THE LOVELY GRIND

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Are you dealing with prescription drug withdrawal and/or high stress levels? Are you looking for support, direction, and a plan? Message me for more info. if you are struggling with Antidepressant Withdrawal, Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, or issues related to chronic stress. There is a way forward.

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"“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions to anyone going through withdrawal.” Shelly, Ohio

"Because of Michael I feel supported and not so alone. It's comforting to talk to someone who has gone through the same ordeal and actually healed from it. The feedback he sends after our talks is very useful and encouraging, and I would definitely recommend his services."

 Kathy, CA

"Michael's Personalized Progress Plan and session notes are extremely helpful; not many coaches online do that sort of thing at all. I would absolutely, 100 percent recommend his coaching services." 

Brooke, OH

"Michael is very encouraging and motivating, and his follow-up notes are invaluable. I would absolutely recommend his services to anyone out there who is going through tapering or withdrawal." Brett, CA

February 2021  at The Lovely Grind

THIS MONTH WE ARE FOCUSING ON

GOALS & FITNESS

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A Good Friday afternoon on South Beach is altogether different from a Good Friday afternoon back home in Wisconsin: That much became clear rather quickly as my wife and I set our towels and tote bags down on the febrile sand near the Fifth Street lifeguard stand. For starters, the sun was shining brilliantly, a stark contrast to the midwestern cold and gray that often lends further solemnness to the Holy Week holiday built around Jesus’ crucifixion. And then there was the half-naked woman on display just behind my beach towel.


“Let’s move our stuff over there,” Claudia directed me, motioning toward a spot of beach that was closer to both the lifeguard tower and the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic. I glanced at the sunbather behind me and conceded.


“You must have seen the boobs and wanted to move,” I joked after we’d restationed ourselves. I was sure my wife had been trying to spoil the fun.


“What boobs?” she answered.


“There was a girl tanning topless right behind me,” I said, my voice rising. Maybe such a scene was par for the course on South Beach or the French Riviera, but it simply didn’t happen in conservative Wisconsin. On the Dairy State’s beaches, men were lucky to see a little sunburned cleavage come June and July.


“Well, I’m sure she was going to cover up before she turned over,” Claudia said with exasperation, as if I were an idiot—a perverted idiot.


“She already was turned over,” I said. “She was lying on her back.”


“Oh,” Claudia answered with a bit of surprise. “Did she at least have a nice body?”


“I don’t know,” I said, trying to convey indifference. Despite being surrounded by the sun-kissed sights of Miami Beach, I suddenly felt ice beneath my toes—thin ice—and I began to tread gingerly. “She wasn’t elderly or anything.”


“Well,” Claudia said, ready to move on from the topic, “maybe we should go in the water for a bit. I’m getting really hot.”


After swimming and then snacking and then swimming some more, I closed my eyes, hoping that maybe I’d fall asleep to pass the long minutes until the Raven Run’s starting time. Thoughts of icy cold beer floated through my mind, but I pushed them aside, determined to run eight miles before the day was done. Claudia and I had extended our stay in Miami again—nine days had turned into seventeen, and then into a month—and when I’d composed a short list of things to “do” before flying back to the cold weather, a final lazy day of sun and suds on the beach had found prominent placement.


However, Raven’s words rang in my head.


“You know, three runs will get you into the top one thousand,” he’d told me a few days earlier, shortly after I’d completed my second eight miles with him. That second run had taken place on a gray and windy Tuesday afternoon on the beach—the kind that doesn’t impress much on the Facebook and Instagram posts that are constantly being snapped by vacationers. But despite the weather, I’d shown up for my sophomore Raven Run effort because of a similarly provocative statistic he’d shared with me after my first run.


“If you come back for a second time, you’ll pass fifteen hundred people,” Raven had told me. Perhaps that was a canned line he gave to all first timers in an effort to lure them back for another fitness rendezvous on South Beach, but it had worked on me. It had persuaded me to make run number two a priority. And now, I was feeling the power of his verbal nudges again. The message was clear: There was a way to separate yourself from the pack.



I knew that almost 3,000 people had completed eight miles with Raven, but I’d been surprised to learn that almost half of those were transient one-offs, travelers just passing through to put an exotic notch on their running belts. I already had my exotic belt notch, the pictures and social media posts proving that I’d indeed “run with the Raven.” But I wanted more. I wanted to put some distance between myself and the crowd of ghosts who’d just hovered with Raven for a run or two and then disappeared. I wanted to become a little more familiar with him and his running community, a little more embedded in that intriguing world of unique characters and cardio catharsis.


Those perspiring bottles of Corona that were dancing through my mind’s eye would just have to wait.


Unable to nap on my beach towel, I sat up and opened my eyes, squinting in the bright sunlight. I could see that the family who had been picnicking in front of us had disappeared and been replaced by a young couple. An affectionate young couple. Trippy electronic beats from some Madonna song burst out of Bluetooth speakers as the guy, who was fully bearded and otherwise hairy, grooved hard. He was swerving and hovering over his date . . . who was also a bit hairy?


Wow, that girl needs to shave! I thought. But then I realized that the individual in front of me—the other half of the couple, the half who was wearing tight denim shorts and a tied-up crop top—was actually a man.


The gay couple threw each other dance moves and pouty expressions, and soon they were joined by a tall and pretty black photographer with a long blond weave. She wore a professional camera, and she quickly began taking glamour shots. The men posed enthusiastically as the techno music continued to bounce over the sand.


No, this wasn’t Good Friday in Wisconsin, I thought as I glanced at the clock on my phone. It was a Friday on South Beach—it was any day on South Beach—and that meant that Raven would be running in just over an hour.



“I have to use the bathroom,” Claudia said as we stepped off the sand and onto the concrete sidewalk that separated the beach from Lummus Park. “Wait here.”


As I leaned against the short coral wall and waited, a figure dressed in black—a sartorial choice that stands out on a sunny afternoon—peddled past me on a bicycle. I quickly realized that it was Raven. He was breezily weaving through the crowd of tourists who were dressed in their bikinis and flip flops. When I waved, he U-turned his bicycle and rode toward me.


“You’re still here,” he said, sounding surprised.


“Yeah, we extended our trip,” I said.


“Running tonight?” he asked.


“I plan on it,” I said, now glad that I’d forwent those afternoon beers so that I could answer in the affirmative. What shame would I have felt if I’d instead answered no with a longneck in hand and a half-drunken smile plastered sheepishly on my face?


“Thanks for the article,” Raven said.


“You saw it?” I replied casually, my tone belying the internal turmoil I’d been swimming in for the past forty-eight hours. I’d published a blog post about my first Raven Run experience, and true to my nickname my mind had been overworked ever since. I’d been rather sleepless for the past two nights because I’d tried to share the post to Raven’s Facebook page but it hadn’t made it there.


