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

Compassion and Decompression

I’ve been doing a lot more riding lately. Ever since I bought my new road bike, my enthusiasm for cycling has skyrocketed. Being out on the bike path not only provides me with much needed physical activity, but it also gives me time to clear my head and gather my thoughts.

I have learned a little trick with this bike that I had been missing for years. The tires on my road bike require air before each ride. It’s a common issue with the type of valve on the inner tubes. They are designed to be light weight, and so, over the course of a day or two, will lose five pounds or so of pressure.

The valve is called a Presta Valve. There is a small threaded knob at the top of the valve that has to be loosened before filling with air. So, for almost two decades, I would loosen the top knob and attach the hose from my bicycle pump. The only problem was that most of the time I would have to detach the hose and try again. My first attempt seemed to never result in a solid connection.

It’s a very little thing, I know. Yet it is little annoyances like this one that can suck the fun out of something special. (Can you say “Obsession?”). Definitely something I’m working on!

Not too long ago I stumbled upon a solution to this sticky valve issue. Rather than immediately attaching the hose to the valve after opening the knob, I began using my thumb to press the valve stem down ever so gently, releasing a tiny bit of air from the tire first.

Like magic, the problem was gone. By releasing just a little pressure from the tire, that valve is able to function more effectively. So, when the air hose is attached, the valve is ready to let additional pressure into the tire.

There was another lesson I learned about tire pressure recently. I had been riding with my tires over-inflated for years. They were getting filled to the maximum recommended level for every ride. Jake, my trusty bike shop owner, turned me on to the fact that lowering the pressure in my tires would give me a much more comfortable ride with greater handling.

These two little tricks about proper pressure in my bicycle tires have made my riding experience better than ever. The first trick makes my preparations for cycling a little less frustrating, while the second adds to the overall pleasure and comfort of the ride.

Pressures in my life can be very similar to pressure in my bicycle tires. With the Presta Valves, it took me years to learn the value of a little decompression. I would try to add fresh air to that which was already in the tube, only to find myself frustrated by the effort.

Likewise, I can be guilty of taking on more pressure in life without ever letting go of any that has already built up. In extreme cases, I become like that valve. So much pressure is built up inside of me that my capacity for more is frozen. At such times it is easy for me to hide. I begin to avoid the outside world. I isolate. I become anxious and even panicky.

Then there have been those times when I’ve gone through life maxed out on pressure. I allow so much to pile up that I have a constant feeling that I will burst. Just as over-inflated bicycle tires make me feel every bump along the bike path, living with too much pressure in my life can turn every little bump in life’s road into a major dilemma.

All that extra pressure in life also takes its toll on the other people in my life. I become a less patient, more demanding version of the person I want to be. Overly sensitive, I easily take offense at even the smallest of slights. Obsession begins to rule my thoughts, making me picky and generally unpleasant to be around.

One of the things I am learning on my journey through recovery is how to release these pressures from my life. As part of the tenth step, I take time each day to consider whether or not I have been good to myself. Have I shown myself compassion today? Have I actively pursued self-care?

In a sense, I reflect on my day and consider whether or not I released unwanted and unneeded pressures from life that day so that I can be ready for the pressures the next will bring. Also, I assess my over-all pressure. Am I carrying too much? Are my mental and emotional tires over-inflated? Am I on the verge of exploding with every little bump in life’s road.

Proper care and maintenance is something that will let my bicycle last for years to come. Learning about maintenance has become a part of wheat I do to make cycling even more fun than it’s been in the past.

It’s the same with maintenance of my recovery. It takes a mind that is open to learning. It takes a heart that is willing to apply what I’ve learned. It requires vigilance so that I can be certain I am not taking on more in life than I should. It takes practice to apply life’s lessons, and release a little pressure on a daily basis.

This past weekend, Amanda and I both did that. We released pressure from our lives. We got away from home. It was sort of a house-sitting adventure. Even though we were only about ten miles from our apartment, it could have been a thousand.

It was a lovely house in the country with a yard. We rested, enjoyed the open spaces, and decompressed from life’s routines. As a result, I feel great today. Compassion and decompression have brought me to the point that I know I can…

Have a remarkable day!


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