20 Years Gone

These are two of my favorite pictures of Guthrey. He had a certain intensity which is reflected well here. He was always focused, always planning something. I still miss him. I still have not gotten another dog.

I was lucky enough to have Lucas who loved Guthrey enough that he came to live with me.

It is an emotional day and time of year for me, rife with unexamined feelings and turbulent change.

– April 7, 2004 – mid day – Dr Bill came over to euthanize Guthrey at home in my bed with me and Jake and Lucas all together. Mom was upstairs but, understandably didn’t want to be down there with us.
– April 7-8, 2004 – middle of the night – Lucas has his first seizure
– April 12, 2004 – I left Lucas with mom and went on a business trip to the Mid East, knowing that success meant moving immediately. Lucas loved Guthrey more than anything else in the world, but he had so much love to share that I didn’t mind being second. We both abandoned him at the same time. Guthrey died, but I made a choice. Why do we always end up exhibiting our worst behaviors towards those in our life who deserve it least? Hopefully it is something nice like – we keep those we love so close that they get hit by all our shrapnel whether it is good or bad.
– May 21, 2004 – First day living as a full-time resident of Doha, Qatar.
– – March 30, 2012 – Jake and I took Lucas to the vet and were loving on him as he was euthanized.


I was recently given a ten line writing challenge and present that request and the results here. The timing is interesting as I was in the process of editing and trimming the four page essay on recovery, anger, and emotion referenced at the end of Milestones. I’m not sure that I answered the questions very well, but it was an interesting and difficult assignemt for a gasbag like me. The ten line spacing parameters are based on a standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ slice of paper.

What does the 10 years of sobriety anniversary mean?
Why is it important?
How does a non-alcoholic understand?

At ten years of sobriety, all the physical craving for alcohol is long gone, and I’ve established many new and successful behavior patterns, rather than using alcohol as a “solution” for my problems. This distance from the destructive behaviors of my drinking life, and honest self-reflection about it helped me recognize that I still have a lot of work to do. The anger I feel as a near constant pulse inside is not good. Recently learning that this anger is most likely tied to unaddressed and likely undiscovered pain has been revelatory. The anniversary is important because I still think about it. I believe that if I can sort out the anger and pain that led me to abuse alcohol, the date itself and what it has represented will lose that sense of importance, in the same way that my birthday doesn’t “mean” anything to me beyond a methodology to mark time.


It has been so long since I have written anything here that some sort of retrospective seemed appropriate. Fall has been a time of assessment, reflection, and transition for me over the years. Let’s look at some milestones.

30 years vegetarian. The last time I ate meat or fish was the fall of 1993, either September or October. My body remains fit and capable. I am actually getting a little stronger and a little healthier every year.

13 years caffeine free. Last caffeine, December 2010. Very liberating. It is hard not to think of caffeine as a drug after feeling the physical withdrawal symptoms upon quitting.

10 years alcohol free. Last Drink, October 14th, 2013. I quit drinking the first time in 1993 and was two years sober before turning 21. I’ve only had one relapse. It lasted 19 years. It is sort of funny remembering that in order to start that relapse, after 2 years in NA, becoming a group leader, and serving as an area rep, I had to have a friend buy me alcohol because I still wasn’t legally old enough to drink. – – I don’t miss booze at all; not a single thing about it.

9 years since the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Completed my northbound thru-hike September 26, 2014. It is a bittersweet reverie. I cherish all of my PCT memories – from learning that the trail existed, to completing the trek several years later. The bitter side is two-fold. I have lost touch with most of my PCT friends. Some from the natural gravitational forces of life, but others I let slip away or pushed away – whether intentionally or not. I’m still both thinking and stressing about this. The other bitter element is that my plan for the next trail is in a stall. As a lover of milestones, I planned to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2024. None of the prep I’ve done is wasted as so few logistical elements of this hike can change, but I have put the CDT plan fully on hold with no new time frame established. I’m uncomfortable not having a specific, realistic new target start date. To mitigate that sensation, I am doing some things to keep pushing forward, like fixing my teeth, saving money for this adventure, and planning out my mail drops.

7.5 years debt free! Whoooooop!!! To be fully accurate, it is 7.5 years since I have paid a penny of interest. I paid off my last interest bearing debt in May of 2016. I have acquired some new debts due to dental and medical bills, but have all these debts on zero interest repayment plans. I’m a tetracycline baby. The impact on my fetal development was dental. I had tons of cavities as a kid and many of my adult teeth never developed. Approaching my 49th birthday, I still have one baby tooth, “K”. Baby teeth are not designed to last this long, so I have had several extractions and new fake teeth implanted, which isn’t cheap. When I replace K soon, it will be my 5th implant since 2016. This has only been possible because of interest free deals with Care Credit.

