Meeting Reflections 05-03-2017

     Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

     On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules. ~Big Book of AA pages xxviii-xxix

It’s been awhile since I was at a meeting. Life has been busy and finding time for a meeting has not been a priority. Mind you I do not believe my sobriety/sanity is in jeopardy after a couple weeks, but it just feels so much better to get into a room full of alcoholics working towards a better way.

I like this reading. It’s a popular one and something that always jumps out at me is the phrase “cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false“. That was me for sure. I jumped so far into that illusory world of alcohol that I didn’t know up from down left from right or right from wrong.

I spent my time with people who were doing the same awful things as I was or other awful things so my moral compass was not correctly calibrated. Since everyone around me was doing shitty things or the same atrocious things I was, What I was doing must not be that bad I guess! A clear case of the blind being led by the fucked up.

It was an endless cycle of misery. Doing the awful shit I was doing and continuing to spiral down because I couldn’t see a way out. Nor did I want one. Sure I knew on some level I was a shit-bird. That’s why I hid things from my wife and kids, from my family and friends. I knew “normal” people would look on me in disgust but I knew no other way.

In some ways I was comfortable with my alcoholism and lying and cheating. I was a piece of shit but I knew how to live life that way for while it lasted. Getting clean, coming clean was scary as fuck. I knew nothing about a normal life even before I started drinking.

A higher power, AA and honesty have enabled me to have that psychic change. Drastically and gradually I have become…me and not what I was before. I am amazed at how easy it is to live life. I’m not in control (never was) and I don’t have the answers to what obstacles will come.

What I do have is the willingness to do whatever work may be necessary to overcome or mitigate those obstacles and to admit that I can’t do it. I need my higher power who manifests through everyone and everything I encounter to show me I am not alone and together I will endure.

~Josh~

Cedro Peak 50k

Last Saturday was my first race of the 2017. The Cedro Peak 50k here in beautiful Tijeras, New Mexico. Seriously this one is in my backyard. And my backyard is beautiful.

Leading up to the event I had not been running as much as I would have liked. We had just finished a weight loss challenge at work and I had dropped my weekly mileage in favor of adding some weight-lifting/body-weight routines into the mix. Therefore instead of 30-40 mile weeks with appropriate long runs I was running approximately 20 – 30 miles at most with my longest run at 15 miles the week before the race.

I’ve been running nearly every day for years so I wasn’t afraid of being complete shit out there but I wanted to perform well.

0700 start meant a 0630 check in. It was cold and cloudy. Meaning we were in the clouds. Yeah that happens at 7600′. Still it was fun to be ready to go and feel the energy coming off all the people huddled into their sweatshirts.

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Shorts and no sleeves was a bad choice for the cold.

The sun was obscured for the first three hours. At first it was just cold but as the day progressed it stayed mercifully cool, never breaching 60º. Perfect running weather.

I felt strong and really tried to let my body guide me through this race. I ran whatever felt comfortable not what pace I wanted my Garmin to say. Turns out I was doing alright.

I averaged 12:29/mile, which is pretty god for 31 miles. On top of that I averaged 150bpm which means I was working aerobically the majority of the time.

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Cedro Peak in the distance
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Climbing the road to the peak.

 

Last year I DNF’d at Deadman Peaks due to GI issues so that was my biggest worry for Cedro. However I was able to eat anything and everything I wanted and I had no issues hydrating. I topped of at each Aid Station and ate whatever I felt like. Guacamole wraps, bacon, handfuls of M&M’s and Fig Newtons were my picks.

I generally alternated between filling up with Tailwind or water and I would drink whatever water or soda was available. This included picking up a cup of Mountain Dew (which I detest) only to find that is was not Mountain Dew but it was Pickle Juice. I was NOT disappointed.

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View from the Peak.

If you are looking for a Great race, this is one of them. Beautiful terrain, technical but runnable and exceptionally well manned and appropriately spaced Aid Stations. The longest spacing was 8 miles and that one felt like forever! Kim King does a fantastic job putting this race together.

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I followed this guy for much of the way. We’re twinsies.

Lisa and the girls were waiting for me as I crossed the finish line. Thankfully they hadn’t been waiting long. We’re doing this thing now where they meet me at the end and avoid the all-day waiting that happens at ultra races. I was very happy to see them. I always am.

I was also happy to have had such a solid race. It felt good and wasn’t a slog-fest to the end. Made a couple trail friends along the way and got to spend Earth Day outside in the best playground of all.

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Recent Outings.

Nothing fancy. I wanted to share a few recent outdoor activities with you. First a week ago I went out for a long run in the foothills of Albuquerque. Seriously they never get old. What started out as a rare run in the rain (light drizzle) turned into an even rarer slog to finish in a nasty surprise snow storm.

At first the sleet was a nice change. Not what I usually get here in the high desert. I spent much of the beginning of the run looking for the mountains that were all around me but obscured by the clouds.

Then the wind picked up and gave me a glimpse.

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That’s when it turned. The wind that moved the clouds over the mountains brought a change in weather. The rain turned into sleet as I climbed higher into the foothills. The wind picked up. About 7 miles in the sleet became thick heavy snowflakes, still with the wind.

