Riding the high road.

When I came to the decision to live sober it was yet another eviction that was the last straw. We had no real choice but to move in with my mother-in-law until we could reestablish our finances and search out a new apartment. This meant a four mile bike ride each way for work. It may have been the best thing that could have happened to me at the time.

The ride was liberating. I never used by bicycle to cover more than a few blocks really, not on a regular basis. The route to and from work was hilly and more of a challenge than I was used to. It felt awesome the first time I conquered the big hill on the way back to house. The elation of the endorphin and the exhaustion from the activity where just enough to keep me from cheating myself out of sobriety. Soon the regular exercise help me to get to sleep and the pumping of my legs helped fight off the constant nagging anxiety that I felt. I imagined myself pedaling as fast as I could away from my old habits.

In a few weeks, with some help, we were able to find a new place closer to my work and though I still rode there and back the ride was too easy and not nearly as satisfying. Then some jackhole crept into my back yard of my apartment one night and stole my bike. It was my fault, I forgot to lock the damn thing up. Still, the bastard manged to break the six-foot privacy, squeeze through the gap that they made, and walk calmly away  with my bike, All without anyone in my neighborhood seeing or hearing it. This seemed to coincide with a very tough part of my sobriety. For months afterwards I was even more irritated, and anxious, pent-up, and much easier to piss off. I pretty much withdrew into staying up all night binge watching sci-fi shows on Netflix and playing video games for the entirety of my down time. My life began to revolve around this little screen. The screen soon became too small. I started saving up for a new tablet. For months I squirreled away every last dollar i could spare out of my budget until finally I had enough for the device I wanted.

I bought a new bicycle instead. This was a good decision, a great decision. Even though I now lived only a few blocks away from my job I rode it there everyday. I looked for any excuse to run an errand after my shift. I even once rode it to the grocery store at one o’clock in the morning after a really rough shift because, “I earned myself a steak dinner” that night. After just a few days of being back on the bike I really could feel all of my tension and depression starting to subside. I was feeling really good about things. Then there was a problem. Just when I was really getting interested in riding my bike again, my wife’s stepfather went into the hospital with terminal kidney failure. The stress this put on her mother required me to drive a car once again.

Months went by where my days seemed to be filled with driving back and forth on the stretch of road, ferrying people to and from the hospital and later palliative care facility. Then the driving to and from my apartment moving us back into my mother-in-law’s house. I would arrive at work pissed off and already exhausted from dealing with traffic. I distinctly recall telling my wife, with our daughter strapped in to he booster in the back seat, “You do realize, if I hadn’t stopped drinking I would be drunk right now.” At that point I was hanging by a thread to keep myself from falling of the wagon.

Finally after what seemed an eternity my bicycle made it to the house. For the first couple of weeks I had to remember to pack ibuprofen with me to treat my reconstructed right knee each day to make the eight plus hours of standing that my job entails bearable. Eventually I downloaded a fitness tracking app onto my phone because I was curious about my actual mileage. I have become more than a bit obsessed with finding the fastest route, then the best route, the route with the toughest hills. Could I make it up the hill by my daughter’s school, the one that was mocking me a year earlier? Why yes, yes I could and after that let’s bike for another mile or so and grab some tacos.

No matter what kind of day it’s been I would much rather have a bike ride than a drink these days. Admittedly some days it’s still a struggle to make the right call but, putting in a few miles after a rough shift makes me feel energized and positive. This makes stark contrast to my old habit of sitting in a dark room pounding tall boys and bourbon shots brooding on the mistakes and stresses of the day, I would often wind up passing out in a more severe frame of mind than which I started. Those days I continue to ride away from no matter how far I have to pedal.

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