5 years running only one business – Nick’s Dog Care, founded November 17, 2018. I have had a few small side projects, and one of these almost became a second business, but so far, I have kept it to just one. It is a big change, and it has been a nice one. I do not miss a single thing about 20 hour workdays. Now I do more like 20 hour weeks.

4.5 years since I played golf. Last round, May 2019. I have given a few lessons since then, and still enjoy helping others learn the game. I was able to execute shots as an instructor that I could never quite manage as a player; bending shots out wide left or right and bringing them back to the center again. I have many good memories and a few nice trophies. I don’t foresee being in a position to choose to spend the time and money it would take to get my game back together to pursue this tricky sport again. While my coaches praised my form and swing, that swing was giving me increasing levels of back pain with increasing frequency. That’s a whole new set of medical challenges and bills that I do not need. More on this later, but I am now a novice archer and find that target sport similar enough but much easier on my body and astronomically less expensive to pursue.

4 years free from sugar/sweets/sweeteners. Last sweets, December 2019. Since then, the only sweet things I consume are unprocessed whole fruits. Not as bad a physical withdrawal as caffeine, but it was noticeable for a while. The only downside is thinking about the physical changes I will go through when I start eating every possible form of sweet during the CDT hike, and then stop again afterwards.

2 years since my first surgery (other than dental) – bilateral inguinal hernia repair, July 23, 2021. Recovery was brutal. Everyone said it would be easy and quick. Sadly, they were very wrong. Two weeks after surgery, I still struggled to walk from my bed to the toilet, 15 feet away. Turns out I’m allergic to oxy, which is probably a good thing, so I had ibuprofen and ice for pain relief. I had to keep ice packs on the surgery sites for as many hours of the day as I could stand the cold. I couldn’t work at all for a long time. Once I could shuffle around, I started working for my existing clients again, but didn’t feel comfortable taking on any new animals until about 6 months later. Good times.

I’ll leave you with that for now. I have another post about recovery, anger, and emotion set to publish 10/16/23. Be well folks. Rock On!

Tech Check

TLDR – i’m running a few tests. Apologies if you receive any unwanted emails.

Turns out lots of problems can develop when you leave your website alone for over 8 years. My sidebar widgets duplicated themselves and stopped working correctly. I can’t upload any media files. My “subscribe” button disappeared, and more troubling, the feature has stopped working. I was signed up to the email notification list also so that i would know if there was ever a problem with that system. Not only is there a problem with the system, I’m pretty sure my subscriber list/database is gone also. With no social media presence, it shouldn’t be too hard to build an audience back up from zero after so many years of silence. Good Times.

I have fixed some of these issues and am now testing the email notification system. Fingers crossed…

Bad Words (title and disclaimer)

I love cursing. This affinity for swear words goes back as far as i can recall. I can’t claim to have had fully formed theories about language in the early days, but something always attracted me and mystified me about the concept of “Bad Words”. What makes a word bad? Who gets to decide that? Were these bad words once good words before something terrible happened?

I have had many excellent teachers in my life, and one of them was a fella who called himself Dynamite Dick from Tear Ass Crick. This man taught me about euphemism and dysphemism in the seventh grade. Simply put, a euphemism is a socially acceptable way to speak about uncomfortable or taboo issues, or material that might not be appropriate for all-ages when in a mixed-age environment, and this generally includes but is not limited to sex, other bodily excretions, and death. Some sources go so far as to call a euphemistic term good, polite, or pleasant. Dysphemism is then seen as a derogatory or unpleasant way to describe something, employed instead of the scientific, neutral, or polite term. Because Dynamite Dick from Tear Ass Crick was a master, he also explained onomatopoeia in the midst of tackling euphemism and dysphemism. “Piss” was his lead-off example of an onomatopoetical dysphemism – a word that sounds like what it is and a word with a negative or less-than-proper connotation used in lieu of a technical term such as “urinate” or a euphemistic phrase like “go number 1”.

I have never stopped thinking about this, that there is a three-fold relationship between things we seek to describe and the terms we employ to do the describing, or as i like to think of them, the good, the bad, and the technical. At first glance, euphemism seems easy to understand. We seek to gloss over or smooth out the rough or less than pleasant parts of life. When dealing with children, we don’t necessarily want to take the responsibility for teaching them about sex or death. These sound like simple and obvious answers, but even in the seemingly innocuous case of utilizing euphemisms, there are value judgements being made. Why are “pee-pee” or “tinkle” acceptable euphemisms and “piss” is a dysphemism? For that matter, what is wrong with teaching kids technical terms? I would love to hear crowds of young kids in the mall screaming, “Mommy, i have to URINATE!!” Why did we ever begin the process of substituting other words for technical terms? I do love language, and would not want to limit the number of tools available for anyone to use to describe this world and our experience of it, but why would a desire for additional terms necessitate instituting a value judgment on the quality and connotation of the words themselves? I can understand how we as individuals, and as a society, decide that certain actions have normative value. We decide that soothing a crying child is good, and kicking an old lady into the street is bad. (There is an obvious slippery slope in the wings here, but i think we can avoid it for the purposes of this discussion.) I want to emphasize that i can and do understand assigning value judgments to actions, but to do the same to the words is mystifying to me.