Why hadn’t the post made it there? I’d wondered. Did Raven not like the writing? Or had he been offended by some anecdote I’d shared or by some physical description of him I’d offered?

I had, at one point, written that Raven looked like an older and more mysterious version of White Goodman, Ben Stiller’s buffoonish fitness-buff character in the movie Dodgeball. Maybe that description had been over the top.


“Yeah, I saw it,” Raven said. “I left a little thing—a comment—on it.”


He didn’t seem offended.


“Well, I hope you liked it,” I said, still not sure that he’d liked it at all. I wondered what that “thing” of his had said? He wasn’t offering specifics here, and my mind—that often-exhausted piece of machinery—continued to churn.


“The run starts a little early today because of the picnic,” Raven said. “About five or five fifteen instead of five thirty.”


Before my second run with Raven, he’d handed out pastel flyers advertising his annual potluck gathering. It wasn’t the sort of social function I would normally dive into if left to my own reclusive trappings, but Claudia’s Latina (or feminine) sensibilities loved a good party, and she’d been lobbying for our attendance.


“Sounds good,” I said. “I’ll be at the run. And Claudia and I are going to try to make it your picnic, too. We brought a cooler of drinks, just in case.”


“I hope you can make it,” Raven said. “Your wife will have a good time. Well, see you in a bit.”


And then Raven peddled away with a pleasant smile, and when Claudia came out of the bathroom, I told her about our encounter. I told her that Raven had read my blog post and even commented on it.


“It didn’t seem like he hated it or anything,” I said.


“Hmm,” she responded knowingly, admonishing me for once again worrying about nothing.


“Yeah,” I answered, and then we walked to where our borrowed minivan was parked so that I could change into my running clothes.


***


The crowd in front of the Fifth Street lifeguard stand was slightly larger than it had been on my first two Raven Runs. Raven’s longtime girlfriend, Miracle, was there. She was wearing blue jeans and a camera and had come not to run but to see Raven off. And then there was Dos Equis, a tall and debonair gentleman from the Dominican Republic. He wore a white beard and had gotten his nickname because of a resemblance to the Most Interesting Man in the World character in those beer commercials.


Also present was a man known as Caca (a spry and gregarious marathon runner from Spain), a woman known as Blue Tango (a maidenly figure from Columbia who loved to dance and paint), and Evictor, a fortysomething Miami lawyer who had run with Raven 170 times and who conversed easily and often. Evictor had brought with him the day’s only new runner, his female friend Mo, whose day job involved organizing “ultra” relay races throughout the country.


“We’ve got a real runner for you today,” Evictor told Raven when introducing Mo.


“Sounds good,” Raven said, and judging from the knowing smile on his face, I guessed that he’d seen such “real” runners falter during his eight miles before.


Hitter was in the group again, too (I’d run with him on both of my previous appearances), and later we’d be joined by the Judge, a very blonde and fit member of the Miami legal community who had won Raven’s 2017 Event of the Year award by completing the entirety of a Raven Run just several days before giving birth. There were a few others in attendance for my third Raven Run as well, but my mind—already flooded with fresh faces and stories—had reached a saturation point for processing new people, so I wasn’t able to catch everyone’s names.


“His mind is always working,” Raven introduced me at Roll Call. “He can’t eat, he can’t sleep. He can’t do any of those things that we all need to do because his mind won’t let him. He’s Overrrrrworrrked Minnddd.”


I clapped for myself and the other runners as we were introduced, and then, as the day’s run found its pace, I filed in alongside Mo and we began talk about her relay-race work. Mo, who was in her thirties, began the run with confidence. She kept creeping ahead of Raven, which was easy to do if a person wasn’t used to his downtempo pace. At times, while talking with Mo, I got pulled ahead of the run’s founder myself, but I always recognized my displacement and jogged in place or looped back so that I could stay near the Raven Run’s axis.


Evictor, in accordance with his status as an attorney, was a talker. However, he was also friendly, self-depricating, and very likeable. He was the antithesis of all those lawyer stereotypes, and I enjoyed listening to him. After a couple of miles, he began remarking about the sand that was steadily infiltrating the upper half of his New Balance running shoes. Then another runner, Hitter, chimed in to say that he’d experienced the same complication with his own New Balance shoes. It was an issue of porousness, he said, maybe something facilitated by the mesh covering on the front end of the shoes and a problem the company ought to address.


Then the alternative to getting sand in one’s shoes—running barefoot—was discussed, and Evictor waxed eloquently about the difficulties and possible dangers of running without footwear. His language got technical at times as he discussed “heel striking” and the evolution of man’s walking capabilities.


Every so often—midsentence and midstride—Evictor would stoop down to pick up a piece of trash that littered the beach. He’d scoop the trash deftly, like a pelican diving for a fish, and then he’d jog to one of the many garbage receptacles near us, depositing the offending item before realigning himself with the group. He did this with a boundless enthusiasm that mirrored the boyish features of his face.


We all noticed Evictor’s cleanup efforts, but it didn’t seem that he was doing them for show. Rather, he seemed to be acting because of some deeply rooted personal convictions regarding our responsibility to care for the environment. Before the run was over, his repeated acts of beach tidying would spur Hitter to chip in, too, demonstrating that peer pressure can be a positive thing.


As was the case during my first two Raven Runs, I was enjoying the sense of community the event fostered. I was enjoying listening to and participating in the pinballing conversations with Raven, Hitter, Evictor, and Mo. I was enjoying this open-armed embrace from a group of fellow run lovers. However, as the Judge and a friend of hers began commandeering the interaction—as conversation veered toward the professional and political for a bit—I felt a strange but familiar pang of inadequacy overtake me. The sensation was familiar to me because of how often I’d experienced it in social situations in the past, but it was also foreign to me, because now I was experiencing it during a run—an activity that was supposed to provide surefire safe harbor from such anxieties.


What am I doing here? I suddenly wondered as we trekked along the beach.


You don’t “fit” in a running group! some destructive voice in the back of my mind hissed. You’re just a novice!


And when the Judge mentioned something about an upcoming gala she would be attending, I momentarily felt like a juvenile interloper amongst a group of accomplished “grown-ups.” I was nothing but a forty-year-old, childless child with vague writing dreams and no real professional or financial influence in the world.


My heart thumped rapidly and my legs felt weak, and those unpleasant stirrings had nothing to do with the physical demands of the eight miles I was currently engaged in.


But then, as the soulful rhythms of the run continued, the light panic passed. Step, breathe, sweat. Step, breathe, sweat. My overworked mind untensed as the ocean air caressed me and the miles continued. My skin became pervious, like the scalp of Evictor’s shoes, and the benevolent presence of God washed through me, as it does at some point on nearly every run I take.


