I think I just quit drinking.

Living by my vice

It was said by an MD in a book I read once that the symptoms of alcoholism end immediately after the person stops drinking. Six days ago, I quit drinking. I went from drinking just about every day for about 1/4 to 1/3 of my waking hours, to no alcohol – none. This is how it happened:

I was reaching the tail end of a bottle of bourbon I had bought three weeks ago. A visitor was at the house and I offered her a shot. She spent the whole night talking with her friend in the other bedroom.

The next day, I got a note and a $5 bill on my work table:
“Senna, I stole a shot of your bourbon. This should cover it.” And a lightning bolt shot through my consciousness. Money? Coming TO ME through alcohol? This was a strange, surprising turning point and totally profound. In a flash I recalled all of the hundreds and thousands of dollars I’ve spent fucking my life up, keeping a habit that was ruining me – and this became a rock bottom. Years ago, I had a nightmare of wading through a room filled with all the wine bottles I had put down my gullet, knee high. By today, it would be thigh high.

Three days before I quit, my friend Paul Reeder suddenly died of a heart attack. I hadn’t called him in over a year. Shame after shame, I realized where I had ended up through alcohol – surrounded by and socializing with drinkers and drunks. I knew all along that the drink was dangerous. In high school and in my 20s, I had a cautious respect for it, though I drank… unnoticeably more and more as I got into my 30s. I had seriously quit three times in the past. This time, though – it’s not a contract with myself, it’s not a punishment nor did I plan on quitting right then after doing X or Y. I simply flipped the note over and wrote: “Have the rest. I’m done,” and put the $5 in my pocket, very unceremoniously. The whole next day I did not touch the bottle. The next morning, and subsequent mornings, I’ve felt well rested and *less* sore. My productivity has become apparent – I’m getting things done. The frequent urination, feeling cold often, and being bothered by little stuff, all out the window. By allowing a daily relationship with alcohol, a host of other problems came into my life. The warning on the label simply mentions: “Health problems.”

I experienced, for years, a decline in my weight, my attitude, and the number of people willing to have a relationship with me. I feared that I was giving myself cancer (alcohol is a co-carcinogen) I was bitter and spent a lot of time being mad at the world. After three days of not drinking, I noticed my power on the bike go to another level. I powered up a hill that I usually go to granny gear with on the big ring. All of a sudden, being an athlete again seems do-able.

My routine as an alcoholic was a semi-manageable habit, so I quit before the addiction set in. I’m 35. In only a few days, I went from feeling so old to feeling quite young. Instead of scraping my feet, I’m bounding up to the third step. The pain in my joints is gone. I’m remembering three things at a time instead of one. It’s just an unbelievable difference. It has been years since I’ve gone more than two days without wine or beer. Normally, I would have downed a half bottle and I’d be working on a beer right about now. Then, I’d take a nap and have a headache and be 1/3 productive in the evening. How I had room in my life for the life sucking drink for so many years, I cannot fathom.

I surely must avoid the traps that go along with quitting alcohol. I’ve already upped my caffeine intake a little, and the binge on snacks suddenly seems more appealing. At the same time, my ability to restrain my grubby hands from reaching for whatever the impulses tell me to eat are more in check. I can observe myself. I observe the craving for good wine. I observe myself getting up, putting my jacket on, getting ready to hit the store, and then I just stop. I will truly miss the taste of wine. Beer too. Since I can’t stop at one glass, I need to leave it for someone else.

Alcohol – I just don’t have room for you anymore. I’ll no longer be a drunk cyclist. I wanted to stop imagining myself a walking dead man, and be alive again. So, I just stopped. For years, I said: “What the fuck are you doing?” to myself; the clumsiness, the loss of energy, the diuresis, the feeling of aldehydes in my body as I poisoned myself again and again… all over now. Everything feels different. Success feels like it is in reach in a way never before possible.

There are other ways to get ‘drunk’ as the Irish folklore band The Clancy Brothers stated in one of their poems: “Get drunk – on wine, on women, or on song.” for me, truly drunk will always be that exhausted feeling after a 70 miler, when patiently I cook a fine meal for myself and sit to eat it. I could probably do a 70 miler again soon. I may do my 7th century ride in 2010. I may race masters, when I’m old enough. All this is possible due to sobriety. I had realized that there is a choice: alcoholism or athleticism, and never the two shall co-exist. Delude yourselves into thinking it so if you want, but they don’t. The motorcycle clubs have a saying: “There are old riders, there are drunk riders. There are no old drunk riders.”

