Interlude – keeping time

Today is one month smoke free for me, and it feels pretty good. It is nice not to be this guy anymore…

Smokey Fatty - Doha 12/18/04
Smokey Fatty – Doha 12/18/04

And it is nice to be about 40 pounds lighter than this guy…

El Capitan and a large hairy guy - 03/18/09
El Capitan and a large hairy guy – 03/18/09

I made it through two hurdles in this first month. I thought about it a lot while planning and on the drive up to Harper’s Ferry, but i did not stop anywhere to buy smokes before my recent hiking trip, not even a bag of Bugler for roll-your-owns. In the prep phases, thinking about having a smoke at the end of the day in the woods sounded super in my head. But i made it through just fine and had a great time in the woods without smoking. It was so cold that i did not even want to have my hands out of my sleeping bag far enough to hold a book – why on earth would i want to have to deal with the cold just to smoke? My folks went out of town for about week around Thanksgiving and i stayed home alone. This was not as great a challenge for me as it was with the drinking, but still, i survived a week alone without going back to the smokes.

What does any of this have to do with keeping time? Early milestones in abstinence are tricky to track in a way. The first time i ever sought abstinence, i attended Narcotics Anonymous. I was a young dude (two years clean and sober before i turned 21) and the lessons i learned there stayed with me (well some of the lessons, some of the time). The recommended path for newcomers to NA or AA (and probably the rest of the As) is to do 90 in 90 – attend 90 meetings in 90 days – and i did. The early days can be so difficult there are more anniversaries celebrated early on the path to abstinence. Your first day, or first 24 hours clean, sober, whatever, is a milestone. Your next anniversary is 30 days, then 60, then 90. It varies from group to group, but after 90 days, there is usually only an acknowledgement of 6 months and then annual clean time.

I have that system hardwired into my brain when it comes to tracking clean time. I am also a tech guy and love the digital calendar. This presented a stumbling block when i went to set-up the frequency reminders for my sober date and my quit smoking date. At first, without other thought, i entered custom and 30 days on the recurrence. Only later, looking at the calendar and thinking about announcing some milestones did i recognize that the world at large might be confused by my timekeeping when i celebrate 1 month at 30 days instead of the calendar month. Probably folks would not notice or think about this stuff, but the thought still bugged me. I went back into the calendar event, canceled the custom setting and switched to monthly. After one year, i will switch it to annual.

No great insights for today. I just wanted to share the happy news that i am one month smoke free and share some thoughts about keeping time. While we are here i will also set the record straight. I have talked with a very small handful of my tiny readership about this, but on the topic of anniversaries, this is as good a place as any to do it.

I did drink some about two months ago. No crisis set things off. No terrible events occurred as a result. I have even found a way to view this in a positive light. After being sober for about 8 months, i thought i might enjoy the beverage again, and thought i might have better perspective and control. I re-learned several things. I did really hate it. From the first taste of the whiskey and beer, i hated it. I also re-learned that it is not about perspective or control for me. I repeat, i hated it, but i still drank for several days in a row on this mini binge before snapping out of it. I was not afraid to tell you guys, i just didn’t want to talk about it. I was disappointed with myself and it took a little while to even out again afterwards. The most positive thing about the experience is this – i don’t need to repeat that experiment anymore. I believe that the results are in – i am still an alcoholic and have a much better time not drinking than i do drinking.

I was thinking about time and anniversaries and the fact that without the stumble, January would have made it one year sober. I don’t expect or need any of you guys to be keeping track, but you never know. Anyway – one month smoke free, coming up on two months sober (again).

To end on a more positive note – i have started exercising again. I have not yet hit the groove and made it part of a regular schedule as in the past, but i am doing my stretches and floor exercises a few times a week. Two of my favorite real life and digital friends, Kelly and Karen, are both runners and their consistency and dedication is helping me to get back into the running as well. I went out for a one mile run last night about 10:45 and knocked out 2 miles instead. Not back to my desired pace of under 8 minute miles, but having not jogged in months, 9:20 is not a bad pace.

PA - 12/4/13
PA – 12/4/13

Anyway, i wish you luck and offer support in reaching your goals. Tyler Durden said that self improvement is masturbation. He said it like that’s a bad thing. He also got Bob killed and blew up buildings. A lesson i am learning far too late in life, you gotta pick your heroes carefully. I will end with one of my favorite quotes. Sadly, despite the warning, i have lived both sides of this one. If you can identify this one without using the googles you get digital props.