I feel blissfully alive when that sort of spiritual surge happens during a run, and trembling with goosebumps, I give thanks for small miracles that aren’t that small at all: the brilliant engineering of my legs and lungs and beating heart; the Divine gifts of breeze and cloud cover during scorching summer runs; and the blanket of protection that keeps me from harm when I’m moving in darkness, through storms, and alongside heavily trafficked roads.


A calming realization washed through me. This was the Raven Run, not some hollow runner’s group populated by the hypercompetitive, the shallow, and the self-absorbed. No one was here to compare professional accolades, bank accounts, or even marathon times. No one was here to judge (not even the Judge), and if I could just transcend the bullying voices in my own head, I would realize that Raven’s community was actually offering me a bit of gospel on this Good Friday. Because this group reflected the spirit of its organizer, it was inclusive, gentle, kind, and soulful. Raven and his run welcomed people of all backgrounds, offering them a cleansing activity capable of easing their burdens and putting the lunacy of the rest of the world into a little perspective.


My enjoyment felt restored by these thoughts, and I ran on, renewed.


“So, is it true that you do not like people to pay for running events?” the man known as Caca asked Raven. Caca, a Spanish slang term for dung or shit, was not a nickname that had been given to insult the man Raven had assured the group during Roll Call. Rather, the name had actually been requested (for reasons Raven still didn’t fully understand), and it was used like a term of endearment.


Here we go, I thought as Caca hit on what I knew to be a hot-button topic in Raven Run circles. This could get contentious.


I was aware of Raven’s anti-pay-to-play (or rather anti-pay-to-run) stance. It was an opinion that I more or less agreed with, given that I’d only entered one official running event in my life, a casual, holiday-themed 5K several years back. The registration fees for that event had apparently benefited some type of cancer research. But still, I remembered thinking, if I did this every time I wanted to run, how quickly would I go broke? Instead of continuing to register for “jingle bell” runs, or “bubble” runs, or some half marathon named after a wireless service provider, I’d decided that I would freely run my own “races” each week; these would be private events that took place in whatever parks or streets or trails I happened upon on a given day. These wouldn’t cost any money or breed any competitive anxiety in my stomach. I ran to escape life’s pressures and formalities, not to invite them.


However, I also knew that runners like this sixty-seven-year-old Caca—this triathlete who like Raven defied age with his weekly fitness routine—were perhaps ignited by the prospect of having a structured event to train for and then conquer.


“That’s right,” Raven said. “Running should be free.”


“But some people, like my friends and I, we love training and running together in the marathons,” Caca countered. “What is wrong with these events? Why do you think that people should not enter them?”


“Well, I’ll tell you why,” Raven answered, and then he went on to explain how he’d once been wronged by someone involved in the organization and promotion of the Miami Marathon. Certain promises had been made regarding Raven firing the starting gun, but those promises hadn’t been kept.


“So, this stance of yours all began for personal reasons?” Caca said.


“That’s how it started,” Raven agreed. “But it’s not just that.”


“Oh?” Caca said, seeming willing to listen. And Raven talked, expounding his run-free philosophy. He explained how running was supposed to be more relaxing than mad dashing for top-ten finishes in an age group. It was supposed to be more simple and soulful and accessible than registration fees and entry lotteries. Those were the things that Raven said to Caca to bolster his argument. Or perhaps they were the passionate arguments being made by the antimarathoner inside of my own head, the one who was screaming, It’s true! Man didn’t create running and shouldn’t profit from it. God gave this activity to all of us as a spiritual gift, and to treat it as competition or retail opportunity is to cheapen it!


As I jogged ahead with Caca, the two of us discussed the matter further. I had my own opinions, of course, but I told him that I could understand the debate from both sides. In short order, we switched over to lighter topics. I told him I was bilingual, and we began to converse in his native Spanish. He, along with Dos Equis and Blue Tango, spoke English only as a second language.


Bicho? Sabes que significa la palabra bicho?” Caca asked me.


“Bug?” I answered.


“Yes, bug. But it is also like a term of affection in my country.”


I nodded. “Like gordo in my wife’s country. She’s from Argentina, and everyone there is a gordo. Little kids are gordos. Parents are gordos.”


“Yes, but bicho is not like this in all countries,” he explained. “In other places, bicho is this!” He grabbed his crotch and looked at me with an excited and amused face.


“Ha!” I shook my head. “We really do have to be careful, don’t we? So many words have different meanings in different places. Like here in the United States, it’s not very nice to call someone fat. But in Argentina, everyone you love is a gordo. And in Miami, everyone is mi amor, or mami, or papi. Native English speakers just wouldn’t casually say these things to each other, but here in Miami, I’m mi amor to the lady at the gas station or to the woman at the café.”


Caca and I laughed, and I marveled at the fascinating way in which culturally diverse worlds had collided for me lately. The house where my wife and I were staying on our vacation was packed full of diverse Latino energy. In addition to my wife’s best friend from Argentina and that friend’s daughter from a Cuban ex-husband, the residence housed the friend’s fiancée, who was from Venezuela, as well as another young couple who was also from Venezuela. That couple had been pregnant, but on the day of my second Raven Run, health concerns had forced the wife into a rushed delivery.


As Claudia and I had been preparing our clothes and cooler for that day’s beach trip, her cell phone had buzzed. It was the father, Yolseg, saying that his wife was being hurried into delivery because of blood pressure issues. Everyone else from the house was in Europe for the week, so ironically Claudia and I were two of the only people this young couple knew “well” in America at the time. On our way to South Beach that day, we’d stopped off at the hospital to visit Yolseg, who had just witnessed the labor and appeared comically shaken. And on our way home from my Raven Run later that night, we’d returned to the hospital to lend further support. By that time, around 10:00 p.m., the mother had been moved to the intensive care unit because of blood loss suffered during the caesarian section. So not only was the rookie father sleepless with newborn worries, he was also anxious about his wife’s condition.


Claudia and I had offered reassurances as we drove Yolseg back to the house for a quick shower and a bite to eat. “You like pizza,” I asked.


“I love the pizza,” he answered in his thick Venezuelan accent, and while he cleaned up and prepared a bag to take back to the hospital, I baked a Screaming Sicilian brand Mambo Italiano pizza that I’d bought on sale at Publix earlier in the week. Once out of the shower, he dug in like he hadn’t eaten in months. On the night of his first child’s birth, this recent immigrant from Venezuela and I celebrated by sharing piping-hot triangles of frozen pizza while watching the local Miami news. I suspected he’d never forget those late-night slices of pie, and I knew that I wouldn’t, either.