These questions get even better and richer when we look at a few interesting cases:

Bitch – there are many “negative” connotations in popular usage: to complain unnecessarily or inordinately, an unpleasant female, a somewhat powerless subordinate. How and why does the technical term for a female dog, wolf, fox, or otter inherit these connotations? Most of the female dogs any of us can think of are beloved family pets. “Like a bitch in heat” is a simile often used to indicate that a woman is extremely desirous of, if not insistent for a sexual encounter.  My experience with female dogs in heat is limited, but all that i have ever seen were taking extreme measures to avoid one or more male dogs in pursuit, and were very grateful for any aid in avoiding their pursuers, or being liberated from unwanted sexual acts. The original meaning of the terms has a disparate intent from common usage. How does that happen?

Pussy – this has always struck me as supremely odd word to use as an insult. The intent seems to be an insinuation that someone is weak or otherwise less-than. “You are such a pussy!” Simultaneously, this is also used to describe something valuable, desired, and eagerly sought after. “I am dying to get some pussy!” What a strange dichotomy!

Fuck – the uses are multitudinous, far too many to go into detail here. Like ‘pussy’ above, there is a similarly perplexing dichotomy at work. We use the term both for something often considered highly desirable (intercourse) and as an expression of rage and frustration (general expletive).

How does one word move from one classification to another? What is going on when one single term can serve as both a euphemism for one thing and a dysphemism for another? How do benign technical terms take on extra meaning through social use?

To come at it from a different angle how about this…

Rape – pretty universally accepted as bad action, and rapists are seen as bad people, or at least as people who have done a bad thing. The word itself though, does not seem to carry the same stigma. Rape is just the scientific, technical, or proper term for an action – neither a euphemism nor a dysphemism. We don’t talk about rape very often in society, but it is the kind of subject that i would think cries out for a euphemism. What does it say about us as a race of beings that we have a plethora of substitute terms, counted by most as euphemisms, for the act of excreting liquid waste from our bladders, but not one euphemism for rape.

I am not going to do a full etymological analysis here. The point of this piece is to limber our brains a bit, prepare us to think deeply – if not differently – about language, and provide some foreshadowing for other elements to come in the pending larger discussions of the philosophy of language and (as my buddy Dave pointed out) the language of philosophy, as we ease into the exploration of Epistemology and Truth.

Test Post for email subscribers

Hello. I have had at least one subscriber mention that it does not seem like their email subscription has carried over from the old boneofcontention1.wordpress.com to the new home of the blog here at nickrenfroe.com. I think i did everything that i could to avoid these kinds of problems, but I am not a WordPress ninja. I don’t even think i have my white belt yet.

I will do my best to not have many of these test messages. Thanks you for your patience and understanding. Please accept this image of Lucas in a submission pose as Guthrey looms over him as a nuisance fee.


Merry Christmas Eve Day!


There’s no place like home.

Happy Holidays to you dear readers! Welcome to the new home of Bone of Contention. Despite things not being totally finished, I felt that enough was in place to invite you to my new easy-to-remember website/blog – nickrenfroe.com. The “work” area is still under construction, I intend to add a section on Community Service, and I want to have a section dedicated just to dogs – mostly pictures of dogs I know and love. More posts to follow soon…


Be safe during your travels whether brief or extended. My wish for us all is to find some peace and focus on the many positives in our lives during this season.

Good Guys
Good Guys


What’s the plan, Stan?

Howdy. That title is possibly misleading as I have not finished making the plan, but more on that at the end. Here are the things that I have kicking around in my head these days that I want to write about on the blog.