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

PS: back to the hiking and gear stuff next.

PPS: I did buy a groovy domain name for myself and am still planning on moving this blog. There will be warnings and notice and such. WordPress just started showing me placeholders where they may have ads on my blog. I don’t want that. I also hope you are using Ad Blockers so that you would not see that stuff anyway.

Rock On!

Rolling Hills

Howdy Folks. This is another interlude post because i would rather write a little bit about some current affairs than finish the tech series at this moment. I do promise that the tech series shall be completed and that some posts about drinking and sobriety will follow. For now, suffice it to say that i hit 5 months sober on June 27 and i feel good.

I continue to be very excited about doing a Pacific Crest Trail Thru-hike next year. It stays on my mind. To that end, i am still reading guide books, slowly acquiring and testing new gear, and working on conditioning.

New walkin' hat and shirt
New walkin’ hat and shirt

Prior to deciding to prepare for this hike, I tended to walk at least 3-4 miles a day without leaving my neighborhood. I have been casting about for longer and more interesting walks that do not require driving.

I found a few nice 3-5 mile treks and a pretty 8-9 mile course, but i still craved more distance.

After a little experimentation, i found a very nice 13 mile walk through farmland situated among the rolling hills for which Lancaster County is known.

Many of my “most recent” posts and series have been a little light on the pics, so this post will take the opposite approach. Without further ado some of the sights along the way…

Route Map
Route Map
Cow Pals 1
Cow Pals 1
Cow Pals 2
Cow Pals 2

And a little video of my cow buddies. I have also started feeding them, but have not figured out how to manage feeding and filming them at the same time…

Iron Bridge 1
Iron Bridge 1
Iron Bridge 2
Iron Bridge 2
Iron Bridge 3
Iron Bridge 3

I urge you to click on Iron Bridge 3 to see a larger version and check out the placid water and mirror effect upstream from the small rapids.

Iron Bridge 4
Iron Bridge 4
Second Bridge
Second Bridge
"Prayer Grove Everyone Welcome"
“Prayer Grove Everyone Welcome”

A nice place to stop for a few minutes about 4.5 miles in to the trek.

Hills and Sky 1
Hills and Sky 1
Hills and Sky 2
Hills and Sky 2
Hills and Sky 3
Hills and Sky 3

The big walk takes me about 4 hours and 15 minutes with one short rest break, which means that i am often chasing the sun towards the end and do not have enough light for pics during the last 4 miles, but i will work on that. Walk on buddies!

Interlude – or where the Frack is Renfroe?

Howdy Folks! I am popping back up after an unexpected absence from blogging. For the most part, i just got busy – which is good. There were some more personal meltdown style events as well, but these were small and brief and navigated if not well, at least better than in the past.

Mother's Day near Holtwood Dam
Mother’s Day near Holtwood Dam

I am still developing my new project for India that i can’t talk much about yet, except to say that things are coming along nicely. I am nearing completion on the initial research and validation stage, working on briefing materials, and hope to begin shopping for seed funding in the next 4-6 weeks.

I have not reactivated the running program, though both that and quitting smoking are on the agenda. I have managed to remain sober, hitting the four month mark at the end of May. There have been few difficult times, but more than i expected. I have not been greatly tempted, and it has been fairly easy to avoid drinking, but i hoped that it would be further from my mind by now than it is. Meaning, i do still think about it, and with more frequency and intensity during stressful times. I am enjoying sobriety. I have not slept this well in years. The biggest and most obvious benefit so far is all about mental health. As alluded to above, i have had one or two trying times, but i have not been depressed since January. With a sober head, it is so much easier to assess what is happening when i start to feel bad, and if not turn things around immediately, at least stop the process of declining into repetitive negative thought and behavior patterns.

A quick example. I had some exciting travel plans around memorial day. The plan fell apart for the first leg of the trip, and for reasons i am still not entirely aware of, that threw me off my game. I started to feel anxious and nervous and a bit agoraphobic. I did not manage to snap out of it and continue with the rest of my plans. I did stay at home, mostly inside. I did struggle with not wanting to see or talk with people when i did go outside, but – that is as bad as it got. I did manage to go grocery shopping and run some other errands. I did clean the house, tend the garden, and do other home based chores. I didn’t wallow too much – and i didn’t drink about it. In a few days, i felt better and jumped back into the swing of things.

Preparations are well underway for the presentation my friend and i are leading for LYP next week, and i am excited about the event. I have made good progress on securing a local paying consulting gig that is also exciting. That i will be able to tell you about, but i will wait until we finish negotiating the details and sign the contract.