“You know, Blue Tango here broke her arm just last December,” Raven told me as we continued along the paces of his Back & Forth North route. I winced and blew a slight whistle, impressed by the determination of this passionate grandmother jogging next to me. Apparently Blue Tango had won Raven’s 2017 Rookie of the Year award by completing forty-eight runs, and now, just a few months after injury, she was back at it. Her easy pace wasn’t burning up the sand, and she often slowed even further to stretch and rotate her weakened limb, but she was back at it nonetheless.


I admired Blue Tango’s resilience, and as I honed an eye on Raven’s stooped posture, I considered his resilience as well. I thought about how he ran every single day despite excruciating back pain and foot pain and who knows what other kind of pain. I thought about the other aging runners, too, the ones I’d already met who were flirting with seventy or had already passed it: Taxman and Dos Equis and Sleazebuster and Caca.


In addition to being stirred by the inclusiveness of Raven’ running community, I was struck by the age- and injury-defying inspiration of it all. Some of these Raven Runners were case studies in determination, and their stories yelled, No Excuses!


In Raven’s world, there truly seemed to be no excuses when it came to getting out into the fresh air and taking care of oneself with exercise. People here were running well into retirement and through all sorts of bodily nicks and ailments. Within a mile, Dos Equis, a diabetic, would lift his shirt to show me the mechanisms of the insulin pump he’d recently had implanted in his side. He’d underwent that procedure so that he could exercise more freely.


No excuses!


I felt inspired. I wanted to push photos of these older Raven Runners into the faces of younger individuals who didn’t take proper care of themselves (or into the faces of lethargic sorts of any age). I wanted to hold these people up as motivating examples so that the smokers and the television addicts and the needlessly depressed in society would see some light.


No more excuses! I wanted to yell. No more excuses for going a day or a week or a lifetime without exercise! Just come on out to South Beach and get it done with these people for an hour or two. Just give it an honest try. You’ll feel better, believe me!


By mile six, Mo, the ultrarun organizer, was showing clear signs of fatigue. Some combination of the heat, the distance, and the intermittent stretches of running on soft sand seemed to be taking a toll on her. She appeared weakened, but still determined.


“So, do you think you’ll be back for another Raven Run?” I asked her, and she laughed through gritted teeth.


With sweat slicking her face, Mo answered, “Ask me later. After this is finished and I’ve had a couple of beers.”


As it turned out, Mo did finish the run, earning the nickname MoJoe due to her coffee addiction. And when I asked her later that night at Raven’s picnic about the chances of her running again, she seemed slightly uncertain but mostly game.


“I don’t know,” Mo said to me, grinning while holding that long-anticipated beer. “I think I have to do it again. Apparently, I can pass like fifteen hundred people if I come back for another run.”






CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING HERE


Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”

Shelly, Ohio

“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”

Jon - British Columbia, Canada

“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.

"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”

Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt

“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”

Andi, North Carolina

“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”

Alex, California

“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”

Catherine, Virginia

“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”

Erikka, South Dakota

“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”

Kim, California

“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”

Leanne – Ontario, Canada

"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."

Miguel, Atlanta, GA

"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."

Eric, MI

“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

John, WA

“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

Emma, United Kingdom

“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”

Ram, AZ

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A light rain grew stronger as my wife and I checked into our Mid-Beach hotel. Once we were up in our room, I changed into my running shorts, took a small portion of a caffeine pill, and then ate a bit of a granola bar. I reclined on the bed and stretched. I was a little worried, nervous that my legs wouldn’t hold up for eight miles of beach running because I’d overdone it two days earlier by going for an eight-mile morning run and then a four-mile afternoon run (we’d just arrived in Miami to start our vacation the night before, and I’d had some extra adrenaline to work off, I guess).


I was also anxious about running in a group, since I’d never done that before. My runs were always solitary affairs, solo journeys fueled by whatever dreams and demons I harbored that day and by emotionally stirring music from my MP3 player. A few years back, shortly after quitting antianxiety medications, my office job, and cigarettes (in that order), I began running in earnest. A half mile at first, then a 5K, then a 10K, and then a little more. Daily runs became very private and meaningful crucibles for me, challenges with high stakes that only I could truly understand.


My runs became soul-cleansing journeys that I could embark on at any time. And I did embark on them at any time, weather be damned. I ran in scorching summer heat, torrential rains, shrapnel-like sleet, dizzying winds, and even a tornado. My runs were like mini adventure movies that I was writing, directing, acting out, and then storing in the archives of my mind and soul for all time. They were filled with passion, anger, tears, hope, and creative inspiration. Much like the actual Hollywood movies that I enjoyed the most, my runs were, to steal an oft-used phrase from cinema reviewers, “life affirming.”


Maybe I was hoping to find life affirmation on this thing called the Raven Run, although that sounded overly dramatic. Maybe I just wanted to meet the man whose story had resonated with me in such a strange way when I’d picked up the book Running with Raven from my local library a year earlier. Although separated by age and geography and various other life circumstances, this Raven and I seemed to have things in common.


Like Raven, I possessed the soul of both an artist and a runner, a sensitive soul that needed creativity, freedom, and daily shots of inspiration and adrenaline. Raven was passionate about writing, and so was I. He penned country-western ballads, and I composed short stories, spiritual devotions, and novel attempts. Also, we both knew the ineffable value of a workout streak, the emotional connection a person could forge with it. In 2016 I didn’t miss a day of cardio or weightlifting, and Raven, well . . . his ongoing running streak was nearly beyond comprehension.


I was looking forward to meeting this South Beach legend. It seemed like something I needed to do. I was looking forward to running with him, getting to know him a little.

But what about group runs, I wondered. What was the protocol for a group run?


“Do you think it’s okay to listen to music?” I’d asked my wife. “I only saw one other person wearing headphones in the pictures I found online. And how am I supposed to carry on a conversation if I’m out of breath? Everyone talks during these runs, I think. Raven asks questions about your life so that he can give you a nickname if you complete the entire eight miles. How, exactly, am I supposed to talk if I’m out of breath?”


With these and other run-related wonderings swirling through my head, Claudia and I exited the hotel. The sand was slightly damp when we stepped out of our Uber ride and onto the beach entrance near the Fifth Street lifeguard stand, which is the starting point for every Raven Run.


“Is there a bathroom anywhere?” I asked. Aware of the importance of proper hydration, I’d been drinking bottled water all afternoon, and I knew that a certain piper would be calling me shortly to demand payment.


“No,” Claudia answered quickly and with certainty, her tone heavy with spousal authority. “There aren’t any bathrooms on the beach. I remember that from our Miami trip last year.” She seemed a bit harried, perhaps worn down from my ceaseless run-related questions, our quick hotel check-in, and our last-minute debate about whether to take an Uber or a pair of Citi Bikes to the run’s South Beach starting point. “Are you sure this is the lifeguard stand you were talking about?”


