every day, in every way you can imagine, and in many ways you can’t imagine unless you, too, live and work here.

    over the last twenty years, if i’ve learned one thing for sure, it’s this: alcoholism and addictive disorders are really a bell curve. there are those few (like an ex of mine that could buy a pack of cigarettes one weekend and two weeks later the half full pack would still be on her dashboard) who will never be addicted to anything, just like there are those few on the opposite end of the curve that will be a mess no matter their circumstances or environment. the rest of us, a VAST majority, fall somewhere in the middle of the curve. for us, how slippery the slope gets and how far we slide down are in no small part influenced by our current circumstances and environment. i’ve known a hundred or more folks that are completely capable of living a normal, functional life outside of my neighborhood, that can’t help but turn into a raving maniac boozehound inside it.

    we never really know what someone else is going through, and i’m a very lucky man to have been able to live and earn a good living here for as long as i have, given my generally delinquent disposition and worldview.

    one thing that keeps me sane is to always consider, every time i see or hear of someone in difficulty, that there, but for the grace of God, go I, and be very, very grateful for who i am and what i have. for most of us, life is a marathon, not a sprint, and none of us know what lies around the next turn.

    every so often, an instructive bit like this piece will turn up in an unexpected place. gifts, for those of us savvy enough to grok. thanks a million, The Oracle.

    Have you read the New Yorker article on Hurricane Katrina and the upsides of displacement? It was either earlier this year or last year. To summarize: research has shown that a major event that displaces people is one of the few things that can truly allow people to break out of a cycle of poverty, crime, low education, bad choices, etc.

    From a privileged view you can stand and wonder why people in tough places make bad choices and can’t break out. What researchers have found is that the devastation of the hurricane really forced people to up and leave and get completely away from their former lives, with some positive outcomes for certain folks. Very interesting stuff, in my opinion. Really flies in the face of the naive “Well, it wouldn’t be a ghetto if they’d stop the drugs and violence” mentality.

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