The Rewards of BJJ Are Hard Won, Because They're Supposed to Be
BJJ Saved My Life Is Not Just a Cliche For This Practitioner
BJJ is a huge part of my recovery. I spent the last few days trying to come up with what I imagined would be a much cleverer way of saying that but I've learned to let go of grand expectations over the past two years.
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I am a thirty-three-year-old white belt closing in on the end of his first full year of training. I recently competed for the first time in a masters gi tournament and managed to win first place in my division. I was full of nerves leading up to the first of three matches. Fear was trying to convince me that my value as a player was about to be determined by whether I won or lost. It almost planted those terrible seeds of doubt in my mind before I even stepped foot on the mat. Then I remembered to apply some of what I've learned over the last two years of my life.
Prior to the fall of 2016 I had spent the majority of ten full years stuck in the grips of active addiction. A way of life that wanted me literally dead but would settle for a long and slow spiritual death instead. I wanted to get clean for years before I finally did but fear kept me quiet. It kept me convinced that I couldn't tell those closest to me about the shape that I was truly in. That if I did ask for help, I would be ruthlessly judged and disowned by my fiancé, family, friends, coworkers and employer. I was certain that coming clean and admitting that I needed help would cost me everything that I had been neglecting but gave my life value and purpose in the first place.
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In complete desperation I finally admitted that I needed help. All my fears of rejection were swiftly proven foolish because everyone just wanted to help. I got into treatment and started down a new path that proves to be a journey with no finish line. The beginning months were painful, uncomfortable, very frustrating at times, but also filled with constant reward and moments of growth that filled me with motivation and determination. Sound familiar?
Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that life could get so good. My family supported and loved me, my fiancé is now my incredible wife and mother to our one-year old son. Friends showed me they loved and cared about me. One in particular suggested has further enhanced and enriched my life in ways I never thought possible previously. He suggested I come train once and meet the team at his academy. That day, another endless journey began.
The parallels between recovery and BJJ are everywhere. I've had to accept that it will be not be easy. In fact, it's one of the more difficult things someone can begin doing. The difficult and painful days are where some of the most potent growth can happen if I continue to be willing to do the work. I've had to put aside my ego in the same way as we learn to in recovery. That if I stay open minded, I will realize that I am surrounded by people that have already been through the roadblocks I find myself at and are more than willing to share with me what has worked for them. I just have to stay humble and ask. Also, when I'm training, I can't be focused on the mistakes I've already made or try to plan too far into the uncertain future because I'll end up getting strangled in the present. It's a full-on meditation and I truly cherish it.
I could go on and on about the similarities between my jiu jitsu and my recovery but I feel like I've already let this get a bit long. The single biggest similarity they share is that today I can't imagine my life without either one. The rewards are hard won because they have to be. There are no shortcuts to genuine progression and growth. I fully trust the process. Again, these are paths that I mean to stay on for the rest of my life. I'm so grateful for them both. Thank you, professor. This gift is priceless.