While binge-listening to the SINCE RIGHT NOW podcast, I found myself absorbed in one called “100 Pedals”. It was about the program you’ll find at 100pedals.com. A program that began after its founder Dave received news that his youngest 20-something son was addicted to heroin, homeless, and in legal trouble. This always on-top-of-things great dad learned in short order the power that addiction holds and that he couldn’t “fix” his kid.
To cope with his profound sense of helplessness and to hold onto his own mental/emotional health, Dave challenged himself to ride his bicycle an hour every day for 100 days. He found that during that hour, his mind had a chance to race and mull everything over while he oxygenated his body and released a LOT of physical and mental and emotional energy. When he got home, he journaled until his mind felt empty. If you’ve read Julia Cameron’s seminal book The Artist’s Way, you may recognize that last part as the Morning Pages practice.
Over time, Dave found that his rides were making a quantum difference in his ability to cope and be of use to his son, to be balanced and objective and healthy in his approach and yet able to remain in a state of love and compassion. Dave has since made a career out of 100 Pedals as a support system for parents and families, but also as a way for anyone to challenge themselves for 100 days, whatever they might feel drawn to bite off and attempt to chew.
Some people set impressive goals while others choose something as simple as “do something positive for myself each day.” Dave says the most successful folks are the ones who tackle the simple thing, a seemingly small step because the smallest step done consistently is like a pebble dropped in a pond that ripples out and affect other things in a positive way. Why? It begins to change what we are focusing on.
The lady who said she was going to do one positive thing for herself each day started looking for things she could do for herself. That philosophy underlines so many approaches to transformation, from the Kaisan Method (one step can change your life) to the wild and colorful and fun MicroMOVEment Miracle Method from SARK (you can download it for FREE).
But that’s not all I learned from Dave. Another brick hit me right between the eyes. The host asked Dave if his son had recovered and Dave said: “He’s in jail right now awaiting a court date so he has no access and he’s clean, but no, he has not recovered. He’s been clean before but when life became overwhelming, he fell back into his addiction. He has yet to give his brain the time it needs to heal, and only my son can do that. I can’t do it for him.”
The time needed for our brain to heal.
That’s why it’s so important for us to gather the tools and strategies that make a difference for us. To recommit daily if need be.To help each other off the floor and keep doing the work and never, never, never give up.
Sooner or later we will have the last stumble, we will be able to walk slowly but surely forward, we will recognize those tree roots and sharp rocks and know effective ways to avoid or work through them. When we feel tested or vulnerable, we will bear down on our tools and holler out for help. We’ll stay the course and give our miraculous incredible powerful brain the time it needs to heal.
The more recovery stories you hear, the deeper you dive into this community and see how unique every path to recovery really is, you will still find one reassuring constant among those with solid, long-term sobriety: “It didn’t seem possible to reach this point of real freedom, it seemed like the struggle would always be there on some level, but being alcohol-free is who I am now, it’s a part of me, it’s how I show up in the world.”
The brain had time to heal and entirely new patterns are now in place. Did the old ones disappear? Well, sadly, no.
Back in AA they used to say “Every day you are sober, your addiction is doing one-armed pushups in the background.” Well, that’s one way to look at it but not my cup of tea. What I CAN relate to is my beautiful brain and its complexity and how we are naturally miraculously wired to create neural pathways and form habits, positive or negative, good or harmful, healthy or destructive. If our brain did NOT retain old wiring patterns, we wouldn’t have the saying, “It’s like riding a bike.”
What I CAN relate to is the process of giving my brain time to fully heal and lay down strong new track over the addiction patterns. Giving my brain time to return to normal dopamine levels and healthy, natural “reward” systems. What I CAN relate to is being aware and diligent, knowing to the bone that abstinence is the only choice for me, because that old wiring is still down there and I’ll be taking it to the grave.
I have discovered the hard way that it is physically impossible for me to drink alcohol in the healthy balanced way I did before it ever became a problem, before I ever took the consumption of ethanol to the level of addiction.
And here’s some great news for those still struggling.
Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety says the very process of standing in the fire of urges and cravings and letting them burn without acting on them, the very process of resisting those crazy voices that tell us how fun or relaxing a drink would be, the more work we do to create and sustain strategies, the stronger that new wiring is going to be. It makes sense, right? Effort has a very direct relationship to strength and progress.
Dave’s words have never left me since the day I heard them. Whenever a fleeting thought races though my mind, some romanticized notion of relaxing with some wine “just for tonight,” I flash immediately on fact that addictive patterns are trying to hijack my brain and I can’t let that happen. I cling to the idea of giving my brain the time it needs to heal. I want to be free.
For someone like me who has been floundering around for several years, weak on resolve but strong on starting over, it’s making a critical difference. I so love you dear miraculous precious brain of mine, and I want you to heal so you can get back to giving me all the clarity and vitality and balanced regulation and pleasure you were so beautifully designed to deliver.
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