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Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Middle Miles

Day 52, Aug. 20, Hermann, MO.

This is the second day on the Katy trail, a dirt/gravel rails-to-trails conversion, the longest in the U.S. at 238 miles. It’s been a delight to be in the trees, by the Missouri River, and mostly, away from cars! It’s been worth the extra work on dirt with the Elliptigo that was made to travel on pavement. In Missouri now, and in much of Colorado and Kansas before, and Illinois and Kentucky to come, I am in the “middle miles”. This in-between the start’s energy, uncertainty, anticipation, and fear and the expectant, reinvigorating view of the finish of a project, race, or journey, this space is the hardest to me. Racing the mile, the 3rd lap is the most painful psychologically. In the 5K its trying to hold the pace in the 2nd mile. What about your experience in a project or effort, is this your observation as well?

Staying focused on the goal and its why is harder than at the beginning. Things become more patterned and habitual requiring less thought. We can become less engaged, less attentive, less wary of hurdles. And its harder than approaching an end when we can become re-energized by the prospect of reaching our goal. Our mind and will can wander. I am definitely feeling the “middle miles” right now where it is taking regular intentional attention on the “why”. Of that at least I have no doubt, no vacillation.

I think that those in recovery can experience this same, normal, human process. Only they cannot let their guard down. This is where support from others in recovery, a group, a mentor can be so vital. Connection. Community. Not trying to do it alone because our brain will play tricks on the best of us. Remembering the adage from AA that no matter how far we travel, we are always the same distance from the ditch. Following the white line of the road with the ditch a couple of feet away constantly, I am reminded of that need daily.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease that disables decision-making.

Day 51, Aug.19, Franklin, KS.

Part of my time riding I listen to podcasts or audible books. I also have some phone calls, my favorite, and I need to particularly thank #RichRoche for his regular calls while taking a walk in Portland, OR. With one earbud in, one ear is free to listen for cars and trucks coming up on me supplementing my constant looking into my very large, goofy-looking, helmet-mounted rearview mirror. Given the deserts I have until recently been riding through, one of my books is Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, one of my favorites from a science fiction and fantasy loving childhood. The crysknives and shai-haluds of my road are the vehicles I share it with. Since my days are spent following one, a night-time read has been Cormac McCarthy’s, “The Road”. A depressing view of a post-apocalyptic world, I do note that this father was able to save his son. Riding in Utah, I was occasionally working through the audible book of “Home” by Bill Bryson, a non-fiction historical work told with style and subtle, British humor.

Imaginative authors all, I am reminded of the studies that show addictive tendencies accompany certain other traits. One is creativity. Another is sensitivity. Restlessness. Anxiety. Impulsiveness. Joel had elements of all of these. Mind you, none are determinative, but correlations have been found with each. I believe we could all agree that each of these traits has an inborn component. So it is with an increased inborn potential for addiction to substances (and actually also to behaviors as the same neural pathways and neurotransmitters are involved). This information could be helpful for prevention through education. But for the rest of us, for compassion. And appreciation for the contributions that these creative, sensitive, and restless people can make benefitting all of us as they come through recovery’s fire, these traits annealed now with wisdom and humility.

Addiction is a brain disease.

It disables good decision-making.

It is treatable.

Community matters.

Stigma handicaps.

Day 50, Aug 18, Everton, MO.

I received some good news this morning from my niece, #Emma Winiski, who advocated for us as a Harvard grad student. Recovery Research Institute with Harvard and Mass General in Boston is going to promote InJoelSteps. Their work, headed by Dr. John Kelly, is integral to the work of thousands of treatment centers throughout the country. They help to research, develop, and communicate best practices for substance addiction treatment. Their adoption of InJoelSteps is a significant step towards the national exposure we hope to bring to the handicapping role that stigma plays in SUD prevention, reduction, and treatment.

The picture of the Amish farmer traveling by horse and cart shows the only vehicle slower than me right now on the Missouri roads. The practice of using a horse rather than a car or tractor is quaint and perhaps romantic to some of us, but is definitely much slower and not as effective as a means to travel or to work. There is much to admire and learn from the simplicity, character, and ethics of Amish life and the benefits of their tight knit community. But sticking to ideas of addiction being a moral or character issue bolsters the stigmatization of those suffering from SUD - fundamentally a brain disease - handicapping treatment access and success. It slows more efficient and effective preventive, treatment, and sobriety maintanence approaches down to horse and cart travel rather than by car or tractor.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease that disables sound decision-making.

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