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  • Writer's pictureMike and Glenn

Riding the Ferris Wheel – of Life

The original "Ferris" wheel was designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr (1859-96), an American bridge and tunnel engineer, and was erected for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, Illinois, USA at a cost of roughly $400 thousand USD.

Ain Dubai is the world's biggest and tallest Ferris wheel, located on Bluewaters Island, near the Dubai Marina in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The all-in cost for the wheel was approximately $200 million USD.

Ferris wheels have come a long way in scope and cost, but their simplicity and structure have remained the same.

The physics of the Ferris wheel include acceleration, force, gravity, mass, inertia, and centripetal acceleration. The Ferris wheel spins upwards with the help of gears and motors while gravity pulls the wheel back down again. This cycle continues for the duration of the ride.

Like the Ferris wheel, our ride through recovery has a natural cycle:

The Bottom

It all starts at the bottom. That’s right, the dirty, smelly non-attractive yet necessary beginning. There is a price to pay for entrance; at first look, there is little appeal. You may remember what the top looks like, which doesn’t compare to the spilled oil, debris, and dried vomit from a past rider. It is not glamorous – it is dark and dingy.

But, you get on the ride because there is a promise of better things to come – and a motor. You climb into the seat (pod or capsule), strap up and prepare for departure. The anticipation grows, as does the aroma of diesel fuel. The view hasn’t changed, but the conditions have.

The Ascend

The motor-driven gears begin to grind, and you begin to climb. A slight breeze arises, and odors begin to dissipate. As you ascend, the view improves slightly, and the smells evaporate to the wind. There is not much for you to do but follow the plan; the operator controls the movement and you enjoy the jerk of the ride.

There are starts and stops. That is good on the way up, as with each pause, there is a new perspective. Senses are alerted to the wind speed, and disparate lights begin to take on an artistic rendering. Memories of the bottom start to fade and expectations start to build.

The Middle

The rewards are now obvious. Halfway to paradise and the memory of the bottom slowly fades. Above ground level, traffic flow makes sense. Lights creäte patterns. A smile emerges as peace sets in. Acknowledging the new-found joy, the price of admission seems fair.

The Top

W.O.W. – the view! The heavenly feeling rockets through each atom where even the toes experience bliss. What used to be so visible and in face is now a series of unconnected dots. There is an undefinable aroma of gust. One feels weightless and controllably vulnerable. You sit, for a nanosecond, admiring the machine’s accomplishment and the raw reward it delivered.

The Descend

Not-so-subtle waves of disappointment begin to spray internally. The smile fades. The breeze ever-so-slightly weakens. The noise activates at an ever-growing pace. Dots start to form frames of reality. The scent of debris is accompanied by shadows of darkness.

The Return to theBottom

We return to familiar ground with the knowledge of what was – and what could be again. We smell the diesel and see the dirt, but we know what awaits us if we stay on the ride.

We know that the Ferriss wheel keeps going. Sometimes we are at the bottom. Sometimes in the middle, and we know that there will be time at the top.

The bottom makes us appreciate the top. The top makes us understand the bottom. The middle is where we will spend most of our time.

The Ferris wheel keeps going – and so does life in recovery.

There will be good times and bad times. Bad spells and spectacular views. Sometimes all in the same day.

By the way, pick somebody to jump in the seat next to you - life is better shared. (more on that later)

See you on the ride “of life”


Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a podcast titled “#E16 Living Sober - Riding the "Ferris wheel"”…The podcast dropped on 07/21/2021. Click here to hear the podcast.


Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.


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