A strong support network is essential to a sustainable recovery. Having someone to call on in a moment of need can be a huge boost for you. That means some frank discussions with friends and family about what you need from them when you are hurting. These days my support network is strong, large, and sophisticated. I have multiple people I can call if I am in trouble, but that did not happen overnight. It took me a lot of time to develop, and there were many painful admissions along the way. If you are persistent in creating your network you lay the foundation for a successful recovery.
I started developing a support network before I knew what to call it. My friend Ben was the first person I recognized as a part of my support network, but I had been building my network since I was fifteen without even realizing it.
Shortly after my fifteenth birthday I started training Muay Thai Kickboxing and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at Tiger Academy of Martial Arts in Roswell, Georgia. This place became a refuge from my tortuous mind. I did not know it at the time, but this martial arts academy would keep me from killing myself when I was in my darkest moments as a young teenager.
At first going to the academy was just a good, physical hobby for a young boy to go let off some steam and get good exercise and life instruction in the process. At the academy I became good friends with one of the younger instructors named Bret. Bret saw that I was serious about training hard and improving my skills at kickboxing and jiu-jitsu so he took me under his wing. I signed up for private lessons with him and he worked my butt off. I still feel sore when I think back at the workouts he put me through. Endless kicking drills and squats and pushups awaited me at every lesson. He never let off because he knew that I could take the hard work. Through those difficult training sessions we forged a stronger bond and he became my adopted older brother.
Bret told me all of the mistakes he made in his life from experimenting with drugs and alcohol to not applying himself well in school. He told me these things so I would not repeat his mistakes. Through his actions at the academy he showed me the importance of working and training hard. He put one hundred percent of himself into his workouts and into his job as an instructor at the academy. In short, Bret was the most influential man in my life after my father.
With all of this training I started to get pretty good at both kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. Eventually my physical hobby turned into a full-fledged passion. When my parents gave me the keys to my Jeep all I would drive to was school and the academy. Every day except Sundays for two years I drove to school and waited there, a ghost amongst my classmates waiting for the final bell to ring before I could drive back to the academy where I was among people that liked me. At eighteen my depression worsened and I began planning my catastrophic car accident, but the reason it took me so many months to finally commit to it was Tiger Academy.
In that academy I felt wanted. I felt a part of something special. I felt good.
I wanted to hold onto those feelings for my entire day, but my depression would rear it’s ugly head as soon as I started the drive home after the last workout. For the better part of that year I would be incredibly depressed while at home and at school, but I was downright lively at Tiger. I could talk to anyone there, and I would introduce myself to anyone who walked through the door. I barely spoke at school, but at Tiger I was in my element. Surrounded by good people who all shared my passion for training hard. Looking back, those moments at Tiger carried me through the worst of my depressed episodes. If I had a hard day at school I would go to the academy and train until my body couldn’t move.
I trained like an animal. I poured myself into every workout as if my life depended on it. Which, in a way, it did. If I didn’t have Tiger and my adopted brother Bret, I am certain I would have tried to kill myself. I would have wrecked my car, or tried to overdose, or attempted to hang myself. Tiger was my medication before I ever knew I needed medication. Every day there forestalled my plans of dying and kept my depression at bay. Besides the endorphins that coursed through my veins after a workout, Tiger was a support network that protected me from my dark thoughts. I use Tiger Academy as an example of a support structure because it helped me, but at the time I had no idea I was using it to keep myself sane.
You need a support network if you are going to have a sustainable recovery, but it is up to you to create and maintain it. I used Tiger Academy as an example, but it has been years since I last trained there. Nowadays I have a support network of my own making, and you can make one too.