I will finish the last few entries for the Apple tech series and get those posted – hopefully this weekend.

Next Up – i think i will probably write about addiction and mental health for a while. The whole picture has not taken shape yet, but i can see how i would like some of the pieces to go. Initially, i will do a bit of a recap of why i decided to get sober this time. I would also like to write about the three other times i have quit drinking. There will most likely be several historical look at various phases of substance abuse covering how and why i got there among other things.

Nick and Jake - JMT start
Nick and Jake – JMT start

Today is the One Year Anniversary of Jake and I starting our John Muir Trail Adventure! I should probably get on the stick and finish the JMT movie project, perhaps to coincide with the one year anniversary of completing that hike…

Just a word before i go

Hey there. It has been a great week and i am really excited about several things. Thursday the 28th I hit the 60 days sober mark and i am feeling good. I have been writing more this week, and while the old fire is still elusive, it has at least been fun again.

There have been some interesting developments with LYP and i am really happy at how several new initiatives there are panning out. I am really proud of the ways we are finding to implement rapid conflict resolution and take the opportunity to learn and grow when faced with challenges instead of reverting to hurt feelings and unproductive behavior. It really is a great group and i feel honored to be a part of it. I might have some more specifics on these developments a little later. It is premature to discuss any of them here, and i frankly do not have the time at the moment.

I stuck with the exercise plan this week and by upping the reps on my three ab activities to 70, twice a day, i am now doing 420 ab exercises a day. Take that squishy areas! I will not be following that program for the next few days, but i will be getting plenty of exercise walking with a full pack all day IN THE WOODS!!

I tried to complete the tech saga so that i could have one post a day released while i was gone, but i did not make it that far. The intro and the first two product posts are finished. The conclusion is about half done. But i still need to write up a few more products, and where possible i prefer not to begin releasing parts of a serial until i have completed the writing. I learn while i write – thus the middle affects the conclusion.

I hope you all had a good week and enjoy some outdoor time this weekend. I will be back at you sometime next week with the launch of the latest Tech Series, or Whining for Nerds, or First World Problems, or …

PreGame

I have been working on the tech post and am at a decision point. I either need to do an exercise in linguistic economy of which i am capable but do not prefer, or serialize the tech post into two or three episodes. I am leaning towards serializing at this point and will know in the next day or so. Either way, I will be mixing some insight with some whining about technology here quite soon.

General news – work is going well. I am not sure yet what form the current India project will take. The more I learn, the more the picture changes, but it is a very interesting project. Of course, working on one kind of new thing makes me have many other new project/product ideas and I am slow cooking development on a second idea to pursue in tandem or as a replacement should that become necessary.

I passed seven weeks off the booze and that is still going pretty well. The biggest adjustment issue remaining (at least so far) has to do with writing. I still have lots of ideas in my head, and I still think that many of them are decent ideas, but the process of writing does not have the same magic to it these days. I expect that this will pass/change with time and so I do still write despite not being filled with energy by the act. My suspicion is that this is tied to a larger and deeper issue related to my long term suppression of emotions and passions. Hopefully I can learn how to feel things and experience passion again without getting overloaded (in any sense).

The exercise front is a bit of a good news bad news deal. I run at night and it has been so cold this month that I have only three runs to my name. I will do more as the weather improves. On the plus side, I have been sticking to the stretching and floor exercise routine. I am doing that twice a day consistently now and have upped my reps this week to hit 360 ab exercises daily. While I am definitely still squishy, I am down to 185 and wearing 33s again. I plan to continue upping the reps weekly by 10 per activity and staying with two-a-day workouts so that I should be hitting around 700 reps of ab-tivity by the end of April!! I do have one day hike and one multi-day hike coming up in March and I could not be more excited about that unless it was back in California with my trail dogs! Whoooooop Whooop!!

Enjoy the rebirth of Spring and treat yourself to some outdoor time.

While we are waiting

Today marks five weeks off the booze and I continue to feel pretty good. I am beginning to hit one of the many strange points on the sobriety path. Once your head begins to clear and your body starts to re-normalize, you can begin to see the problems in your life that were not alcohol related. I don’t have a clear picture of that whole story yet, nor do I have a firm grasp on the few bits of which I am becoming aware. But here are some thoughts on where I am.

