A sequence of stories, and some social media activity, has reminded us about some correspondence from a reader four years ago. Back in October 2011, Scott Jacobsen wrote to RIDE about how cycling helped save him from alcoholism. A mate prompted him to reclaim the joy of riding and before long Scott was experiencing the meditative qualities of time on the bike. After reading a story about how cycling is helping Clarice Sayle beat bulimia, Scott wrote to let us know how he was going…
Here is the sequence of correspondence about cycling away from booze.
30 September 2011: A letter from a reader
Unfortunately we are constantly reminded that our beautiful sport has the ability to take lives. But this is a story of cycling’s ability to save and restore a life.
At most stages of my life I have enjoyed some aspect of cycling, as a BMX bandit and racer through to a road rider. Four years ago my life was turned upside down. I was enjoying my time living on Beach Road in Melbourne, I had a great job, a beautiful partner of seven years and was fit and healthy. Life was good. Then things changed. My relationship broke down and, as a result, I left my job and started to ride less. I found myself starting to drink as a way of coping and, before I knew it, alcohol had control of me. What followed was a complete breakdown of my life; I lost everything – both material and relational. After a long battle I ended up in rehab. The real work had to start.
Things were going well with my rehabilitation, but they were about to go a whole lot better. I received a call from a friend informing me that, as he had just purchased a new bike – and I had sold the three I once owned – he believed I should have his old Cannondale CAAD5. After all, he thought getting back on the bike would help with my recovery.
Fast forward a month. I clip in and begin to roll down the long driveway. Ahead of me lies hundreds of kilometres of rolling, traffic-free roads that follow their way along the beautiful Murray River. For the first time in a long time it’s just me and my bike. No speedo, no competition, just the sound of tyres and the wind in my face. For the first time in a long time I felt free. I was back.
Things now are going amazingly well; drinking is a thing of the past. I have stopped the smoking and medication that had become part of my life and I am back to riding 200 to 300km a week again. Once again I’m fit, healthy and losing all the weight I’d piled on.
My recovery has been a combination of many factors. At times I have had to do some extremely hard work and go through some very hard self-examination, but I thank God that at some of my lowest moments I could quite simply get on my bike and just ride.
Scott Jacobsen Granya, Vic
* * * * *
Postscript (1 October 2011): My Friend with the Cannondale was a life saver. Not to mention the fact that he also struggled with addictions. Cycling and exercise also helped him to get back on track with his life.
I’ve been back on the bike for about 15 months now (as of October 2011), I have since also purchased a new MTB and am loving getting more involved in that side of things again. There is a fairly healthy cycling scene where I am now.
The main thing I remember about starting to ride again was just the feeling of starting to get my old life back again.
I had lost so much, and there were times I thought I would never make it back to the land of the living.
With all I had been through, I had been suffering from depression and was medicated for it.
I still remember starting off very slowly at first but settling into some tempo.
I just felt that meditative feeling, when everything else gets shut out, and its just you, your breathing and a bit of pain.
I remember that ride just blew a lot of shit out of me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was cured after my first ride, but I had the realisation that here was a tool that was going to compliment all the other things I was doing in rehab.
As far as maintaining things. I can not say that I will never drink again, but I can say that I never want to drink again.
I have always loved cycling, but I seem to have a new and different appreciation of it now. To say the least its a passion and I love all aspects of it – the tech, the racing, the pro politics… you name it. The difference now is that it was one of the things that saved my life.
At 38 I have just applied for a traineeship in retail at a local Albury bike store. Fingers crossed I get it.
As you probably know, a person who can combine their passion with making a living is blessed, so I dream of being able to do this.
Anyway, thanks for the interest you have shown in my story, and I appreciate your positive comments…
– By Scott Jacobsen
* * * * *
PPS (3 November 2015). Four years on, Scott read a story about a bulimic cyclist who has made positive steps away from illness thanks to riding and he replied to the post on FB stating: “Awesome. I know cycling has helped save my life. I even wrote to RIDE mag about it and won a Garmin for my letter.”
PPPS. “Some prick stole my Garmin. Oh well, easy come, easy go.”
PPPPS. “Still on the bike and still loving it. And no grog now for two years and so much the better for it! And still buying your Awesome mag four times a year, can’t miss an issue. U guys do such an amazing job. Thank you.”
* * * * *