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About littlejar

5 - Learned to ride in paved alley behind liquor store in Lowell. 16 - Road bike riding alone while peers do soccer practice. 18 - First new road bike bought with winnings from Project Graduation. 20 - Burlington VT. Nuff said. 22 - Joined the Air Force. 23 - Joined team Fair Wheel in Tucson - rode the Shootout. 24 - Rode El Tour in under five. 26 - Toured to Quebec City 28 - Toured Oklahoma to Vermont 30 - Found my dream bike - a 1989 58cm LaBan (#22) 32 - Experienced Minneapolis and saw BIKE CULTURE. 34 - Building my first bicycle frame, with a self made jig. USA

50 thoughts on “I think I just quit drinking.

  1. I drink like a fish, I push a 68″ fixed gear all over hilly western Maryland and I’m 59 years ornery. Makes me wonder what I could do if I quit the sauce.

    And maybe ran afew gears.

  2. Good for you Senna! It will be 9 years sober in September for me. I miss it once in a great while, but the feeling quickly passes.
    Did you get the BIG ring?

  3. Good on you. Ten months ago I quit meat, as much processed food as I could, and most of the booze. I’m 60 pounds lighter and feel better almost every day than I did the day before. I wish you all the best, it’s a pretty incredible journey.

  4. …haven’t always been your biggest fan, littlejar but right now i’ve gotta lotta respect for you because of what i’m reading…

    …stay the course man, tough as it might get at times…’member our pal judi…now there’s someone who had a habit & kicked it…

    cary sez “moderation!”…i say you’re a fucking moron, dude…somebody just emptied both their heart & their liquor cabinet & said they were determined to make a difference in their life & your already encouraging them to backslide…

    wake the fuck up, reread the post & once you do, have the balls to fucking apologize to the man…

  5. May 14 marked 9 years of sobriety for me. Something I, and many friends, didn’t think possible after my 20 years of crazy hard drinking. But, woke up one morning hating myself, got back on the bike full time (among other things) and never looked back. All the best.

  6. best wishes to you, mr. jar. choosing to do what’s best is not always so easy, but that you are appreciating its absence, able to smell trouble ahead, and able to love yourself all the while speaks volumes to your fortitude. We all have our demons, really, we do. It will provide continual uplift to hear reports of yours minding their own goddamned business.

    thank you for your story.

  7. I can’t imagine what it is like to quit an opiate addiction. I could not compare that. No withdrawl, only light cravings. Years ago, after some messed up dental work, I went through two bottles back to back of pain KILLER pills. Then they were gone. If that’s a taste of kicking an addiction, it was enough to keep me smoking tobacco only about 3x a year, and to avoid opiates like the plague.

    I got tired of myself – that is what it was. Truly. Sick of being an arrogant fool, letting life slip by, sip by sip. The shine is back to my eyes. I feel strong and good. Fearless, even. At the time of my decision to stop, I was already feeling my life coming together in many ways.

    For the record, I don’t agree with the ‘disease’ model of alcoholism. It causes disease, but a series of bad choices over and over is not a disease. For me, the ‘cure’ was to just decide to stop, and re-program myself through continual vigilance. I have to. It’s drown or fly for me. I have a lot of work to do and still, I have to find home and family. I’m joyous in my freedom. MM – thanks for the 58 ring. I may get strong enough to use it. I envision a desert tailwind and not running out of teeth.

  8. Hell yes Little Jar!! If you need help the DC family will be here! Pour it out on these pages!

    Snake

  9. Spot on, LJ. My old man was an alcoholic his whole life, I hated him for it. It cost him his life 2 years ago in August, dude was about to turn 51. All I have to do is think about how shitty his life was and make nearly a daily promise to myself that I’ll never do that….to myself or anybody else that is directly or indirectly dragged down too. Your more of a fuckin’ man than most and I certainly commend you for that. Godspeed.

  10. Good read. I need to do the same, but it’s so damned easy not to.

    Life is better without it though.

    Thanks for the push.

  11. @bikepunk, that is so ironic on so many levels.

    I’m just going to walk away from that one.