It seems that my brain is doing well, but I am having some difficulty translating thoughts into action. Recognizing that is good and a key step. I have created some new plans and simple simple steps to correct that. I found a new “to do” list app  yesterday and am going to work with it this week. Truthfully, an app (or a simple old fashioned list) does not need to be super fancy to be effective for me. The act of writing something down itself helps with the process of accomplishing any goal as it is one step towards making something manifest that previously lived only in my brain.

I have not frequently needed much in the way of to do lists. My brain is wired to keep track of lots of things. But I recognize that is not working now, and even the stuff that I am keeping track of in my head – that stuff is not getting done. So I turn to the list. I am in a bit of a “whatever it takes” mode right now – primarily with issues related to work.

I am looking at 2013 as a bit of a make or break year for the family company. My dad and I have been revising our strategy and some core processes since October and that has been working well. In January I came up with a new approach and a specific project for us to work on that has some great potential. We are both excited about it, but it is going to take a lot of work to get from here to there. I am not afraid of the work, but I want to stay focused and productive at higher levels than I have sustained in the past.

I have been a bit stuck in the mud both physically and mentally for a long time. While there is still a long way to go discovering why that is, I do recognize some things I can do to change the situation. I need to find a way to break some old behavior patterns (some of these being very old patterns) and create and ingrain some new ones. Not drinking is great and I am pleased with my progress there, but that is really only a small part or one aspect of a destructive or less than productive behavior pattern.

Renfroe. Now with Hair!
Renfroe. Now with Hair!

On the upside, some great podcasts. I listen to NPR’s fantastic pop culture podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and one of the folks on there has frequently recommended another called The Thrilling Adventure Hour. I did listen to and loved all of the Thrilling Adventure Hour back catalog and from that show was led to The Nerdist podcast. I believe that everyone could and would enjoy The Thrilling Adventure Hour. I think that most folks who read here would also enjoy Pop Culture Happy Hour. The Nerdist is definitely not for everyone. It is usually three dudes, a host and two co-hosts, talking with each other or with a famous/semi-famous person. The bulk of the guests are from the world of comedy, but there are other film and tv stars as well as people from the world of geek/nerd/tech culture.

There are two primary and related motifs that keep me coming back to the Nerdist, both of which are very inspirational. The hosts and the guests are often asked questions like, “how would you recommend I get started in X (stand up comedy, acting, writing, script writing, podcasting, …).” The answer is consistently the same – just starting doing it. Whatever is that you want to do, start doing it. You may not start on the best possible path, but truthfully, there are few to no best paths. Create a body of work, hone your craft, get experience in the field however you can. Get out there and do it.

Before unpacking that at all, thing #2. When you look at your life and your goals and what you really want to do, ask yourself why you are not doing what you want to be doing. People who wait or look for the right set of circumstances almost never accomplish their goals. Do what you want to be doing now and figure out how to make everything else work around that instead of trying to get every aspect of your life set to the perfect circumstances to allow you to pursue Dream X.

These, particularly in conjunction, present a very powerful and inspiring message. This is not an overt or all consuming aspect of the show, but it is repeated in one form or another in almost every episode. I love to write and have lots of stuff I want to write about. My goals with writing have never been to be famous or to get rich (or even make money) through writing. The act of writing itself, shaping thoughts into effective vehicles for communicating thought, and sharing the results – these are the primary draws for me. Like many, there are particular circumstances that I prefer for writing, but these are circumstances and not prerequisites. This was a bit of an awakening for me.

I am a very critical guy by nature, but I am trying to find more ways and reasons to get things done and to move forward than reasons to say no.

Not Drinking and Malcolm X

Howdy. I just have a few quick things to say so i am going commando again this time! For those of you playing the home game, today is day 26 of no booze for Renfroe, and i feel pretty good.

Today presented the closest thing to a true “test” for me so far on this leg of the journey. Not a very hard test, and i passed, but still the first potential stumbling block.

I have not been really alone since i quit, until today. I do currently live with my folks and my grandpa and it is pretty easy on the day to day to leave it behind. Most days i don’t even think about it.

I went to an LYP mixer event at a bar last night and stayed after the event to listen to a band until midnight. It was not remotely difficult to avoid drinking there. In fact it was great not to drink there. I got $20.00 in cash before going out and i came home with $16.00. How many times have you been in a bar from 7 ’til midnight and spent $4.00??

But today mom, dad, and grandpa went out of town for the weekend. I love being alone. I have enjoyed it for as long as i can remember. I also love drinking alone, or being alone and drinking. I would drink around other people, but that was always different than drinking alone (with a few exceptions). We will get into all that later, for now i just wanted to broach the topic.

