A bump in the road…the next day

Holy shit, yesterday afternoon and last night was a pretty crazy and humbling experience.  It needed to happen, and I’m glad that it did. Ironically I did get some sleep which is unusual considering the circumstances.  Here’s what happened after I posted.  Computer turned off, phone was off by 8, and I actually put into practice some of the things that I have learned over the past 13 months.  Perhaps it was an overall victory.

I had two very distinct dreams last night.  Dream number one was that I was at a wedding and I was pretending to be OK by drinking Coors Light’s and Crown.  People that I used to party pretty hard with were there,  we were going hard, and I didn’t feel guilty at all.  In fact I took out my one-year sobriety chip and showed everyone that I could stay sober for a year, and I remember it feeding my ego.  Then dream number two started which transported me back to San Francisco for the North Face 50 Miler.   It was snowing in the Headlands, and the start of the race was in a meadow that seemed to take the same appearance as a field I used to XC ski in as a kid.  My buddy Zach was there, Steph was there too, and I remember feeling relieved that I was in my comfort zone, a race situation, away from the wedding that I had experienced just hours beforehand in my sleep.  I would say it was a pretty interesting slice of my mind, polar opposite situations that are still certainly on my mind which serves as a reminder:  My days as a recovering alcoholic are still very much with me, I am not out of the woods yet.  One year is in the books, yes, but the hard work has just begun.  Keep pushing dude.

Now the hard part as the next 24hrs will require me to put into practice more of the things I have learned.  Here’s the situation, a very good friend of mine is having a book release party tonight in Corvallis, lots of friends will be there, and I want to be there for him.  But this morning at 5:26AM I cannot stomach the thought of it, being there makes me nervous as hell. It’s nothing personal, it’s my own shit and my need for reflection of yesterdays delicate situation.  I will let him know today as I’m sure he’ll understand where I am coming from.  My biggest challenge with this is not feeling like I am letting him down.  But fuck, I need to be OK with asking for space, especially from situations where alcohol will be present. I’m not isolating, I’m asking for space, to think, process, learn, and remember the challenges that I face and remember the fact that I have to respect my problems with addiction and alcohol.

My old sponsor used to ask what I learned from every experience that I faced in my new-found sobriety.  Last night I learned and remembered the fact that the journey of recovery is far from over, in fact, it will never be over.  It is about the process, it is about the journey.  Respect it, and maintain the ultra running adage of Relentless Forward Progress.


A bump in the road

This afternoon was weird for me.  In a seemingly normal day I went through the motions of working, eating, thinking, feeling, talking, and listening.  It’s overcast and a bit dreary in Corvallis today, which may have something to do with it.  As usual, I had planned to lace up my shoes when I got home to head out for a run.  But something happened on my drive home from work.  During the 7 minute commute I was overcome with sense of vulnerability and confusion.  Rather than pulling over to 7-11 to pick up a Ninkasi IPA, which is what used to happen at times like this, I came home, pulled on a hoodie and sweatpants and gazed outside, putting my running shoes aside, wondering what the hell was going on in my head.  Am I caving?

One of the reasons that I write this blog is so I can track my progress during this process of recovery.  It lets me look back in the recent past to get a sense of the progress that I have experienced emotionally and physically over the past 13 months.  It also serves as an accountability piece.  In recovery we learn that it’s about the process, there will be bumps in the road, and when they occur it’s how we deal with them, learn, and move forward.  That being said, today was one of the first days that I can remember since getting sober that I really wanted to drink.  That feeling still persists as I write this.  It’s a scary feeling knowing how fucking easy it would be to drive 1 mile down to 7-11 and disrupt the progress I’ve made by having the first drink.

A lot has happened in my life lately, all good!  Training is going well, Betsy and I’s Novo-Veritas  venture is picking up steam, work is good, and I’m surrounded by incredible people who support and understand what I am going through.  All of that being said, this afternoon, I just kinda suck.  I have a feeling that going easy on myself, and giving myself a break from time to time, is a habit that I need to improve upon.  And maybe this afternoon is just one of those times that I need to respect the fact that this is a process, there is no perfection, and bumps in the road do happen.  So rather than reacting and getting myself into trouble, I am taking the time to write this shit down.  Just the action of stroking the keyboard is helping me process that what I’m feeling are just some pain-in-the-ass emotions.  Do not REACT!  Breathe, think, let go, be still.  Seems like such a simple concept, right?

So as I click “save” and “publish,” then post this blog to Facebook and shut my laptop off, what happens next?  I’ll tell you what I won’t do.  I will not be getting in the car to go fetch some IPA’s or Crown.  If I keep going down the dark emotional rabbit hole of doubt I have people who I will call, and trust me, they would be getting a call.  What I will do in about 5 minutes time is sit still and be mindful, accepting the fact that I have a problem with alcohol, and I need to remember that it’s just not worth it to get drunk tonight.  Spence, you’re not invincible, you know it, so remember it, acknowledge it, own it, and move forward.








“I Crave Attention” – Journal Excerpt from 8/7/12

Excerpt from my journal, dated 8/7/12.  My birthday.

“Worst.  Birthday.  Ever.  I was relying on everyone seeing that it was my birthday today on Facebook only to realize around 1PM that last year I had turned off the notification that displayed when my birthday was.  I think I changed it last year when I got drunk and some girl pissed me off on my birthday.  But this brings up a bigger issue, my need for attention.  I give and give and give attention, especially to girls, hoping that I will get it back in return, and when I don’t I get pissed.  I crave the attention because I’m an only child.  BAM!  There it is.  Now how do I get over that?  Is it okay to crave it? I get self-conscious when someone brings up something I do that is badass, but secretly I love it.”


