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Recovery on a Bike

My relationship with alcohol was complicated. At onetime it was only a causal acquaintance that showed up on weekends and holidays but gradually it became a dinner companion and then almost overnight, it moved in as a permanent resident when my wife and daughter, tired of competing for my time and attention, moved out. We really never had the discussion about boundaries, so soon, it creeped into my daily routines. Forever an athlete, my daily workout routine was lifelong until it was displaced by wine flights and beer tastings and sports bars, but eventually even they were forgotten when my co-dependence with my new life companion wouldn’t allow it. I never saw myself as a prisoner but I also never considered another choice. My window to the world became the bottom of a bottle.

Abstinence was never a decision but a decree from a higher power. As the story goes, “the gig was up.” I was prepared for loss but even a divorce didn’t compare to this one. My entire world changed from that moment I received “The Call.” I had to leave my home, go to meetings in strange rooms and make small talk to stranger people who were nothing like me. I was told to listen and relate and so I did, but to the words I heard, I found no relation. Simple people looking for a simple solution to their life’s problem. My life was complex and my problems were complicated, so what was I going to gain from them? I was told to pray and so I did. “Please God, let me get through this day” was my daily request. There was no goal for joy, no hope for happiness but an hour by hour plan for survival. Something had to change.

In the meetings, I began to hear a prayer that to me at that time, spoke about change and courage. I intuitively knew that without change, my effort to distance myself from alcohol was going to fail and failure couldn’t be an option. So, whether by courage or fear, I bought a bicycle.

After some of the meetings, I had listened toa few guys talking about riding bikes around town with other cyclists. They talked about participating in organized group bike events across the region. Their stories all sounded like fun and I really needed to find fun. It was also very new. The new bikes had new pedals and gearing systems, the seats were very small and riding in a group required knowing the rules. I needed coaching so remembering the prayer, I found the courage to ask one of the guys for help.

Asking for help opened the door for me to new relationships and a new world. My new friend, Chris, knew I was going to make some mistakes and he patiently corrected them. He clearly understood the dangers that cars presented to a cyclist, so he firmly demanded we keep to certain principles when sharing the road with them. In his way, he pushed at the same time he pulled. He encouraged me to take risks with this new activity and at the same time, as I was always following his wheel, he showed me how to navigate the road. Our talks about the rules of biking soon expanded to the rules of living. I learned how he started cycling and he shared how he began sobriety. It seemed our past lives included common relationships and struggles and for the first time, I could relate my experience with another man’s. I realized that while Chris was showing me how to ride a bike, he was teaching me how to live a sober life.

Chris and I continued riding together and I began attending more of the evening meetings with him too. Our rides attracted others and within a year, our group number surged and the “Stray Bullets” bike club was formed. If ever there was a group of cyclists who would ordinarily not mix, it was this group! However, we were bound by our common search for a sober life that included fellowship and fun. Together, we rode some of the most difficult organized rides in the state and our members performed well. We competed in many and won several NC state championships. We traveled to Europe for organized bike holidays. There were tough times too, but we supported each other and we recovered. We recovered and with a common purpose we rode again.

Today, my relationships are no longer complicated. I try to remember what Chris did for me and I look to help others when I can. My higher power is no longer a governing Board. I don’t have to be afraid when I don’t have all the answers; I can ask for help. I can have a new family and survive all the craziness, joy and sorrow it brings. I can take a chance without paralyzing fear and I can have fun. Life is simpler now but keeping it simple is working for me.

… from a grateful recovering dentist …