Drinking alone has been one of my favorite things to do for about 25 years. Having the opportunity come up today did give me pause and make me think about it. I did not seriously consider going out to buy my preferred beverages, but it was the first time i had to stop and consciously re-affirm my decision to stay sober. Things don’t usually get too tough for me until around 6 -8 months. I get my life more on track. I start to feel pretty good. I usually have a seriously increased exercise routine. Often i have quit smoking during that time. I am not even thinking about booze anymore. And then i start to say, “hey man, you got this licked. Things are back on easy street. Have a beer and enjoy yourself.” When i do that, i generally maintain an even keel for 2-8 months before the wheels start to come off and i am back to consuming way too much and for all the wrong reasons.

Hopefully i can stay vigilant and A) get that far again and B) avoid the 6-8 month victory voice idiot in my head. That guy has a lot of bad advice.

On to Malcolm X.

Malcolm X died February 21, 1965. I love Malcolm. I think i have read every one of his speeches that have been published. I have read a ton of other Malcolm material including his FBI file. But i do still feel that there is no better way to experience Malcolm than to listen to Malcolm. It was the 60s so the sound quality varies greatly, but there are loads of legal sources online to listen to Malcolm for free. If you are not very familiar with Malcolm, or have a bad impression of him, i can’t recommend enough that you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. If you can’t afford it, i will buy you a copy (limited to first 25 serious inquiries).

One of his best speeches, in my opinion, is The Battle or the Bullet. Malcolm is one of those guys that was often misquoted and quoted out of context. It happens so much these days that many people take it for granted and do a little research before basing their opinions on the millisecond sound-byte from Big News Show. (Really Renfroe? Many people do that? – We can hope right?) With Malcolm, there was a concerted effort to use every means possible to discredit him in the public eye. I don’t believe that any other single individual did more to throw support and in particular white support behind Dr King than Malcolm. If you can present Malcolm as the scary angry violent black man ready to come to your house and kill you, sit-ins with Dr King start to look a lot more appealing.

Malcolm is one of the very few public figures in human history who cared enough about truth and a scientific approach to the union of belief and principle that he actually changed his mind about deeply held beliefs multiple times over the course of his life. When he encountered evidence that challenged his beliefs, he did not seek ways to justify his belief anyway, he changed his belief to fit the facts. That is not easy.

The Ballet or the Bullet provides a great glimpse into Malcolm’s thinking after his first Hajj. He had left the Nation of Islam and started the Moslem Mosque Inc. This was a few months before he would found the Organization for Afro American Unity. But it was during this period when he was beginning to build support and advocate for a new approach to the civil rights struggle. Call it simply a human rights struggle and plead a case before the UN as many other oppressed peoples around the globe had done.

There is a ton of great information in here as well as a few laugh out loud jokes. Malcolm’s oratory style is captivating. Check it out folks.

Download Ballet or the Bullet – The speech start about 3:31 into this recording.

Ketchup

Howdy again Folks. Just a quick update on a few odds and ends.

Thanks to you all for the kind words and the support after the last entry and the probably not so shocking reveal.

Today i passed the 16 days sober mark and i am feeling pretty good. My sleep cycle is still off, but i am done with the night sweats and really strange mental gymnastics. As usual for me, there have not really been any withdrawal symptoms. My face is starting to look better. One of the many things you don’t recognize, or choose to ignore, when you are drinking way too much is how terrible you start to look. There is still progress to be made, but the area under my eyes has reformed from canyons to deep pits 🙂

This is not my first time getting sober. I do appreciate the support and am open to input and advice, but i want you all to know that i am not in crisis. There will be a few stories about this journey at some point, but i do not know how many, how long, or what i will focus on. But i do think that it will be helpful for me to review some of that material. It could be informative if not interesting for you. And for anyone else out there struggling with similar issues, perhaps some of my tale can help you make the right choices for your situation. But that will be at least a little ways down the road.

I have come to a stopping point on Phase I (of three) on the romance tale and have uploaded it in four parts to be released once a day for the next four days.

I still have some tech/Apple stuff that i have been writing in the brain that will get onto the paper one of these days and i need to reach out to the leading lady for Phase II of the romance tale to gauge her reaction.

There are some cool things afoot at work which is refreshing and hopeful. Vance and I are both excited and motivated.

That is it for right now.

Rock Out!

Max and Mickey Chillin', January 2013
Max and Mickey Chillin’, January 2013
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