“So, is this the reason I do what I do?  Workout harder, eat better, go for emotionally unavailable girls, and drink harder? So I can have someone feel sorry for me if I tell them?  Think about when you get drunk and text a bunch of girls.  The response you want is purely attention from them.  What is the root of this, is it an ego problem?  A self-confidence problem?  When I do get it try to embrace it.  Maybe this is my biggest problem with women, I crave it, but deflect it, even though I secretly want more of it un-conditionally.  I sabotage myself. 

Attention I crave:

– I crave accolades from my coach’s
– I crave accolades from my mentor’s
– I craved attention by wanting a big wedding 8 years ago when I was engaged

– I craved attention when I bought my house so that my friends perceived that I had money
– I crave attention every time I look at Gmail, Facebook, my phone
– I craved attention by looking forward to posting on Facebook that I was moving to Corvallis
– I craved attention by wanting my birthday to come so that everyone would notice on Facebook
– I craved attention by wanting to run a sub 3:00hr marathon in 2012 so that everyone thought I was fast
– I craved attention from Matt and Matt when I was growing up because I wanted them to think I was cool
– I craved attention on one occasion by taking a job just because of its title
– I craved attention by drinking and doing cocaine
– I crave attention by playing the victim when I am hurt
– I’ve made life altering decisions based on the need for attention, like getting engaged, moving to Corvallis, admitting myself to Sageview

“Maybe now it’s time to fucking deal with these decisions and their consequences.  You wanted the attention at the time, and you got it.  Now look where all of this is getting you.”

Today, almost 3 years after I wrote this, I’m pretty shocked with how true all of these things were.  As I wrote them I remember thinking that I was playing the victim, I remember wanting attention, all of it, all of the time.  Now, as I sit here writing this, I find that the attention I get, in whatever from it is, is actually a pretty uncomfortable feeling.  I’m having to learn to embrace it, and accept it.  This also goes to show that when I drank to get attention, the attention I got matched the quality of attention that I was seeking.

Reading and re-living my past journal entries helps today to help understand the process of recovery, as well as understand the development of my emotional maturity.  When it comes to craving attention I don’t think of it as a bad thing at all.  We all need a little attention, a little reinforcement that we’re doing things well, that people love us and care about us.  I’ll continue to explore certain journal entries from the past, one’s that are particularly telling of who I was.  It’s helping me understand the progress at who I am becoming as a person.


Sunday Fun-day


Sunday Fun-day, by myself, in the San Francisco airport a few years ago. Can’t you tell I was having a “blast?”


Sunday Fun-day.  I first remember hearing this phrase a few years ago when some friends and I were partying in San Francisco for a long weekend.  Living in a college town I hear the term being thrown around by the kids here.  Sunday Fun-day.  It’s a time for extending the weekend of excess into the Sunday afternoon hours, before we lock it down to get ready for a Monday of work.  Beers, whiskey, vodka, all of it, perhaps a little something else to extend the party late night to solidify a three-day bender.  Summertime is the perfect time for it, especially in a city, when everyone is out on the streets, buzzed, in sunglasses and shorts, hopping from bar to bar, Burnside Ave. in Portland comes to mind.  That weekend a few years ago in San Fran was one of those times that I often thought about, and romanticized over, during my heaviest partying days because all of the excess that was a seeming normality.  Let’s put it this way, if I lived in a warmer weather city, and I was drinking, it would be game over, the allure of three-day weekends would have given me an excuse to extend the party like we used to in college, Wednesday to Sunday.

These days, on Sunday afternoons, I find myself getting on my bike to spin my legs out after a weekend of hard runs.  In fact, these Sunday afternoon workouts are one of my favorite workouts of the week.  It’s a chance to not only loosen up my body but to also calm my mind before the grind of an impending new work week.  There is something about riding through the country roads of Benton County that is soothing, calming, relaxing. It’s quiet, the rolling fields and farms remind me of a scene from my home town of Worthington, MA.  Simplicity is a virtue on Bellfountain, on Llewellyn, and of course, on Decker Road.  Sometimes, as I roll back into town at the end of a Sunday afternoon ride, I’ll take a spin down Monroe Ave, the main drag in Corvallis where students gather to sit in the sun and party, just as a reminder as to where I was in a previous life.

I no longer fantasize about partying on Sunday afternoons.  I find that Sunday’s are now my favorite day of the week.  I have learned to take the time on Sunday’s for myself, to recharge, to adventure, to turn off my damn phone, to see new things and experience new places, to relax and just chill.  At first it was really hard to be at peace on Sunday’s, because of my anxiety about the Fun-day years.  But now, more than a year sober, I tend to be mindful of the things I need on Sunday’s: A run, a ride, a nap, some coffee, a shitty movie if it’s raining, and perhaps some easy-going company.  I will admit that I have, in my own way, extended the party to Monday mornings too, in the form of a hot yoga room, but that’s another story in and of itself.  The process of redefining how I use my time continues, and will most definitely morph as time goes on.  For now, I’ll take my new definition of Sunday Fun-day, go grab my bike, and hit some pavement.  Happy weekend 🙂