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Just prior to a snow flurry!

It came down fast and hard. I was instantly soak through and kept warm only by the heat generated by running. I tried to take a picture of the craziness of the storm but my phone was damp and my hands too cold and wet to activate the screen (seriously ready for the terminals from the Expanse).

I made it home safely. Cold and wet and numbed hands but it was fun?

Date Hike -La Luz!

We’ve been busy lately what with two kids and two jobs and a shitload of other things. Our regular dates had fallen by the wayside. That’s no bueno. So yesterday we took the opportunity to spend some time hiking. It’s a bit of a default for us but that’s because it always works.

We started at Piedra Lisa and took the new route that jogs over and meets up with the La Luz Trail. We had never tried the connector and La Luz has been a distant memory.

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La Luz always offers excellent views. We went a couple miles in and had snack break before heading back down.

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Contemplative.

A post that at first appeared to be mysteriously marked with runes, simply told us which trail led to the Tram. I liked the runes better.

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She had a great time. Can you tell?

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FYI piedra lisa means “smooth rock” in Spanish. It’s pointing at her!

La Luz Training Run

I decided to go and make a first attempt at a training run on La Luz. Registration is opening in May for the trail run all the way to the peak so no time to start training like today!

I basically repeated our hike from yesterday but instead I was running.

Slowly.

My goal today was to keep my HR low, hopefully aerobic and try to acclimate to the step trail again. I mostly succeeded. If by that I mean I spent most of the run in the Threshold Zone instead. But staying out of the Max HR for most of it. I call that a win.

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Hello old friend.
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Me and my Ponderosa Pine friend.
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Always more up there.

Lots of sunshine today. Between the hike, yesterdays run and then today’s run I’m a little sunburned. My Mexican skin will soon turn that into a brown tan but today it stings a little. One week ago I was caught in a snowstorm and worried I had gotten too cold while out. Today: sunburn. I love the high desert.

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Picture swap!

Side note: both my S-Labs and my Speedcross shoes have 500 miles on them. While they still feel great I know it’s only a matter of time before it hurts. Time to get some new shoes.

Enjoy your time in the sun! What are you doing this weekend?

New Mexico Spring Break Road Trip

Wow, that’s a lot of words in that there title. It is however very accurate.

For Spring Break this year we opted to stay within our adopted home-state and see some of the sights we had not yet visited. One of the unseen benefits of settling down to live in a place you did not grow up is that all the boring, humdrum local things everyone from there takes for granted is new and exciting for you!

I grew up in Minnesota. A wonderful state that by some accounts, just keeps getting better. But I’ll tell you this: I don’t give a shit about the Mall of America. I’ve been to Valley Fair more times than I can count and I practically lived at the MN Renaissance Festival through middle school and into college. All great things but

Been There and Done That.

I’m not from New Mexico so all the “usual” things folks are tired of here are new and fun to me and HOLY SHIT how can you be tired of all this Native culture and Meso-American History and Old West ghost towns and the amazing beautiful natural wonder that is this entire God-Blessed State?!?!?!

Day 1

Mostly a travel day. We headed south from ABQ and drove to Elephant Butte for a lovely picnic lunch and a break from being in the truck. What we got was a windy, gritty, rainy lunch and a brief break from being in the truck.

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Seriously it was so windy we thought we were going to blow away and the rain that hit us felt like it was coming from 100 miles away. We ate quickly and got back into the truck to continue to Silver City. Included along the way was a stop over at Percha Creek and a view of the Chino Copper Mine.

 

Once we got to the KOA cabin in Silver City we settled in for the night and let me tell you it was easy. The KOA cabins in general are nice and clean and cozy but the KOA in Silver City was the nicest we have seen yet. I’ll stay in a KOA cabin over a hotel any day.

 

Lisa and the girls relaxed after a quick dinner partially supplied by us and the pizza part supplied by the KOA kitchen.

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Those were the most serious pictures I could get. Really.

We’ll get into day two next time. Until then, enjoy April.

Did you go anywhere for Spring Break? Where? With Whom and Why?

 

 

 

What’s happening?

Apologies for the long delay in between posts. Lots has been happening to keep life…..constant.

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Work while still great has been relentless. It’s Cold and Flu season so everyone is coming into the clinic with a sore throat and sinus pressure. Add to that the allergy season has started early and strong here in New Mexico…. Work is busy.

Outside of work, well life is busy there too. We and Baha’i’s around the world are in the tail end of The Fast. From sunrise to sunset for 19 days we neither eat nor drink. It’s rough but spiritually gratifying. Don’t talk to me at 4pm because I’ll be pretty salty (salty here means grumpy and liable to say something mean in a snappish manner).

Rain Wilson wrote an article a number of years back about the Fast (read it here) and he’s right it is tough and uncomfortable (it is supposed to be) but it places perspective on things.

