Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Note From an Addict

I found another guest writer, or rather his wife found me and said 'would you please ride with my husband' to which I later learned that she did this because if she didn't find someone to ride with him, she would have to.  So in a way, by making my wife not so happy, I'm making someone else's wife happy all through riding a bike. 

I mentioned earlier this week my friend Chris who is a writer (as in he gets paid to do what I'm doing for free).  He provided me with the following piece after our discussion about whether triathlon is a sport, addiction or lifestyle.  Actually, the conversation snippet went like this:

Loren: hey, we've ridden 32.13 miles, I'm in Z3 and it's about a 8.9% grade here- I've only got 11 more mins before I have to back down to Z2 for 5 mins where I'll spin at 90 rpm. 

Chris: ...I threw, actually put that stuff all away.  Triathlon is an addiction you know.  It's not good.

Loren: Your right.  I don't think there's a cure other than to let it run it's course. 

Chris: Righteous.  (he didn't say that but I can't remember because I couldn't believe I agreed).


That all said, Chris moved to Tiburon, CA last week and according to his wife, he hasn't actually been home.  He's out riding his bike.  Here's his story.  I didn't write it. 

My name is Christopher Behrens, and I like to ride my bicycle.

I have sat in on the sessions for the past six weeks and listened to your stories and felt your pains. We all need help. There comes a time when we need to look behind us and see where two tire tracks become one. You know, riding side-saddle on Jesus' lap.

Addictions come in many forms, and I've been through my share. Sex, now that was a good one. I now realize that sex is only good if it is performed as intended by the good Lord - a couple of lesbians, a hairless Chihuahua, Elmer's glue, plastic sheets, and a professional videographer.

Drugs, alcohol, food, even binky addictions are rough, but nothing compares to the challenges of bicycle addiction.

It starts out small, insignificant. A Schwinn Stingray (Orange Crate edition with the stick shift and drum brake). It's fun. Your parents even buy it for you - your first hit. Mom and Dad - dealers, pushers, peddlers of the chain driven crank. How is it possible to stay an innocent child with those pressures? Then you see your sister's much too large Schwinn Varsity. You have to try it! Regardless of what happens, you want a taste of what ten-speeds feels like. Nobodies looking, you slide out the garage with it. Take a look back, all clear, and you're off - flying. High as you've ever been. It doesn't matter that your feet barely touch the pedals, much less the ground. You know you will end up in a fiery crash, but that's inconsequential - what matters is the high. The cuts and bruises no deterrent to your need.

We are able to sidestep the accusations for years. "I'm a kid". "I just use it for transportation". "I'm a professional bike racer, it's my career". "My doctor says I need the exercise". Eventually the excuses run out, and usually they run out on others long before they do on ourselves. Especially as we enter middle-age. "Who's the doofus in the tight shorts?" We are the last to see what is controlling our lives - that big pink lycra-clad elephant in the middle of the room.

You don't even need to drive to your local dealer. It's so much easier and discrete online. You can get your fix delivered in an innocent brown cardboard box. Neighbors none the wiser. Ebay! Where do I start? Compound my cycling addiction with that of gambling. I won! I won! How many times have I "accidentally" satisfied my fix with a low bid, "unexpected" in its power of purchase. If the Devil has hooves, he bought 'em on Ebay.

Eventually we all must face ourselves. It's almost never pretty. We ride through aches and pains. Bruises, saddle sores, road rash, pulled muscles, sunburns, hemorrhoids are just rigors du jour, something to secretly take pride in as you bitch with other addicts, but eventually something comes along that completely severs your ability to get your fix.

My awakening came in the form of multiple surgeries in the winter of last. Two ankles and a knee surgeries somehow left me sidelined and on crutches for nearly six months. At first I made excuses to myself that this was a rest period, a time to recuperate. Not much later, I found myself breathing hard for no reason, cursing cyclists as they rode past my cell window.

Detailed plans followed. I devised plans on how I would utilize my future fixes - LSD training, base building, tempo training, lactate threshold training, hills, hill intervals, descending intervals, ascending intervals, jumps, jump starts, sprints. I was piling up future fixes! I had no concern how I would get there. I just would! The only way to stay alive was to look to the fix.

DT's were as bad as they could get. I itched, I scratched, I screamed in horror. Forlorn, I shaved my legs for no legitimate reason, I just needed to feel the razor burn, the ingrown hairs, the two day scruff. Needing more, I found myself pulling on my cycling shorts and crutching around the house, only to dive under the covers as a car would drive by or headlights illuminate the room. I had a lot of shame, but still not enough to stop me.

I think I hit bottom at about the fourth month of my inability to feed my addiction. The planning, the shaving, the shorts, cycling videos Ð they'd done all they could do to stave off the hunger. I was desperate. Desperate. I knew it was wrong before I did it. Crutching my way down the long hallway, my rational mind told me to stop, it was immoral, wrong! I kept crutching forward, undeterred. Determined to satiate my hunger anyway possible.

Reaching the bathroom, I pulled my cycling shorts down to my knees and sat down on the toilet. I held the container in my hand. I shook as I gazed upon its beauteous simplicity. I slowly unscrewed the top, gazed at the substance. Breathing deep, I took in the aroma. I dug my fingers in, feeling its weight and texture - a creamy lubricant. Unable to control myself any longer, I grabbed my crotch. Pulling the goods aside, I reached between my legs and slathered the Assos chamois cream across my ass. Ecstasy! The menthol burn awakening my sleeping taint. Wanting to escalate the moment further, I pulled my shorts up tight. Shivers ran through me, my senses at their fullest just before I passed out.

I woke curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, my crutches splayed beside me. My crotch wet. My wife crying.

That was my lowest moment.

Now I'm here, with the rest of you. I've accepted that this is a disease, not a choice. I can only do what I can - "one day at a time". I know I can never kick this addiction, it will be with me forever. Just knowing that I have your support is enough, and the love of the Lord.

Most days I look behind me and there are two sets of tire tracks. I don't think it's because Jesus doesn't love me - it's probably because he's not gay and doesn't too much like riding side-saddle with a fella on his lap.


Rory said...

Wow. Brilliant.

Sarah said...


After a splendid evening walking to Rosso in this incredible warm weather and enjoying the likes of wine and pizza followed by watching a riveting episode of Deadwood, now this.

That was just...awesome.

Mind if I send it on to my cycling group?

Chris Westall said...

Ok... I have to admit I was skeptical about this… I didn’t know what I was in for but I kept reading and I’m glad I did!

The crescendo for me was the chamois cream I thought for sure there was going to be a bike video and some “shucking the corn cob” in the future lines.

And now I can’t get the vision of a couple of lesbians, a hairless Chihuahua, Elmer's glue, plastic sheets, and a professional videographer out of my head!

Thanks Chris! If I see you ( riding the headlands I’m turning my bike around and heading home… because I know I’ll wreck on all that dripping chamois cream.