Motorcycles and Addiction

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If you’re reading this, welcome to the great Covidial event of 2020. Welcome to quarantine. If you’re not adhering to the public health mandates, you need to.

Trainwrecks, a whole lot more people will be affected by this Covidial event than the percentage who will develop symptoms. There are two sequences to an outbreak on a population: the infection & the aftermath. The infection is the virus doing it’s thing. The aftermath is people doing their thing. Both are destructive.

This aftermath is going to suck so lets all stick together

Track machine

There was a time I used to ride motorcycles really hard. Now, when I say I used to “ride motorcycles,” I understand there are many philosophies of riding out there. By many standards I still ride my sport-touring bike very well and to be fair, after several years of riding it I know that heavy motorcycle like the back of my hand.

I will never ride another motorcycle as hard as I used to ride Sport-bikes.

Street machine

In the early 2010s, when I would “go for a ride,” I would be gone for half the day deep into Missouri double-lettered roads hanging off the side of my street machine, hitting triple digits, bouncing the plastic knee-slider of my leather suit off public asphalt and spraying gravel everywhere. I was trying to chase an emotional desire I couldn’t understand. I was “that guy” who came home from a deployment overseas with a fist full of cash and wanted the fastest thing on two wheels. I will always have a deep passion for motorcycles.

Back when I pretended I knew how to ride a motorcycle
Music credit: The Glitch Mob

For years, when I would return to the states from a deployment overseas I would disappear into my fantasy world. I spent many weekends travelling the country with my friends and trailer in-tow. We’d stay at cheap motels, eating stale pizza and drinking cold coffee. We’d spend hundreds per day on tires, race track fees and fuel. We’d spend hours setting up the track, inflating the air-fences and having our machines inspected for safety. By evening everyone would be covered in mud and hay, smiling and drinking a Bud Light while talking about our “normal lives.”

Early the next morning we’d be on our machines gridded out at the starting line. We came from all walks of life, although to be fair, I would say at least half the people on that race-track were mechanics by trade. We would ride in the rain and heat over 100 degrees. It was neither cheap nor easy to be there. Only the ones who truly love riding motorcycles will do this sort of thing.

Only the ones who become truly connected with their machines will understand what I am talking about when I say a motorcycle can take away your hurt and make you feel free.

I was trying to escape my pain and my guilt. I failed.
On the weekends, we were living out our greatest fantasy. It was like being in your own movie and everyone is in a co-star role. Our own 48 hour adrenaline filled private movie. I’ve had some of the greatest times of my life ripping around a racetrack or a back-road on a motorcycle with my friends.

On Sundays we would clean up the race track and return to our normal boring lives. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, but I understand it now. I don’t think my obsession with motorcycles has necessarily been a bad thing at any point in my life. After all, it is my personal belief most people develop an obsession with something.

When we allow an obsession to control our life, our obsession can then become addiction. Just like with hard drugs, I allowed addiction itself to enter my life when I allowed my escape to become my reality.

I think the way I handled my vices and my obsessions was what became a problem. What I mean by this is, it’s perfectly fine to have an obsession. It’s perfectly okay to have outlets and vices. After my return from Iraq in early 2008, my obsessions slowly became destructive. My vices became true addictions and I no longer rode a motorcycle to release. I rode to escape. I no longer drank to release. I drank to escape. I no longer took pain medication and sleeping pills to “take the edge off,” I took pain medication and sleeping pills to escape.

Not long before I was assigned to Springfield, Illinois my motorcycle riding was getting out of control. My ego inflated and I was no longer being realistic about my ability as a rider. I began developing reckless habits and my demeanor changed significantly as I struggled to understand emerging limitations in my mind. I was scared shitless of what I couldn’t remember or understand when I would have a phase-shift and I took it out on everyone. I later learned this behavior was common for people who have had a brain injury like myself.

Around 2011 my riding, my drinking and even the way I was handling daily issues had become a liability. Two years after the attacks at Camp Bucca, Iraq my short term memory had gone completely to shit. I developed a short-fuse again. My bad temper from my childhood returned. Even things I wrote down seemed to evade me because I would sometimes forget I wrote something down. Sometimes I would forget where I was or why I was there. I was crashing. Friends were crashing. Permanent injuries were becoming a regular discussion; something we laughed about and showed off proudly just as I did with my injuries in the military. Destroying my body became a joke. I did it to laugh.

