How BJJ kept me sober - By Jonathan Latt
BJJ as an important component of your sobriety
I’m in my seventh year of sobriety or recover or whatever you want to call it. I found BJJ during my fourth year of not being an absolute train wreck.
I had taken my first class, it did not go well and I thought BJJ was just not something for me. I did not like it at all and decided to never go back. I was at a gym that offered things aside from BJJ so I just went back to what I was doing before.
It was about two weeks after my first class that I stumbled across a clip from the Joe Rogan podcast. In the clip he was talking with either Joey Diaz or Eddie Bravo (can’t quite remember) about the psychological benefits of BJJ.
Joe brought up that one of the things he really appreciated about Jiu Jitsu was how it worked wonders on keeping his ego stripped. How rolling was never the same twice and you were going to lose to people you probably didn’t think you’d lose to. That BJJ almost demanded leaving one's ego at the door and butt hurt feelings on the mat. Basically don’t take your pride into class and leave your hurt pride on the mat to be cleaned away after class.
I’m definitely paraphrasing here as this was a few years ago, but that was the basic gist of it.
This instantly struck a chord with me and I re watched the video from the beginning and then a couple more times.
Being an alcoholic in recovery was and is in many ways still new to me. But I do know that most alcoholics (though I am only speaking for myself here) and drug addicts suffer from both low self esteem and just massive, delusional egos. Yeah, it’s a problem.
The ego will play tricks on you. You deserve that drink. It’s just one line of coke you can handle it. Maybe everybody else is the problem, maybe they don’t know how to have fun. One, I’ll have just one drink. I've got this under control.
The almost innumerable little voices that tell you that you DESERVE what you probably do not. You’re entitled to something, justice, love, money, victory of some kind. All of this can lead to a relapse.
I did not want to relapse. I do not want to relapse. And I know I, more than most and for no valid reason, need to keep my ego in check.
So having listened to Joprah (joe rogan and oprah?), I decided I’d give BJJ another shot. I went back and was paired up with a young girl who I probably outweighed by ninety pounds. I was brand new, but not so unaware of gym culture that I wanted to be the adult who smashes a girl (seriously not a young lady a girl) because he’s stronger and heavier than her so I rolled as controlled and with as little strength as a new spazzy white belt can roll.
The little monster went to town on me. Seriously, it was like fighting a spider monkey hopped up on pixie sticks. I think at one point she literally ran up my arm to take my back and rear naked me.
And it happened again, and again and again. A forty-seven almost forty-eight year old man got his butt handed to him by a little girl.
I couldn’t stop laughing. I got it. Everything Rogan had said I understood. I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed, I really didn’t feel anything other than gratitude. My ego felt truly in check.
That was the moment that kept me coming back, keeping my ego in check hell, stripped down to the primer really. Then of course what happened to me is the same thing that happens to everybody else. It got under my skin, in my blood, the need to roll for my own reasons multiple times a week.
But always at the forefront of my mind is that while I do BJJ for many good reasons, mostly physical, the fact that it keeps me humble, that it keeps me in check is singularly important to my sobriety.
Now, no one can do sobriety the same way. I can’t do mine the way you do yours and vice versa.
However, if you are in recovery and haven’t tried BJJ, especially if you’re newly into your sobriety, it is something you should seriously consider.
It may work for you, it may not but I think if you give it a try and stick with it you’ll find that it will enhance the important routines we need when on the path of no drinkies.
At the very least you could end up with such terrible arthritis in your hands you’ll be unable to open a bottle of whiskey.
So you know..win/win.
Jonathan Latt is currently a practicing Blue Belt Under Abel Villarreal of “Califa Brazilian Jitsu" in Southern California.