“It doesn't matter what happened in the minutes before; there are the seven in front of us.” Richard Jensen, national wrestling champion
We don't know much about the sport of wrestling. But, we do know that in the end, it is mano a mano, one warrior vs another, an intense dual until one is declared the victor. We have witnessed that these short bouts are extreme, with a fight-to-the-death atmosphere.
Uncovered cave drawings date the origin of wrestling back 15,000 years, the Bible's Old Testament makes numerous wrestling references, and a ton of evidence supports the sport's existence over thousands of years. In our modern era, the first U.S.-organized national wrestling tournament took place in 1888 and has been represented at every Olympic Games since 1904.
Widely recognized as an individual sport, organized wrestling is also a team sport that relies on individual results added to the overall competition.
For this post, we take a wrestler’s approach to the opponent called addiction. We look to the teachings of preparation, execution, and camaraderie the sport offers. We glean fragments of inspiration from the sport's historic teachings that can be applied to recovery.
The distinctiveness of wrestling is that success heavily depends on both physical and psychological conditioning. Strategy, speed, strength, and stamina separate the combatants in the ring. There are seven minutes given to compete. There is no tie as the pair will continue until a victor emerges. Points will be awarded and assigned to the team for overall competition; tight, transparent, and technically strong teams advance in matches with a definite advantage.
So much happens before the seven minutes that matters to the fighter. As they enter the ring, years of experience and months of training enter with them. They are mentally prepared. They have studied the sport and have been in training (formal and informal) for the exact moment.
The rejections, fears, denials, doubts, worries, refusals, stigmas, guilts, shame, humiliations, and disgraces of a lifetime climb into that circle with them; these feelings become the wrestler's greatest opponent on the mat. Conquering them is more than half the battle, we are told.
Match time is not the time to start the process of managing our history. This development work needs to happen in the gym before the bout. Coaches and teammates support this activity if we allow them in - If it is important enough for us.
In recovery, we come to terms with the experiences and associated emotions that have shaped us through working the 12 steps as directed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). That is our playbook, our training guide. We do this before we enter a battle with alcohol; that occasion or trigger that historically beat us.
We look to our teammates, those in sobriety school (the fellowship of AA), and coaches (sponsors) to gain insight into how they beat their opponents and won the battle of mind and body.
The battles we face today are real. In most cases, we have less than seven minutes to size up our opponent and quickly begin to deploy the techniques we have learned and practiced. We can flee or fight but must stay in the ring lest we lose points. We must change our strategies to keep up with our adversary's moves; we must make that call, replay that tape, take on service work, or say a prayer. We must be smart. We must want it more than the rival. We must make it through the seven minutes to have a chance for victory. We must win one minute at a time.
Historically, wrestlers are separated by weight classes. There are no David versus Goliath matchups. We are paired with a foe we can compete with. Recovery plays by the same rules: our antagonist is but a sip or a swallow. Liquor can't force itself down our mouths. The pill can not be swallowed if it never passes our lips.
We lost so many battles over the years to this slick enemy. The past doesn’t matter, as it is the next seven minutes that counts. We will use our newfound strategies, speed, and strengths to out-stamina the snake. We will frequent the gym constantly to improve our physical and psychological conditioning. We will work with others who have proven successes and take to heart and practice what our coaches and sponsors have to offer.
The gladiators fought to the point of death. That is the battle that lies in wait for us; we lose, we die. Maybe the reader of this post is not there. We understand. But, for many of us, we had gotten our ass kicked so badly that we almost died. We beg all readers to stay clear of the edge. Don’t allow yourselves to get pinned – when victory is but a decision away.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a sober.coffee podcast onus Drop titled " “It’s never too late” - Richard Jensen, recovered alcoholic” The session dropped on 11/21/2021….Click here to hear the podcast.
For more information on Richard Jensen, visit: http://www.beachampioninlife.com/
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.