Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Open-Mindedness and A Proper Fit

In 2002 I invested in my first new road bike. Cycling had become a passion of mine, and the used road bike I had bought the previous year was just not cutting it. That bike, which I purchased for $150 from a coworker, had seen its better days. I road it long enough to know that I wanted to stick with that style of bike.

2002 was also the year that I earned a ridiculous end of year bonus with my work. Flush with cash, my investment in a new lightweight bicycle was made easy.

My new ride was a beauty. I instantly fell in love with it, and road every chance I got. Kevin, the owner of the shop where I had purchased my bike had advised me to ride it for a couple of weeks and then bring it in for a “fitting”, which would allow him to fine tune the bike to my body. The “fitting would be another hundred dollars, but he assured me it would be worth every penny.

I never made it in for that fitting. George, a well-intentioned friend talked me out of it. He suggested that instead he would help fit me to the bike. George assured me that all Kevin was going to do was adjust the hight of the bike’s saddle (seat). Why pay $100 for that?

So, with George’s help, my saddle was adjusted and I was on my way. That was 16 years ago. I got a lot of use out of that bike. She served me well. With her help I was able to raise tens of thousands of dollars riding for the National MS Society. Not only that, but I was able to enjoy exercise for the first time in my life. Yes, we had a beautiful relationship.

However, I always felt like there was more I could have gotten out of that bike. Something in my mind told me that I had short-changed myself all those years ago by not investing in that fitting.

Then, a few weeks ago, that same manufacturer of bicycles sent me an email. They had a handful of 2017 models that they had deeply discounted. We’re talking pennies on the dollar here. So I bit. I bought a new titanium bike. Suddenly, I had the same experience I’d had years ago when I moved from my old steel framed bike to the aluminum one. The change felt wonderful.

This time though, I took a different approach. After my first ride I called Jake, my local bike mechanic, and scheduled a “fitting”. He put my bike up on a stationary cycling stand and instructed me to ride as I normally would, but at a slow even pace.

Jake worked on putting a new set of tires on another bike as I sat there spinning. After several minutes, he asked me to stop riding. “It just hurts too much watching you”, he said.

That’s when he went to work. He started adjusting parts of the bicycle that I didn’t even know could be adjusted. Then, back on the bike, more peddling, followed by more adjustments.

Finally, Jake told me he was done for now. The final adjustment would require a new seat post, which is still on order. Despite the “fitting” being only partially completed, I joked with Jake that his adjustments were killing my arms. I’m actually developing muscles in my arms from cycling. I told him I didn’t even know that was possible!

Jake explained that one of the things he corrected was the space from my body to the handlebars. They had been so far apart that my elbows were locked whenever I rode. As a result, all that weight was being supported by my bones, not by my muscles.

He told me to expect more muscles to follow. He also said that the numbness I’ve had in my hands while riding should clear up before long. Numbness that I’ve experienced for years. Basically since 2002.

So far, Jake has been right. His expertise has made cycling even more enjoyable for me. I’m able to ride further with less fatigue and free of the numbness that has haunted me for years. All for just $100!

Admitting that I had been “doing it all wrong” for years was not easy. After all, 16 years is a long time. How could I have possibly been missing out for that long?

I couldn’t blame George. He thought he knew what he was doing. His heart was in the right place. He truly wanted to help.

With a little open-mindedness I was able to admit that I might have been missing out on something. I was able to admit that riding my new bike the same way I’d ridden it’s predecessor might be a mistake. After all, why double down on past mistakes? Why not improve instead.

Through Narcotics Anonymous, I am learning to practice open-mindedness in all areas of life. Recovery demands open-mindedness from all who want to stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. Open-mindedness, along with honesty and willingness, are referred to as three spiritual principles that are indispensable.

There have been some areas in which practicing open-mindedness has proven challenging. For instance, looking at some of my character defects has been rough. I’m a people pleaser at heart. In the short term, people pleasing can be a very effective means toward getting my way. Yet I’ve had to begin addressing this character defect, and working to overcome my tendency to fall back on it.

As I have, it has been like growing new muscles in my arms. Painful at first, but quickly producing positive results.

In the same way, I must be willing to accept that my understanding of recovery must reflect open-mindedness. My interpretation of the twelve steps, or the traditions, or our literature, must remain flexible. I cannot allow it to be influenced solely by a fellow recovering addict, just because they have many years clean, or because that’s how their sponsor always interpreted it. After all, what if they turn out to be like George, and his ill-informed knowledge of how to fit a bike?

I committed to getting the most out of my new bike. My hope is that it will be my last. Therefore, I’m willing to invest up front in changes that will impact me for years.

Likewise, I want the most I can get out of recovery. Therefore, I am practicing open-mindedness to make necessary changes in my life so that I can become all I’m intended to be. This new way of life requires so much change, but I’m already reaping the benefits.

Have a remarkable day!

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