It hasn’t all be rough and tumble though. There has been plenty of fun and exciting activities keeping us busy. Just before the Fast is Ayyam-i-Ha which we celebrated by getting all the local children’s classes together for a skating party! Roller skating is harder than I remember, I spent more time on roller-blades as a kid but still Lisa and I made most of the other adults look like beached walruses. Sweetums of course had a blast. Animal is old enough now to be too cool to hang out with us for pictures.

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Sweetums school library held a Beatrix Potter fancy Tea shindig (my name for it) and we got all dressed up!

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Of course no weekend is complete without a trip to the archery range. Animal got a bow for Christmas and we had not made the time to adjust it and try it out. She invited a friend along who had never shot a bow before. Sweetums I think looks like a Pro.

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Serious bow face!
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She means business.

Finally we have been playing a lot of board games at our house. Clue is a recent addition that everyone loves. I had not played since I was Animals age and it showed but I’ve won my fair share of games.

Animal and I continue to play Tak. It gets more fun and more complex every time. Mostly we are evenly matched but some days she kills me.

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OK I got that of my chest. Happy to have said something at least. It’s been on my mind while I do all that other fun stuff. Oh and DnD. I do some of that pretty much every day.

See you around here soon.

 

What’s been keeping you busy?

Meeting Reflections 02/23/2017

I was found guilty and sentenced to sixteen months in federal prison. My two co-defendants received twelve-month sentences and chose to remain free pending appeals, while I chose to go into prison and get it over. I had learned how to live life on life’s terms and not my own. From somewhere back in my high school days, I remembered a poem that says something to the effect of, “Cowards die a thousand deaths, a brave man only once,” and I wanted to do what had to be done. I was terrified of walking into prison but told my children that I could not come out the back door until I walked through the front. I remembered that courage was not the absence of fear; it was the ability to continue in the face of it. ~ AA Big Book pp.526

 

I’m Josh and I’m an Alcoholic. I was raised and trained to be an alcoholic. The reading discusses responsibility and taking ownership for owns own actions. I did not know how to do that. I never had to.

I don’t know about you folks but I had a shitty childhood. Well not all of it but some very shitty things happened: my parents split, I think I witnessed some abuse, I was kidnapped across international borders (twice)…yeah stuff happened.

My point is that I was kind of given a free ride. If I acted out or misbehaved they let it slide. “Josh has been through so much….” and so forth. If I withdrew (and I did) and cut off and severed my connection with people and reality I was also given leave to do so. I could kind of do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In retrospect I could have gotten away with a lot more shit than I did. I kind of wasted it. But I did get away with a lot. If my girls tried to do half of the things I did they’d be in such deep shit.

Being immune to repercussions led straight into my drinking career and was reinforced by it. I was continuing the belief that I could drink and lie and cheat and do whatever and not have to be responsible for it. I knew I was being an ass so I lied and misdirected and manipulated in order to avoid consequences. And in my experience it is a lot easier to keep doing shitty awful things when you don’t have to answer for them.

Since rebuilding a relationship with my Higher Power, since coming into the rooms and making that decision to hold myself accountable I’ve stopped doing those shitty awful terrible things. Living each day to hold myself accountable for my thoughts and actions prevents me from committing them. Knowing I will not hide behind lies and I will be answerable to my Higher Power, to my friends and family and the people in this room encourages and strengthens my ability to be honest and do the right thing.

And now, I can stand there and look someone in the eye and meet them on even ground. I can stand there and look in the mirror and look myself in the eye.

O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. ~Bahá’u’lláh The Hidden Words

Meeting Reflections 02/02/2017

   Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking in my kitchen. With a certain satisfaction I reflected there was enough gin concealed about the house to carry me through that night and the next day.My wife was at work. I wondered whether I dared hide a full bottle of gin near the head of our bed. I would need it before daylight.
   My musing was interrupted by the telephone. The cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner, and then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. There was that time we had chartered an airplane to complete a jag! His coming was an oasis in this dreary desert of futility. The very thing—an oasis! Drinkers are like that.
   The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened? I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself.
   “Come, what’s all this about?’’ I queried. He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, “I’ve got religion.’’
   I was aghast. So that was it—last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his preaching.
   But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was Self-evident. It worked! He had come to pass his experience along to me—if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.
                                                                                      ~Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous pp.8-10
This is an excellent reading and there are many topics to choose from and much to be gleaned but one this struck me tonight, the phrase : “He wasn’t himself.”
I had the thought “What if he was? What if he was more himself than he had every been?”
It is my experience that when lost in the delusions and lies I created I was far from the true self my Higher Power wanted me to be. I felt like a lost, alone worthless piece of shit. I was hopeless.
Through the insight and peace granted to me by my Higher Power through many means, including the Program of AA I have learned that I was the one getting in the way I was the one taking my path away from what God intended. I was the problem.
This reminded me of one of my favorite saying from Cervantes in the best novel ever written (ask authors they voted) Don Quixote:
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Who was Don Quixote but a man who led a shitty life and chose to live in a fantasy instead? How am I any different than that? Are my windmills any more real?
In the end Don Quixote forsook his false life and embraced his life on earth as it was and died peacefully. I pray I stay on a path that leads me to the same end.