When I finally sobered up over 10 years ago it was rough going at first. Everything and everyone I had had in my life that defined who I thought I was had gone away – the children, wife, career, house, money etc. After God had begun recreating my life on a new basis focused on helping others, those relationships and things began to trickle back in. In early 2009 my son Brookes came back to live with me and Marsha. He was around 14 at the time and getting adjusted to Texas, a new school and having sober parents finally! We decided to enroll him in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school so he could develop a hobby. I still didn’t have my license to practice veterinary medicine yet and was working as a veterinary technician. Marsha encouraged me to go with Brookes to allay any anxiety he might be feeling. So I went! Now along with me I brought a whole slew of old belief systems like “I am not an athlete” and “I only participate in things I am familiar with” and “If these people knew who I really was they would not welcome me here” etc.
Brookes and I started our journey down the path of perpetual learning called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (or BJJ). At first I just got demolished. I would later learn that routinely happens in the beginning. Through a series of events and other outside interests that tend to happen in high school Brookes eventually became involved in other things. But I was hooked! I have never stopped since. There have been many injuries, many times I have felt discouraged and sometimes where I had to just take some time off but the benefits have always outweighed the drawbacks.
In my experience exercise is an important part of the Unity part of recovery. Taking care of the body God gave you is an important spiritual principle. Now there are many forms of exercise that don’t involve getting choked or having your joints locked😃 And the important thing is that you do SOMETHING. In my journey of BJJ what I have received from participating is something I never would have imagined in early 2009 when I started.
There is a sense of camaraderie at most BJJ gyms. People are friendly! They are not out to hurt you. Egos must be checked at the door. You will lose. You will be in uncomfortable positions. At the beginning you most likely will feel claustrophobic. Many of the same feelings I experienced in early recovery!
I have even run across others in recovery on the mats and have been able to share my experience with other BJJ practitioners that have struggled with addiction or alcoholism.
There are many parallels between practicing a program of recovery based in spiritual principles and BJJ. All I really ever wanted even when I was using or drinking is a sense of purpose and direction; a connectedness with Power. The big book tells me that where I find that Power is NOW, in the present moment. And I tell you when someone bigger or better than me is on top of me and whipping my ass, I am not worried about the traffic on Mopac, or how the kids are disrespecting me lately or how sponsees are not doing it right. I am 100% in the present moment which is the only place I have ever found God!
Intuition plays a vital role in my life the longer I am sober. No better place to use intuition or sensitivity than on the mats. If I get into the mechanics of now I am going to do this then my partner will do this and try to choreograph or “run the show” it never works out well. In BJJ as in life, I must use intuitive thought which comes from some place other than the thinking mind. In other words I get out of the way and let myself be guided. The other similarity is in repetition and consistency. Just like in my spiritual life if I am inconsistent with practicing spiritual principles in my life it is going to be difficult to stay happy AND sober at the same time! If I do not train regularly the same thing happens and I can tell the difference on the mats.
Recently I have had the distinct honor and privilege to begin assisting my coach, Sean Cooper, in training the residents at Spearhead Lodge in weekly BJJ sessions.
They love it! I can see the light in their eyes and spirit when they finally understand a technique just like I can see when working knee to knee with another alcoholic or addict. In fact one resident said “I wouldn’t mind getting a fourth month if we are going to do this weekly!!” My hope and prayer for these residents and future residents is that they find their sense of purpose and direction and get to expand their program of action through the help of BJJ. And similarly for those that continue BJJ, that their recovery program helps them become better practitioners of the art.
– Jonathan Stone