“Positive,” I answered, although I didn’t see any other runners within fifty yards of the littoral yellow, white, and blue tower that read Miami Beach. But I wasn’t overly worried. Since it was only 4:20 p.m., we still had ten minutes until Raven’s supposed arrival time (the run begins at 4:30 p.m. every day, until daylight savings springs the clock forward, then the start time is 5:30 p.m.).


“Wait, here comes another guy.”


The newcomer approached the vicinity of the lifeguard stand hesitantly, looking as tentative and uncertain as I felt. He was about my age, wore a visor and running shoes, and was also traveling with his wife (and with his grade-school-aged son). “Here for the run?” we asked each other, and then we made awkward small talk and stretched as our wives began to chat easily, as women—even upon meeting for the first time—are often likely to do. We tossed a small football around with his son, and every sixty seconds or so—from the corners of our hopeful eyes—we scanned up and down the beach, looking for signs of Raven. But nothing.


4:28 p.m. 4:29 p.m. Still nothing.


“I wonder if this will be the day he finally doesn’t show up,” I joked nervously.

But then a familiar-looking figure—a figure I recognized from his book cover—came jogging toward the lifeguard stand, looking a little more like a castaway than a fitness legend. He was sporting well-worn dark jeans and a weathered sable jacket that was splayed open to reveal an imposing bush of black-and-gray chest hair. He wore a headband, tinted glasses, a beard, and a pompadour mullet sort of hairdo that seemed equal parts curious and intimidating when encountered in person.


This man kind of looked like Ben Stiller’s character in the movie Dodgeball, if that character had been older and more mysterious.



Raven chatted with the lifeguard about local goings-on as he removed his jacket and then stripped out of his jeans to reveal running shorts. He was in great shape, surprisingly chiseled for a man approaching seventy. “Looks like we have a couple of new runners here today,” he said as he eyed me and the day’s other fresh arrival. The Raven Run is an open-invitation affair—anyone can participate by simply showing up—and its founder no doubt evaluates newcomers curiously most every day, wondering if they’ll be strong enough to finish his sandy miles.


A few Raven Run regulars arrived (at 4:30 p.m. precisely, it seemed) and after greetings and some casual stretching, Raven gave the okay to begin the day’s main event.

We started jogging at an easy pace in the direction of the South Pointe Pier as Raven officially kicked things off with his daily Roll Call, a ritual where he gives a shout-out to veterans who have already earned their nicknames and then acknowledges the presence of any newcomers. He jovially introduced two men, Hitter and Lobotomy, and two female runners, Poutine and Plantain Lady (all Raven Run veterans are known by their nicknames only). Plantain Lady had her own song, which Raven smoothly and soulfully crooned as a part of her introduction. I can’t recall all of it, but it went something like this:


“She doesn’t run in wind, she doesn’t run in rain, she only eats plantains, sheeee’s Plantaaiin Lady.”


“And from Wisconsin, hoping to complete his first run, we have Mike,” Raven said. I smiled and gave a small wave to our group as I felt the need to urinate creeping up inside of me. No big deal, I told myself. Only 7.8 miles to go. Just don’t think about water too much. But I knew that such advice wouldn’t be easy to follow, given that we were running alongside the Atlantic Ocean.


“So, I’ve got to ask you something,” Lobotomy said as he moved to run alongside me. “About those cheese heads in Wisconsin? Do they come in different sizes, or is it a one-size-fits-all deal?” He gave a good-natured laugh and then waited for my answer with a mischievous-but-warm smirk on his face. Throughout the run, Lobotomy always seemed to be smirking, laughing, and joking. “He sometimes says inappropriate things,” Raven later admitted to me, “but he means well.”


“I honestly have never worn a cheese head,” I told Lobotomy. “I’m familiar with them, but I’ve never worn one. And I really hope that everyone outside of Wisconsin doesn’t get their impressions of our citizenry from watching Packers-game crowds on TV.”


And just like that, I’d engaged in my first bit of group-run conversation. It hadn’t been so difficult after all.


As the run would proceed, conversation and banter would become progressively easier. Baseball trivia would be played (I would throw the other runners a softball question about Wisconsin’s own Bob Ueker), anecdotes about interesting South Beach personalities would be told, and personal stories—some revealingly personal—would be shared. And through it all, Raven would act as the fulcrum of the interaction and the undisputed master of ceremonies.


“You might have read about this in the book, Mike,” Raven would say before launching into a story about Killer or Butcher or some other colorful figure who had become a part of his run over the years. And I would return the conversational volley by asking Raven to follow up on something I had indeed read about in Laura Lee Huttenbach’s 2017 narrative about Raven and his running streak.


“I couldn’t believe the one about Handshoe,” I would say, nudging Raven to tell the story about how this borderline personality from Nazi Germany had once run down South Beach with a dead rat in his mouth. “Now is that the guy that was in prison for drug dealing,” I would ask after some other story, “or was he the bodybuilder?”


Raven talked about all of these unique personalities with humor and fondness, and he talked about himself, too. He lamented, more than once, the absence of a strong father figure in his life. The son of the day’s other newbie runner had tagged along with us, and Raven made sure to remind the boy to cherish this time spent bonding with his father. The man and his wife, both Navy people, had left their home in Hawaii to travel around the continental States in an RV, and they were homeschooling the son, bringing him along on all sorts of adventures (everyone on the Raven Run has a story). “It’s really great that you guys are doing this together,” Raven said. “You’re going to remember this when you’re older.”


As the miles slowly moved into my rearview mirror—Raven runs at an easy pace these days due to chronic pain—and as the endorphins filled my body and the sweat moved down my forehead and back and legs, something opened up inside of me. Something about the ocean air and the easy-but-challenging pace of the run acted as a social lubricant, much the same as alcohol might in another situation. I began to talk to Raven about more personal topics, such as our shared astrological sign (our birthdays are a few days apart in October).


“You know, I never really believed there was much to that stuff,” I admitted, “but then I read something that you said in the book that changed my mind.”


“Oh yeah,” Raven said. “What was that?”


“You said that Libras have a hard time making decisions. That’s me, for sure. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by the prospect of making a decision, even if it isn’t something big.


Sometimes I’ll even need to have a couple of beers before I can make one.”


Raven nodded. “Years ago I simplified things so that I don’t have to make many decisions,” he said. “I never have to decide what I’ll wear on any given day, because I’ll always wear black. And I never have to decide what I’m going to do with a day, because I’m going to go running.”


I laughed, but I knew that within this “joke” of Raven’s there was mostly just truth, a truth about Raven’s life that might strike some people as lamentable but that I found both peace-inducing and inspiring. A person really could simplify life instead of just paying lip service to this fashionable idea. You don’t like complications and making decisions? Then just nestle into a comfortable routine and stick to it.