    LittleJar, fucking good on you, makes me think of Rudyard Kipling’s poem – ‘If’

  12. Coming up on 24 years sober myself. You’ve got an epic ride ahead of you, but it can be ridden. For now, don’t worry too much about what you believe about alcoholism, whether it’s agreeing with the ‘disease model’ or anything else. Even if the ‘disease model’ falls short as hard science, it still works in the sense that you’re much likelier to stay sober if you see yourself as sick and needing to heal instead of as a drunk piece of shit who deserves to self-destruct. Hold on to your ass, and fuck “moderation”. My advice, take it or leave it, is: clean up, and stay clean for awhile. Go to a few 12-step meetings, until you find one you kind of fit with, and give it a real try. If you hate it, you can stop going. Booze and all that other bullshit will be there waiting if you ever want it back. It’s not like you’ll look back later in life and regret having been sober.

  13. Cycling (while sober) and drinking (while drunk) have both sent me to the emergency room multiple times. They are what I’ve used to cope with the confusion brought on by adulthood and the desire to just stay an 11 year old kid riding his BMX bike everyday during summer break. They are the only things that have made me feel ALIVE during the last twenty years as I am on the cusp of forty. If I had to choose just one of them though? I’d take the road rash over the suicidal hangovers any day. You can keep descending into the darkness or climb up above the clouds. I know I need to make this same decision soon. Best of luck littlejar.

  14. Because it is honest. And it is real.

    That’s what we do around here – The gritty shit that doesn’t move paper or boost click through rates.

    The stuff we all live.

    Ride your bike. Hug your kids. Give someone in need a new tube. Push it forward.

  15. It’s like an anti-porn post on youporn.com. The opinions people typically post there are honest and real as well.

  16. Firstly…@ Hurben…I’m relatively certain bikepunk made that comment in jest…he’s a long-timer here that hasnt’ been around much lately and that’s kind of his style…so don’t sweat it.

    Secondly…lj, good luck man. And be strong.

  17. @ Bikesgonemild, drinking miller high-life is the methadone of alcohol addiction. Apologize? Nope, if my moronic smart assness pushes him off the wagon he’ll have to thicken his skin if he’s going to make it to the 12th step. But I read littlejars post and his other post and really, from what I see, he’s already got that shit beat.

  18. Congrats on your new freedom. 15 years for me and I’m still learning new things about living sober. I picked up my dusty old Fuji from college as soon as I quit and it was the replacement addiction I needed. Amazing what I could do without daily crippling hangovers. And all that money I spent and lost now goes towards mortgages, steel colnagos with brooks saddles and cycling trips. There are still times when drinking is an option, as there will be for you, but I have learned enough about myself since the fog has lifted, to not make that choice during tough times. Home and family will come in time. My mother passed away yesterday and I was there holding her hand for the last days of her life. When I was drunk, I just wanted to stay away from family when things were bad and drink the way I wanted to drink. Now I can be there for them and shoulder the responsibilities of a good son, brother, husband. Hang in there man, let people help you as I had to learn to do. My own best thinking got me to the places I went, so I had to listen to other folks if I was gonna change.

  19. Congrats and good luck LJ.

    I’m back on the sauce after 3 months sober. Like you I was feeling strong and moving forward first time in years.

    Then I stopped moving for a few days and….

    Oh well.

    That’s life. Figure it out or die trying.

    Just never give up.

    Good luck again man.

  20. I’m going on almost 3 months sober. Just had my strongest ride ever last night. Since I’ve quit, I make real gains from my training. Now, instead of bottles of wine or too many beers, its protein drinks and diet sodas. And my recovery and gains are SO much better.

    Good post, it really hit home with me.

  21. If the feds backed off on criminalizing cannabis I bet many people would drink a lot less. Not to mention the amazing boost our economy would get from freeing up industrial hemp.

    Kick the booze forever. Getting drunk is not mutually exclusive with excessive consumption of alcohol. Get drunk on your own endorphins and catecholamines.

  22. 20+ years for me, i just pass the energy, money and effort to other things, like vacations to the beach, new bikes and blue ribbons (occasionally)

  23. Good job man, and good luck in the future. It’s hard to give up the sauce.

    @Downtown Brown- Good work, however, get off the diet soda. That shit will kill you in the long run, and make you feel like you have cancer in the short run. Google Aspartame poisoning and get ready to quit now. I speak from experience.

