Good Morning, Crisis Hotline. Can I help you?
Eh, I need to talk to someone (pause).
What is the nature of your problem sir?
Well, I think that I lost my center.
OK, Please hold on, I will connect you to a counselor right away.
Hello. This is Jo. How can I help you?
Jo, my name is Danny and I think I’m an aikido-holic!
I see. What is happening in your life to make you think you are an aikido-holic?
Well, recently I have been doing nikkyo wrist stretches compulsively, you know, while sitting in my office at work, or at the dinner table. I have even caught myself releasing the steering wheel momentarily while driving just so I could sneak in one or two stretches more before grabbing the steering wheel to regain control. Then there was the time that I wanted to try a forward roll in the conference room at work because they had just installed some new plush carpet and it just looked so cushiony, it was all I could do to resist the urge to lunge forward and flip.
Then there are the web pages filled with info, and the martial arts chat room, the videos, and the magazines. It takes up all of my non-practice time just to keep up with all of the latest info. I am spending a bloody fortune on these. I keep one of my credit cards just for aikido paraphenailia but it almost maxed out. I don’t know what I will do then.
Oh, you have to help me, I’m out of control.
Look, you have made a good start. You have recognized that you have a problem and it sounds like you are ready to face it. It may take a while for you to get over this. You did not get to this point overnight.
Tell me more about how these problems began.
Years ago, it seemed innocent enough, I went to observe a class in an old, run down gymnasium. I liked what I saw. I was taken in right away. So I signed up. I expected to attend one or two classes a week. But in just 3 months I wanted more… lots more. I thought that I would just add a few more classes to my schedule, I needed more exercise anyway, this would be a good step. That is when I first noticed a problem starting. Saturdays had become overwhelming. I started each off with stretches and some boken work. I set off early to Newburyport for a class with Sensei Tobei, then over to Cambridge for a noontime class with Sensei Kanai, and then back to my home dojo for an afternoon session with Sensei Newcomb. I was jumping all over the place to get as much in as I could. Something happenned to the Newburyport schedule and it was no longer possible for me to fit it in. I needed to find a new source, a new supplier, I would need another fix on Saturday for sure. Lowell, Get to Lowell. Ah, that will work. I will be ok. Suddenly my new found pastime seemed to more of an addiction than a hobby.
Next I found myself filling my office with aikido books and posters. I couldn’t keep them at home. My family would see how far things had gotten. I would just keep them at work. My wife wouldn’t know….
No one would have to know.
I told myself that things were not all that bad. After all, I had never gone to any summer camps, I never sank that low. Now and then I would take in a weekend seminar but I never went to the camps.
Go on, I need to hear more about this. I am sure that I can help you but I need to hear more first.
What have you tried to do to take control of things?
I did think that I had it licked for a while. I dropped it all. I stopped practice entirely for over 3 months, cold turkey, you know. It was terrible right from the first hour. I had major DT’s that lasted for more than 7 weeks. I kept telling myself, hold on, you can do it. Just don’t look back, don’t daydream about old times. I knew that it would not be easy but, now looking back at it, it is as though I did not get away from it at all. I was still practicing but I just had traded in my dojo activities for other locations. Every door that I opened was an Iriminage. I would walk into crowded hallways just so I had a chance to blend with an oncoming attack. After 64 days I couldn’t hold out any longer. Late that stressful day I snuck into a dark corner of my backyard and deliberately practiced 50 tenkans. That was my step back onto the slippery slope.
After a long night’s sleep filled with vibrant dreams of perfect koshinages and flawless kaitenages I woke and faced reality. I had given up this struggle. I decided to go back to the dojo so that evening I went back to the Andover dojo. I stood in front of the building relieved that my pain would soon be ending. I looked at the familiar front doorway but something was different, something was very wrong.
There was a coat of paint on the steps and the entire building had been preened, rejuvenated, polished to bright glossy shine. The sign, oh no, the sign was gone. The building had been sold and new owners had moved in. The dojo had been turned into Lodge 614 of the Proud Order of Elks.
Panic gripped me. My gi bag dropped out of my hands. What am I going to do?
I needed a fix badly, worse than I had ever needed one before. I sat dejectedly on the steps while a couple of Elks wandered into the building.
**Lowell** Yes, that’s it. I can get to Lowell in 25 minutes. Something inside me just screamed NOW, NOW, NOW, GET MOVING over and over until my car was barrelling down the highway. I arrived in time. Class had not yet started. I looked up the enormous staircase, 4 flights of stairs, straight up, no turns, no landings….and once to the top, heaven.
I charged up the stairs as fast as could. I signed up, got dressed, and bowed onto the mat. I tried to stretch but after 20 seconds I could not wait any longer. I launched into zembo-kaiten. Once, twice, on and on.. Oh it was so wonderful. I inhaled with deep satisfaction. I was back and it felt glorious.
I vowed to limit my practice to three times a week. I kept things reasonable for a long time. Things are out of balance once again though. It has taken over my life again. The only time I am centered is when I am on the mat. Look, my wife has had it. She has been supportive through it all but she knows now I have gone too far. I have even got my kids hooked, I get them to class 3 times a week. I’m so ashamed. What kind of a person am I?
What the hell am I going to do?
I know that I can help you. I need to hear from you that you are ready to improve things. Are you willing to make changes? It will take a stong commitment from you.
Yes, Yes. What do I need to do?
You are not alone in this. Your problem, while I wouldn’t call it common, is shared by many others out there just like you. They often try to change things just the same way that you have, alone and cold turkey. This affliction is bigger than any one person can overpower. These efforts almost always end in failure with the ‘abuser’ feeling worse about their relapse and conditions only getting more grim. The main difficulty the aikidoist faces after the relapse is GUILT.
So what can be done? Help me. Tell me what I should do.
Recent studies have found new more effective approaches. There is the 12 step Deshi Program. It sounds like just the remedy for you. They will help you take your aikido addiction one day, one class, and one throw at a time. Zanshin!