Stick with what makes you happy: You don’t have to justify it to anyone.

Some people would say that Raven’s story is a bit sad because his every day is enslaved by routine with a capital R—the routine of his run. Those same people might say that Raven’s world is a shrunken one because of how geographically limited it is: He absolutely must be on South Beach every afternoon at a certain time, no exceptions. He can’t travel the world or even travel to a restaurant on the other side of town between the hours of five and eight at night.


But who cares? I say. This man doesn’t need to travel the world to find fulfillment and adventure. Because of what his daily eight-mile run has inspired in others over the years—because of what his dedication and fitness devotion have inspired in others—the world now travels to find him. His Raven Run is adventure. It is fulfillment served with a big slice of humanity. He is constantly meeting new people from all around the globe because they are routinely seeking him out to be a small part of what he has created. And these strangers often turn into quick friends and take Raven on poignant journeys, sharing their life stories in revealing detail as they run alongside him. Who among us has such diversity and human connection in our daily life?


As we continued to move along the mostly packed sand on Raven’s Back and Forth South route (he alternates among four different running routes each week), I continued to surprise myself by talking with candor. I shared with Raven how much running meant to me and why. I talked about how I’d begun using running like medicine once I’d quit the antianxiety pills (Paxil and Xanax) that had been prescribed to me in college. After stopping those medications in my midthirties, I’d suffered a years-long withdrawal that had wreaked havoc on every portion of my body and mind, and running had been like a desperately needed antivenom for the bite of that withdrawal.


Sometimes, it felt as if running could cure anything, everything. When my days looked black and I felt all depths of blue, running could lift me out of the fog. And when I was angry or stressed or disillusioned with life, running could bring me back to a level-headed place of balance and hope. Maybe I didn’t relay all of these thoughts to Raven as passionately or succinctly as I’m remembering them, but the fact that I even touched on any of these private experiences with a group of strangers is a testament to the feelings of camaraderie that develop during the run—and to the aura of trustworthiness and empathy that emanates from Raven.


You feel that you can tell him anything without being judged.


And by the way, you have to tell Raven something about yourself. There is, after all, that matter of a nickname to be taken care of at the end of the run. If you complete the entire eight miles.



“So Mike, what else do you want to tell me about yourself?” Raven asked as we approached the five- or six-mile mark. “I still don’t have anything nailed down for your nickname.”


“Hmm,” I responded, aware that I had to proceed with a bit of caution here. The nicknames bestowed by Raven usually lasted forever, or so I’d read; few changes seemed to be made after the fact. There was that one guy I’d read about, Cadaver (or was it Corpse?), who had successfully petitioned to have his nickname adjusted only to have it reverted to its original form per Raven’s later judgement on the matter.


I thought hard. Given the everlasting state of Raven’s nicknames, I probably didn’t want to talk about the burning need to pee that was still assailing my insides. Since the run’s first miles, that troublesome sensation had moved upward and transformed into a steely knot in my stomach. While it might be a certain badge of honor to be known as the man who survived a persona battle of the bladder for eight miles, I really didn’t want to go down in Raven Run history as Flomax or Piss-tol Pete (I had played a lot of basketball as a youngster, after all).


I’d already told Raven the story of how I’d run through a Wisconsin tornado the previous summer. I’d told him about my singular, orange-and-black calico cat, Benjie, whom my wife and I had driven through a snowstorm to adopt nearly fifteen years ago, and I’d admitted to him, tentatively, that this was my first group run.


“Maybe we could call you Antisocial,” Raven had suggested after hearing that last fact; but I’d let that idea twist in the salty breeze until it mercifully died.


I’d also told Raven about my affection for writing, and I’d shared, when asked about any previous nicknames I might have carried, the fact that my mother used to call me Pokes.


“How did you get that nickname?” Raven had asked. When I answered that I wasn’t really sure, the runner known as Hitter surmised that perhaps it was because I’d been slow to follow my mother’s instructions—so I was “pokey”—as a little one.


“Do you want to stick with that nickname, or would you like something different?” Raven offered.


“A runner isn’t going to want to be known as slow,” Hitter intervened.


“Unless it is one of those nicknames that is the opposite of reality,” Raven said. “Like Curly for a bald guy.”


“Or like Tiny for a big guy,” I added. “But no. I think I’d like something new.”


As the sun began to drop in the South Beach sky, inching closer to the shimmering waters of the Atlantic, I wracked my brain for another personal anecdote, something that could perhaps be forged into a nickname that I could not only live with but fall in love with. Hmm, falling in love . . . love stories.


“I proposed to my wife in a movie theater,” I said. “I did it as the credits rolled down the screen.”


“Oh really?” Raven said, his curiosity peaking a bit. “Was that planned?”


“It was,” I said.


“And what movie was it?”


A Beautiful Mind,” I answered.


“That might be a good one,” Raven said. “We could call you Beautiful Mind.”


Wow, I thought. What a nickname that would be—flattering and regal. I smiled, pleased to imagine myself accepting Raven’s “beautiful” sobriquet in a couple of short miles.

And then, for some inexplicable reason, I added “I’m pretty sure it was A Beautiful Mind. I mean, we were also watching the movie Traffic around that time. But I’m pretty sure.”


“Well, we can’t give you that name if you aren’t totally sure,” Raven said. And I could tell he wasn’t kidding.


Raven takes the nickname process very seriously. I’d read that he hadn’t even granted his ailing and elderly mother a Raven Run nickname when she had been pushed the eight miles in a wheelchair. He loved his mother infinitely, but she hadn’t technically run the run, so no nickname.


And the grade-schooler who so bravely tagged along with his RVing father and the rest of us? He didn’t end up getting a nickname, either, because he’d occasionally lapsed into walking for portions of the eight miles. Raven didn’t deny people nicknames to be surly or difficult, I guessed. For him rules were simply rules, and it would never even cross his mind to bend them for sentimental reasons (even though he is obviously a sentimental person).


“I’m ninety percent certain it was A Beautiful Mind,” I said. “I remember seeing the ticket stub in one of my wife’s scrapbook pages the other day.”


“Maybe we can confirm it with his wife when we get back to the lifeguard stand,” the other newbie runner suggested. But I could tell that Raven’s mind had already moved on.


“I’m too honest,” I said a short while later, after engaging in some private stewing about my lost nickname. “I shouldn’t have said anything about not being sure of the movie title.” But how could I have helped it? The run and the sun were acting not only as social lubricants for me but as truth serums.


Then, as we jogged into the final stretches of our run and those strange truth serums continued to penetrate my defenses, I mentioned something about overthinking everything.


“That’s it!” Raven said with a bit of “Eureka!” in his voice. “We can call you Overworked Mind.”