  24. This thread got me thinkin’. When I became a dad (1990) I became a teetotaler. I just could not bear the thought of that precious little one needing me, and me not being 100%.

    Guess it was on her 12th birthday that I got us a couple of bikes. She wasn’t impressed, but I got it bad, in a real good way. Of COURSE I want to be off the sauce if I’m relearning the intoxicating pleasure of cycling.

    Well, it was about a year later that my wife was in a bad traffic accident. Three months in the hospital and a year and a half in a wheelchair. It was all on me for awhile. No way I could afford to be intoxicated.

    The Mrs. got all better eventually, I figured I was entitled to relax after all we had been through and I stumbled on the wild and wonderful world of microbrews. Good times.

    Lately I can go through a fifth in two days. Thinking about it, that seems like alot of booze. Littlejar, maybe you’re onto something here. Plus, even at rotgut prices all that alkyhaul would add up to some really nice bike parts.

    Stay tuned.

  25. LJ – way to go… don’t ever give up. if giving up drinking is what YOU want to do than DO IT. i gave up the needle 10 years ago, you guys know the story. i did it after several tries and finally just made up my mind to be done with it. i gave up alcohol about 9 years ago and i have to stay as far away from pain killers as possible. my 73 year old mom still has to hide her pills from me. addiction IS a disease, don’t kid yourself. it is a mother fucker of a disease to live with but you learn to live without the drug.

    and whoever said “moderation” – i don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. moderation? is there moderation in heroin addiction? like, i am only gonna shoot up on the weekends. yea, right. there is NO moderation in ADDICTION.

    @18 – yes this IS drunk cyclist mother fucker. don’t like it, go someplace else and bitch.

  26. Good for you, I’m at 11 months sober right now after about 10 years of increasingly hard drinking.

    It creeps up on you slow enough that you don’t realize you are drinking that much, the problems caused by drinking are the same way.

    Starting in my early 20′s I got involved in various sports, weight lifting, jiu jitsu, running and cycling. I thought staying active could counter act the damage I was doing by drinking. As soon as I stopped drinking though I realized how much it was holding me back, night and day difference.

    Again, good work.

  27. First to clear things up about mothers; I have fucked more than one mother, and by Jove, they are great shags, cozy, sexually confident and VERY horny. Fucking mothers has made me into a better fucker.

    Now with that out of the way…

    When I was 17 I has a year when I did drink a bit. Never got really drunk, but would end up waking in weird places (the best was the roof of a Beetle in an unknown part of town). Then I had a complete check up at 18 (offered free by the French army). The – very blunt – cardiologist told me I was very fit (6 to 8 hours of basketball and some cycling does that to you) but that I had a small heart deffect, a good one, that permit my heart to pump more blood… But I had the choice of drinking or loads of sport, but not the two.

    I thought she was trying to pull a smooth one, but I went to check my cardio readouts against the science (I had a friend – a drinker – in medical uni), and she was not fucking kidding – I’m a clear cut, black on white case. So I stopped the bottle, upped a notch my athletics, my last high school year was my best, got a great summer job, slowly lost my drink buddies, found my old friends again and I started shagging much much more (including a few mothers).

    Now I drink probably 3 glasses of Champagne a Year, 2 glasses of fine red wine a year and indulge in ONE fine Belgian beer ONLY if a finish a triathlon.

    G

  28. Forgot the point of my story – duh! – quiting something is very often like a light switch. Sometines something makes it happen, sometimes it just does.

    Good luck with the sober thing.

    G

  29. LJ, Judi, and others; I can’t fathom the addiction, other than my twin smoking tobacco for the last 16 years. Just know that there are people, addicts and not, that find strength and power in your stories. I am a teacher, and will probably use your stories to help kids, you pushed it forward, like jonny said. Even in times of weakness, remember one thing; sometimes we trip and fall, sometimes we catch ourselves, but we always keep walking forward.

  30. LJ: Brilliant stuff man. You are a bright light, your courage and honesty will give hope to many. May the wheels turn faster and faster and may you never run out of teeth!

  31. Coffee – addiction. Bread – addiction. Sugar – you bet. Alcohol – addiction in mid to later stages of alcohol abuse. I was walking through that door, daily reinforcing it. Thanks for all the support. It means a lot to me. Most importantly I feel like being honest and unashamed about anything that I am or that I do. Cannabis has been there to teach me to wise up. It’s ridiculous and shameful that our government won’t recognize the incredible healing power of regular use of it. It gets me to look at life through CORRECT thought. Comparisons between pot and any other ‘drug’ might as well be comparisons between coconut juice and battery acid.