Mountain Sun
Mountain Sun

Brevity – as a methodology not a topic in itself. A recurring series exploring single topics in no more than 4 paragraphs
Epistemology – particularly the individually necessary Truth condition posited in the most commonly accepted account – “JTB”
Philosophy of Language – an exploration of why philosophy is done in stilted complex linguistic modalities instead of common speech
Leadership and emotional growth, or Happiness and effectiveness, or How to play and win without being a dick – it is all kinda the same thing…
Exploration of romance in my life, or more precisely, the vast lack of same, and a continuation of the look at/for some of the “why”
Assassination – why isn’t this a more commonly used tool? why do we as a species tend to have icky feelings about assassination but less icky feelings about more “standard” warfare methodologies? Some similar/related questions that seem worth exploring

Death and Life
Death and Life

I got more, but that should be enough to keep us busy for quite some time. I present this list to you, dear readers, because it really doesn’t make much difference to me which of these I write about here on the blog, or the order in which topics are addressed. I want to do another informal poll with you to discover:

1) What do you want to read about, any of these topics, or something else?
2) What kind of post frequency would you like to see? Once a week, once a month, once a day, a healthy mix of all, something else entirely? Bearing in mind that most of the topics listed will necessitate multiple posts for real exploration…
3) Do your feelings about post frequency change when a series is considered, or would you prefer one posting schedule regardless of the number of entires on a topic?

I am sure that other issues will arise that merit inclusion and there will be deviations when necessary. It knocks me out that there are real humans out there who read this blog and your interest, support, and encouragement mean a great deal to me. This is your chance to help shape what will appear here for your reading pleasure.

Right On!

How to stay sober – part seven


I am going to close with a simple statement that is my overarching meta-principle and touchstone for my sobriety, so i will do the final house-keeping now and leave on that sentiment.

I snowed you with words and advice and observations here. I DO NOT want you to get overwhelmed. You DO NOT have to do all or even any of this stuff immediately, or on anyone else’s schedule – ever. Even on your own schedule, you don’t have to do the stuff on this list. You can make your own list. These are simply some things that helped me or that helped others. NO ONE does all of this at one time. NO ONE possibly could. Don’t feel bad, don’t get bogged down. Find something that resonates with you and try it. If nothing resonates for you, let me know and i will give you a new avalanche of other things to try. Stay positive, and just don’t drink 🙂

Disclaimer 3 – This is another area where official treatment opinions and results vary. My own personal experience has been different with regard to this issue over time. When i got sober at 19, i could not think about the big picture. I would never have made it. I needed to be a “one day at a time” guy. This last time, getting sober at 38 – i had a different relationship to myself and the world. You have to pick what is right for you. Disclaimer ends.

The final truth. I got sober three times. I relapsed twice. The first relapse lasted from 1995 to 2013, 18 years. The second relapse lasted for two weeks. Only one time did i say to myself (the important part) and out loud to others – “I am done drinking alcohol forever. I am never touching another drop. I am never having another drink.” The difference it makes in my sobriety is indescribable. Having made that solid commitment to myself, thinking about drinking just does not even happen for me anymore.

How to stay sober – part six

Hard Choices continued or Outcomes Assessment Applied

Analyzing these choices about what is right for you with regard to living and loving with a drinker, this is another place where you can use the bucket approach from the earlier Outcomes Assessment example. Make two buckets and be brutally honest. If it is complicated, make 4 buckets, with the second two buckets labeled “justification” and provide specific and honest reasons for why an item is listed as it is. For instance, something that might go in the “Good Bucket” – “physical intimacy”. In the “justification” sub-bucket maybe you have a positive thing like “when we touch it is empowering”, but maybe you have “i only feel good because i am being touched and it really has nothing to do with Pat specifically or any true intimacy between us”. The bucket thing may not be complex enough, or it may be too complex. The system does not matter. Making an honest assessment does, and in this case, you bear the burden of proof for why it is right to stay. I don’t want to belabor any points. If this is not clear or requires further explanation, let me know and i will provide more, and more detailed, examples.

I can’t say whether or not you need to leave wherever you are, or go to your parents, or your sister, or your best friend or whatever. One of the reasons that this is often recommended is that most of us stumble quite a bit in the first year. Lots of people have trouble maintaining a job in the first year, or paying their bills, or meeting their court obligations, or whatever. On the other hand, many people cannot and/or should not go back to their families for any number of reasons. This is definitely an area where there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions. Careful reflection, soul searching, honesty, and a brutally frank analysis of the foreseeable outcomes – these are the only things i know of that can really help sort out which is the right path to take.

How hard is it to choose the proper path?

I got sober the first time living in a house full of drugs, playing in a touring metal band, in and out of bars all the time. After almost two years sober, I had my first relapse living in a house with the only guy i knew who was clean longer than me, and another guy who grew up with an alcoholic parent and does not abuse any substance – ever.

I got sober the second time living with my parents who are responsible drinkers who have quite a bit of alcohol in the house and who drink a glass of wine several nights a week. I relapsed that time while on vacation away from my home.

I got sober the last and final time back at my parents’ house.

There are exceptions to every rule. Every case is different. The exact path you chose with regards to where you live and with whom is not at all as important as that you 1) make a conscious choice 2) you make that choice having fully and truthfully considered all the angles to the best of your ability.

Next – Conclusion