I thought about it, and I couldn’t object. “My wife would probably find that name very apt,” I admitted. And so it happened, as we returned to the Fifth Street lifeguard stand and twilight descended over South Beach, that I was christened Overworked Mind.


After receiving my nickname, I finally asked the question that had been on my mind all night. “Hey, are there any bathrooms nearby? I’ve had to take a pee since about a quarter mile into the run.”


“Oh yeah, there’s one right there,” Raven said, casually pointing toward a white building just past the nearest beach entrance.


I squinted, processing our whereabouts. We’d run eight miles but were right back where we’d started. We were standing in front of the same beach entrance where my wife had told me, firmly, that no bathrooms existed nearby. I shook my head slightly, remembering that spousal assuredness in her voice.


“You should have said something earlier.” Raven said. He winced in empathy. “Man, I don’t like that feeling.”




With legs stiff from eight miles of slow-and-steady running, and with my stomach mired in the grips of a strange urinary pain, I hobbled toward the bathroom with the expectant heart of a desert traveler stumbling to reach an oasis. But alas, the relief at the urinal wasn’t what I’d imagined. Due to either dehydration or the possibility that my bladder was now spiting me for having ignored its desperate pleas over the past couple of hours, I could barely squeeze out a drop.


Resolved to put my disappointing bathroom trip behind me, I met back up with Raven, my wife, and the other new runner and his family by the lifeguard stand (the Raven Run regulars had already dispersed for the evening). In a postrun ritual that no doubt happens most every day, we broke out the cell phones and took pictures to memorialize our experience. We got shots in front of the famous Fifth Street lifeguard stand—the alpha and omega of each day’s running adventure—and then we walked to the other side of the beach entrance and took a couple more selfies as the nightlife began to hum on Ocean Drive.


As Raven got ready to head back to his apartment—when it was just my wife and I alone with him—I attempted to give him a copy of the antistress devotional book I’d authored. During the run, we’d talked about my writing dreams and the projects I’d worked on recently, and I wanted to leave him with something special to remember me by.

Raven squinted to read the cover of my book. “The Lovely Grind: Spiritual Inspiration for Workdays,” he said, sounding a little confused, or maybe a little panicky.


“It’s my book,” I explained. “I just wanted to give you a copy.”


My wife held the paperback out for him, but he hesitated to take it.


“Or not,” I said, sensing that something was amiss with this gift-giving attempt. I felt a little hurt—and embarrassed, actually—but then I remembered a few more things that I’d read about Raven. “Maybe he doesn’t have room for it,” I told my wife.


“I don’t,” Raven said quickly. “I can’t bring any new things into my apartment.” His eyes were apologetic. “I’m sorry, I can’t. And besides, I wouldn’t read it. I just have so much else going on, I wouldn’t have the time to read it.”


“That’s okay,” I said, knowing that once again Raven was simply being himself, simply being honest.


He wasn’t blithely dismissing my gift because he was a thoughtless individual. He wasn’t being mean or rude or insensitive (in the past he’d been hurt by people who were all those things, or so I’d read, and I was pretty sure that he took special care not to display such unkindness to others). I guessed he really couldn’t bring my book—or any other new mementos or treasures—into his apartment. In Running with Raven, I’d read about the sentimental, pack-ratting tendencies that had caused him troubles in the past, troubles that had included mold and that had led to an interventional cleanup visit from a friend who was a fellow Raven Runner.


Perhaps Raven had promised himself—and/or the friend who had helped him to clean and organize his living space—that items would only flow out of the apartment from now on. Not into it. Who was I to meddle with such a resolution if there had been one.


“Okay, well, thanks for the run,” I said, feeling truly grateful.


I was grateful that I’d completed Raven’s eight miles—glad that I’d fought through pains and nerves and doubts and had simply gotten my ass down to South Beach and done it. I now had an experience that I’d truly never forget, and I recognized the importance of that almost immediately. I was also grateful to God, and to Raven: to God because He had given us human beings the gift of running—that always accessible portal to quick renewal and inspiration—and to Raven because he had given us runners something transcendent to be a part of.


I, along with so many other unique personalities from all over the world, now had my own tiny page in the running history books thanks to Raven.


“You’re welcome,” Raven said. “Make sure you come again.”


As Raven walked away, I drank my orange Powerade Zero and took off my damp socks and overheated shoes. I hopped up onto the short stone wall across from those bathrooms that will forever live in infamy for me, and I reclined, feeling peaceful and proud.


I took a deep breath of the warm Miami air, and I wondered when I’d return for another run with Raven.





CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING HERE


Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”

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“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”

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“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.

"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”

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“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”

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“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”

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“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”

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“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”

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“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”

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"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."

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"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."

Eric, MI

“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

John, WA

“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

Emma, United Kingdom

“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”

Ram, AZ

THE LOVELY GRIND: SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION FOR WORKDAYS offers 90 devotional messages that will help you find rest, renewal, and perspective for your workweek and beyond.

WHAT IS YOUR STRUGGLE RIGHT NOW? Difficult coworkers? A lack of professional fulfillment? Financial concerns? Balancing work with the rest of your life?

By discussing a variety of professional stressors and life challenges and then offering spiritual and thought-provoking perspective on each, THE LOVELY GRIND gives readers a truly unique devotional experience.

Get a copy for yourself and don't forget to order one for a friend or family member who has been feeling fatigued or stressed out lately. Come join THE LOVELY GRIND & start living lovely!

CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING

If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.



“It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey to get there.”


Such a phrase is probably familiar to you and no doubt a bit cliché at this point, but as with most cliches it carries a good amount of truth. When we set out to travel to a “new place,” either physically or spiritually, we discover things about ourselves and the world. We expand our minds, and we grow important aspects of our wellness such as self-confidence, fulfillment, and perspective.


We stagnate by sitting still, but we grow stronger and more learned by moving.

When I decided to embark on a “fitness journey” in my mid- to late-thirties, little did I know where it would lead me. At the time I was a bit of a physical and mental/emotional wreck from years of taking prescription medications and from the withdrawal those medications had caused me. Here, for example, is a journal entry of mine from January of 2014, my last full month of tapering Xanax.


Friday, January 17, 2014:


Yesterday the physical pain was almost unbearable in the evening. Leg, back, neck, head, and abdominal pain made it feel as if I had been in a terrible accident. Today has been mental: unable to think straight, focus, speak with people for very long, feel as if going insane, unable to get out of head for a larger perspective, almost out of breath when trying to think. The feeling of unreality is bad as well. The feeling of not being able to do learn a new task, hold a new thought or maintain a normal conversation without someone knowing something is wrong is pretty bad.


As you can see, I wasn’t exactly feeling in top form.


So my fitness journey began with simple thoughts and simple goals. I simply wanted to lose some weight, regain some muscle, and find some confirmation that I was indeed still alive and able to function physically and cognitively.


