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Doing Something New

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Who is Really Behind the Wheel?

“Sometimes we need to stop and think about who is really the one driving.”

I’ve always been an athletic individual.  Growing up I was a competitive age group swimmer through high school.  I played football, am a current single-digit handicap golfer as well as an avid skier.  Like many of you, I have reached the age where I consider myself to have more yesterdays than tomorrows.  I have also become creative on how I maintain my athleticism.  During my drinking days, my first wife claimed I was captain of the all signup team.  I was famous for signing up for local 5 and 10k races as well as the occasional triathlon.  Sometimes I started the races I signed up for but most of the time I never even considered picking up my race packet or bib number.  Things changed when I started getting sober.  The day that journey began is September 3, 2004.  Ever since that day, day in day out, I have been making progress on living a sober life.

For the first couple of years of my recovery journey I traded one addiction for another. I started training for and actually competing in triathlons throughout the Midwest. In five years, I completed five half-Ironman triathlons’, at least 6 half marathons and Olympic distance triathlons, in addition to countless 10k’s, 5k’s, and sprint distance triathlons.  I realize now this was what they would call a healthy addiction trade for a negative addiction… One that would have killed me. The evidence remaining from my triathlon exuberance is daily low back, knee, and hip pain.  Oh well I guess this is where they came up with I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all!!

I met my 2nd wife in a triathlon club at our local gym.  When we first met, I was still off-limits, but once I became available it did not take long for the two of us to begin our courtship. (Read Big Engines) Being athletic really does bring a lot of positivity into one’s life.  

We learned many lessons both as individuals and as a couple as a result of our mutual interest in triathlons as well as our shared competitiveness.  There’s also something very spiritual and empowering about finishing such a monumental effort successfully. I could never imagine doing a full Ironman distance triathlon… My body simply would not take it. I realize now what rare air I also occupy as a finisher of not only one but five ½ Ironman triathlons.  While they have left their physical toll, accomplishing these tasks is one of the things that not only kept me sober during the first few years of my effort but I am proud as fuck that I did that stuff!  I lead to a lot of happiness in my life.  A good number of the participants in these triathlons or multi-sport races in general, tend to be very type-A personalities. That is to say they appear to be the kind of people that think they can control more than they really can.  There are of course people from all walks of life that compete in multi-sport athletics. For me, most inspirational of the stories are not the recovering alcoholics but rather the people with physical disabilities.  They literally have to put forth twice the effort as those of us without physical disabilities.  One such story is of Rick and Dick Hoyt. They are a father and son from Maryland. When Little Rick was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and as a result has spent his entire life in a wheelchair.  When he was a little boy he was able to communicate to his father that he wanted to go running. He felt like he was flying when his dad put them in what would come to be called a baby jogger.  Funny how something’s happened….  As the years progressed Rick and Dick completed 5k’s, 10k’s 1/2 marathons, marathons and triathlons all over the United States. They built up quite a fan base around the country as they traveled competing in these multi-sport events.  

I’ve included a link to a video of their story below.  There are a lot of Rick and Dick Hoyt video’s but this is the one I like best.  For years, the Rick and Dick Hoyt story and this video, provided inspiration and motivation for me to not only to finish my athletic endeavors but also accomplish some of the more difficult days in day out tasks of adult life.  I watch this video over and over, beaming to myself how proud I was to be a father exhibiting the same characteristics with my children as this “CEO of Dad’s” was living out with his own paraplegic son.

It was when I was with my daughter at the “Blue Park” one afternoon I began to see things differently.  

Some of you may know what I’m talking about when I mention the “Little Tykes” plastic push car a lot of kids enjoy when their parents push them down the sidewalk.  I get the biggest kick out of this. These little kids really think because they have their hands on a plastic steering wheel, they’re actually driving and in control of the car as it goes down the sidewalk. These little ones are totally unable to bridge the gap between a parent’s hand on the handle behind them and an actual car engine in the street.  

Then it occurred to me! For all these years I considered myself to be Dick Hoyt pushing his son through life with the wisdom, knowledge, and pride my daughters are unable to find anywhere else.  How wrong I was and conceited I was.  It occurred to me that we are all just like little kids in the plastic push car, thinking we’re in control. The fact of the matter is we have no idea what God’s plan is for our lives, and it is indeed His hand on the plastic handle. Is it not all of us that have had our “umbilical cord” wrapped around our “neck…?”  Restricting blood flow to the most important parts of us.  It is God pushing us through the triathlon of life.  I believe it is this childlike trust that God desires us to have, pure and unquestioning, just like the little kid with his hands on the wheel.  And here is a little wisdom from Papa Jerry to pull the whole thing together for us…