Several of my friends were riding so fearlessly and crashing their motorcycles so hard they would develop a permanent limp in their walk or a crippled limb. In the service, we were currently losing more troops due to deaths from motorcycle accidents than we were losing in combat overseas. It was a VERY popular trend in the military around this time to ride a motorcycle.

After one of my closest friends, X crashed his bike on a ride myself and others asked him not to attend, that was it. I was done.

My friend changed not only his own life but the life of his family when he went down that day. I was furious at the world when X went down. That kid was my fucking hero because he was a computer genius and he had begun an amazing life with someone special. She was a fellow ground-pounder and I was her brother from another mother. I embarrassed myself at their wedding.

X went down hard. Part of his motorcycle went through his body. He smashed his face so violently when he crashed, it compressed the foam inside his helmet and left a massive dent. His brain swelled and bled. I would drive 200 miles from Springfield, IL to visit X whenever I could.

Even though his body continued to function, I lost my friend.

My decision to give up riding fast bikes wasn’t an easy one but it was a necessary one. I miss my friends and I miss that life but I don’t see myself ever returning. There is a lot more to this story. And in time I will explore the topic of motorcycles and tragedy further.

My current machine.

I LOVE this motorcycle.
These days I’ve slowed down and honestly, I LOVE IT! When I retired, I bought a good friend’s well-maintained Honda ST1300 touring motorcycle and I have never looked back! This bike is comfortable, has all the power I’ll ever need and has room for several days of my crap if I travel. I could barely fit a ball-cap under the seat of my crotch-rockets and here I am wondering if I could ride my motorcycle out to my next academic residency.

Ask ANY of my peers about their decision to pursue their Doctorate and they will tell you just about the same thing. “One day, out of the blue I decided I was going to get my Ph.D in Psychology.” This answer will be pretty standard, but there will also be something called your “why.” I finally found my “why.” I’d gotten clean since my retirement and it was time to move forward. I decided I was going to share what I have learned so far. I decided I was going to write a book. A little over a year later, I’m well along in my Ph.D journey and I’m almost finished a draft of the first book.

The title of my second book is going to be called Beautiful Trainwreck: Back on Track and focus on my journey, post-retirement and everything through my PhD Program. Last time I saw Chief, he told me things would make sense if I let them. Things are now making sense to me once again and although I still don’t know my path I at least have a general bead on my target.

If you’re reading this blog post on the day I publish it, you are witnessing me beginning my second book. Tell you what, I’ll keep sharing my journey and when I graduate with my PhD, I’ll just take all this stuff I’ve been writing and cram it into book two. Sounds like a Juliano plan to me!

When I made the decision to start my Doctorate program, I knew I would need to give up a lot of my activities. I still had several motorcycles in storage and a couple “project bikes” in my barn across the street that I needed to let go.

When my wife and son and I moved out on our property, we found a place to heal. We spend long evenings grilling and playing in our pool. Our son jumps on his trampoline, teases the dog and rides his ATV when our land isn’t too muddy as we approach the rainy season out here in the Midwest.

I often spend time in the evenings sitting next to a small fire and reading a book on my tablet while enjoying bong rips. I keep a large portion of my land clear so I can feel breeze sweeping through my wooded areas and the pasture.

This quarantine stuff sucks ass but it is what it is. I think the important thing we get out of this is what we learn from our experiences during the Covidial Quarantine events of 2020.

Since moving so far out into the country, I’ve learned a lot about self-sufficiency and the joys of finally being left alone. No one calls me about stressful things anymore. People don’t really call me. I’m free to play on my tractor or go target shooting after I work out in the mornings. I spend most of my time reading, writing and pursuing my purpose.

It’s a total bummer I can’t make my normal rounds throughout the week. I like to visit local businesses and read as well as socialize. My town of Waterloo, IL has the best coffee shop in the universe. No big deal.

Sometimes when I’m studying or writing, my dog and I will play games with my studio lights. We find the littlest things to entertain ourselves during quarantine don’t we? My son just gave me a tour of his freshly organized room. When I think about it, aside from not being permitted to cough in public and around others, quarantine really isn’t that much different from being retired.

I’ve been studying motivation in organizational behavior and I love it. I have long been interested in individual behaviors of motivation and execution. Through experience I’ve developed an understanding of what motivates the individual. Now I’m learning how that affects individuals at the organizational level. My PhD journey is another part of my life that is back on track. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited and determined about something in my life.

You’re Welcome. Internet.

Today calls for some LL

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