I’d always been athletic as a youngster, and I was determined to get back in touch with that piece of my identity—somehow, someway. I knew I was still there somewhere, the “in shape Mike”—somewhere beneath the Paxil mush, the Paxil guilt, the Xanax fear, the Xanax pains, and the general fog. I just wanted to pull old me up from the depths, and maybe discover a “new me” along the way.


But at first, it was just one step at a time. It was just simple exercising to remind myself that I was alive and sane when I otherwise felt like a corpse or a basket case.


I forced myself to walk in the park. And then I forced myself to walk around the neighborhood with earbuds and inspiring music. I forced myself to do sit-ups on a battered old Ab Roller (anyone remember those?), and I occasionally shadow-boxed with music in the bathroom when the weather was cold outside (not unusual in Wisconsin).

I would do light weights at home or at a nearby gym, and occasionally, when I was alone in the office on Friday afternoons at work, I would even drop down and do pushups just outside of my cubicle. Again, I needed comforting reminders that I was alive.



I quit Paxil in late 2012 and Xanax in early 2014, and by 2015 I was seeing improvements, both in how I looked and felt. My exercise goals were still pretty modest—pushup and sit-up goals, along with some light weights or walking a few times a week.


But by the end of 2015 I did something I truly never envisioned myself doing. I signed my wife and I up for a local 5K run. We prepared for the event by going to parks and walking/jogging, and even though I had to stop twice to walk during the 3.11 miles, I felt really proud after completing the event.


And somehow, in the preparation for that 5K (or maybe somewhere in the walks, pushups, or sit-ups before that) the seeds of running had been planted. Who would have guessed?

Back when I was still only walking for exercise, one of my younger brothers said to me: “You know, at some point you’re probably going to want to start running. You’ll want to get the heart rate up a little higher, and you’re going to get bored with just walking.”

I disagreed.


“I’ve never liked running just for the sake of running,” I said. I had always played a lot of basketball growing up, all through grade school and high school, and the running was peripheral to the thrill of the game. It was done in service of the game. You didn’t even know you were doing it.


But running three or four or five miles at a time, just for the sake of running? Not only did it seem impossible, it seemed … well, okay, it seemed impossible. Impossible for the lungs, impossible for the legs, impossible for the mind. Impossible to get motivated or stay interested. Impossible to understand why anyone would do it.


However, by 2016 I was running regular 5Ks and 10Ks (no walk breaks anymore) and I was timing myself while doing so (I was no Usain Bolt, but I liked to track my progress). Also, from late 2015 into 2016 I resolved to work out every day for a year, no days off. I felt that such a resolution would help to improve sleep, energy, mood, productivity, and self-confidence. I followed-through on that resolution, and the new commitment to "everyday" fitness did improve my wellness while allowing me to prove something important to myself.


I didn’t sign-up for any more formal running events (too expensive and too early in the morning), and I instead opted to find my own routes, at parks or by simply pulling over on the side of the road and running through random neighborhoods. Such freedom there is in that sort of running: No money needed, no predetermined route or sign-up sheet, and no one else as organizer or overseer of your adventure.


It’s just you and your world. You just put on your shorts and shoes and then drive until you decide to pull the car over.


You then slip on the sunglasses, set the fitness watch to start, and see where your legs take you. And in an hour or whatever, you feel like you’ve completed a true journey and become a new person. The mind is clearer and more relaxed, the soul has found peace, and inspiration is again coursing through the veins.


Exercise is never just about achieving some weight on the scale or looking good for a picture (although there is nothing wrong with those motivating factors). It is about finding yourself, loving yourself, getting in touch with your body and mind, and getting closer to God. It is about proving something to yourself, caring for yourself, and finding the inspiration and energy you need to live your best life.


Exercise, like healing, is never simply physical. It is mental, emotional, and yes spiritual.



In 2017, shortly after getting back from a vacation in Miami, I stumbled upon a book at my local library. It was about a man named “Raven” who lived in Miami Beach and had one hell of a running streak going on. He’d run eight miles on Miami Beach every day since 1975, and the really crazy part was anyone could join him on any given day. You just had to show up at the 5th Street Lifeguard Stand at 5:30 p.m. to be a part of the the day’s group. And if you completed the run, eight miles without walking—you got a nickname and became an official Raven Runner.


I couldn’t believe that I’d just been in Miami and hadn’t known about any of this. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t had the opportunity to run with the Raven. I vowed that if I got back to Miami the following year, that would change.


And it did.


In the winter of 2018 my wife and I were back in Miami, and although I was a bit nervous about doing it, I got myself down to Miami Beach, found the 5th Street Lifeguard Stand, and waited. Eventually Raven, and others, showed up, and even though I had to go to the bathroom pretty much the whole time, I finished the eight miles without stopping. And over the next few years, I’d run multiple times with Raven, and so would my wife and my 70-year-old mother (my Dad, after knee surgery, walked along).


Back in 2013, if you would have told me that I’d not only be running eight miles at a pop, but enjoying it and doing it with “strangers” on the beach in Miami, I would have told you to put down the pipe. Stop talking nonsense.


But again, life is about the journey. And so is physical fitness and exercise.


In the next couple of posts I’m going to share more about a couple of my runs with Raven—the scenery, the people, the stories, and the emotions—and I hope you find it interesting to come along with me.


I also hope that you’ll begin—or continue along—your own fitness journey this year. Get emotional about it. Get passionate about it. Get invested in it. Challenge yourself and find yourself. See how you grow and where it takes you.


Until next time,


Michael




CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING HERE


Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”

Shelly, Ohio

“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”

Jon - British Columbia, Canada

“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.

"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”

Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt

“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”

Andi, North Carolina

“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”

Alex, California

“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”

Catherine, Virginia

“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”

Erikka, South Dakota

“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”

Kim, California

“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”

Leanne – Ontario, Canada

"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."

Miguel, Atlanta, GA

"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."

Eric, MI

“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

John, WA

“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”

Emma, United Kingdom

“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”

Ram, AZ

THE LOVELY GRIND: SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION FOR WORKDAYS offers 90 devotional messages that will help you find rest, renewal, and perspective for your workweek and beyond.

WHAT IS YOUR STRUGGLE RIGHT NOW? Difficult coworkers? A lack of professional fulfillment? Financial concerns? Balancing work with the rest of your life?

By discussing a variety of professional stressors and life challenges and then offering spiritual and thought-provoking perspective on each, THE LOVELY GRIND gives readers a truly unique devotional experience.

Get a copy for yourself and don't forget to order one for a friend or family member who has been feeling fatigued or stressed out lately. Come join THE LOVELY GRIND & start living lovely!

CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING

If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.

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