My good friend Mike loves Mixed Martial Arts. I hate violence, it scares me, but several times I have reluctantly joined him to watch a fight. Mike practices several forms of martial arts, so for him watching the fights is fun and exciting. He gets to see his MMA heroes in action. What I get is an anxiety attack and the wish that it will end quickly. The other night we were watching a fight with Conor McGregor who is loud, brash, taunting and obnoxious but a great scrappy fighter and fun to watch. For me, the enjoyment is in the press conferences before and after the fights. Conor spouts off about himself and his intense greatness and tries (usually successfully) to taunt his opponent into a blind rage. But I also enjoy watching his antics in the ring - as long as no eyes are poked out and nobody’s ear gets bitten off and spit out onto the bloody mats.
The other day we watched a fight where Conor knocked out his opponent in 2 minutes. 2 minutes! Mike and his friends were furious at the brevity of the "main event" but I felt this enormous sense of relief. I was flooded with it. And I had a sudden thought that a fight like that is exactly what I wish for everyone who enters the rooms of any 12 step program. That they would come in completely knocked out, done, unable to get up, finished, just like Conor's opponent. That fight was over for him. Forever.
I feel joy when I see a newcomer finally admit total defeat and get out of the deadly ring of active addiction. I know that we will help them up, bring them to their corner, clean and dress their ghastly wounds. Then we can walk out of that ring together to really start living and stop getting battered around and beaten up by our drug of choice.
But often we’re tempted to leave the comfort of our corner. We leave the relief we felt from having admitted defeat. We leave that peaceful place and step back into the chaos and destruction. And every time we step back into the ring we get the crap beaten out of us. I’ve seen people who come into the rooms and never leave - the gloves come off and stay off. So why do some get pulled back in? For me It was the adrenaline rush of being back in the ring, the sheer thrill of it. Unfortunately that was almost immediately followed by cravings and obsession - and to continue the fighting analogy, black eyes, a bloody nose, a concussion, and the eventual agony, humiliation and despair of a knockout.
But many fights endure until a TKO has to be called. A technical knockout. When the fighter refuses to admit they’ve met their match. The pathetic limp bloodied wretch, slumped on to the ropes, unable to raise his head and yet trying to stand. We've all seen that - at the fights or in the rooms. "My god" we cry. "Havent you had enough?" Because we can't take much more of watching the fighters sad and slow demolition. Finally, at the professional fights, a higher power (in the form of a referee) steps in to say that enough is enough. You will not go on. Only then does the fighting stop.
So put down the gloves. There is nothing waiting for you in the ring except a profound and painful beating and quite possibly your death. This is a fight that cannot be won. Don’t waste any more time creeping sneakily back into the ring. Listen to your own inner referee call the TKO, and admit that it’s over. There’s a life waiting for you outside of that ring.
And it’s amazing.