    So in order for me to get the legal right to smoke it, I have to get a doctor to label me as ‘disabled’ or ‘chronically ill’? Fuck you – State. And most of all – FUCK YOU to the growers who sell and the dealers that follow. The only way that revolution is going to come is if WE ALL START JUST GIVING IT AWAY – this $400 an ounce shit is pure greed, pure wrong, and no other activism or smokescreen tactics will work as long as this is going on. GIVE IT AWAY. Too revolutionary for you? It’s the only way out of this mess, because the controlling weight of the law is in USC COMMERCE CLAUSE. Grow it, and give it. Change the way you think about WEED.

    PUSH IT FORWARD – well said, brother. I’m thinking I can be part of that.

    I want the RIGHT to use the most useful plant known to man without the STATE giving me permission or the DEALER selling it to me. If I can achieve this in my lifetime, my sense of justice will be enhanced ten-fold.

  32. LJ, if that’s what you need to do to be a happier person, then good on ya’. I think we all have the things that we need to avoid… that for which there is no moderation. For me it was speed. I came very close to fucking things up, and just barely escaped a long downfall with that stuff. At this point I hope I never see the stuff again, but I still miss the feeling of that first bump… I try to keep the drinking in check, which isn’t too hard since I don’t like being drunk anymore. I’ve lived the 750 every other day, no more. I don’t miss taking half the day to clear the head. Just enough to enjoy the taste at this point, but I have to make a conscious effort. I’m not ready to give it up completely…

    Why do we start drinking? For me, it was just the thing to do. I grew up in wine country. (Stage 2 of the TOC went through my old stomping grounds, just a few miles from my dads house.) It’s what the entire local economy is based on. I can only think of two times in my life where drinking was an escape. Quit for a couple of months when I realized it.

  33. I’ve known a lot of alcoholics in my life. That is a powerful testimony, man and it took balls to pour that out. Fuck yeah. You’ll get your century. Look at all the people who are cheering for you.

  34. Nice work LJ. I’ve got a couple friends that quit the juice, but still enjoy the weed. It has worked out lovely for them. We live in a country with fucked up drug rationale and policies. Amen to your final sentiments in the second post,#37, that will be amazing. Financially stressful times are when drug policies can change, look to the Great Depression and all that happened then. Heard a historian mention that he feels Cal. finance issues will get voters to say yes to legalization, bringing the revenue stream above the table. Interesting times we’re living in, glad you’re making the most of it now.

  35. LJ, mushrooms are hecka useful, too. laugh, cry, pee in the vcr, listen to ween for 3 days str8 — 1 plant, all those options, just saying.

    jokes?

    (i really do support you. it’s just that i’m a compulsive ass.)

  36. LJ – congrats on the effort and good luck, hope this works out for you. Heard lots of people talk about how great they felt when they stopped drinking, even if it was only a “few drinks in the evening” type of habit.

    Addiction or bad habit, any vice taken to an extreme can be ugly, and it is amazing how we can slide into these sometimes without even realizing it.
    I am so glad I can drink a beer or two in an evening and be cool with that, while some friends can’t even sniff the stuff without launching off the wagon and into the deep end of the binge pool.

    anyhow…respect on the effort!

  37. The best thing i could say is PICK your addiction. everyone says when you stop drinking, you will pick something up, be it eating, or smoking or whatever….. make sure yours is beneficial. when you feel like you need a drink, take a ride. ride again, ride more. riding is your new alcohol, and its better for you.

  38. Hadn’t stopped by your site in many years, not sure why I did, but your “I quit” has made my day. Welcome back to life.

  39. crap, thats rad and I am inspired- littlejar, I am the same age. I notice too much makes my back kill me for the first hour of riding and the legs feel like hell. Last summer I made myself go out and ride in the evening so I wouldn’t put back a ton of beers or go waste time at the pub, ended up putting a shit ton of miles on my single speed- need to get back on the program. The MJ and the bike seem to be a good relationship.

  40. I’m going to agree with the retired Colonel. The coffee has to go, too. It’s fucking me up, and I’m addicted