Surfing and Addiction Recovery – I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like

 

Surfing and Addiction Recovery

If addiction recovery is anything, it’s about finding new, better and healthier habits to replace the old ones. From brain science to the nuts and bolts of life–that’s the bottom line and practice makes progress.

Truth is–and for me–all practices have a spiritual component to them from the spirituality of food to walking meditations. If I bring in mind, body and spirit into any single practice, it has proven to be one that I’ll keep and do “religiously” because the healthy payoff is so very renewable, sustainable and satisfying.

Baptism into the Church of the Pacific

Baptism into the Church of the Pacific

One of the many gifts and resources my family has bestowed upon my life in terms of these robust kinds of addiction recovery practices, is bringing to my awareness the healing power of what I call my, “Church of the Pacific.” Dad baptised me into the Pacific Ocean as a two year old toddler and I have been a devout parishioner for 58 years and counting.

There is nothing I am more proud of in terms of personal goals and accomplishments than parlaying my Dad’s gift into becoming a surfer. And in doing so, my surfing practice informs my recovery practice and vice-versa.

My relationship with surfing has evolved into a kind of platonic-romantic combo when, as Richard Tarnas describes in his Cosmos and Psyche, and I paraphrase, “The observer’s act is one of love and intelligence combined, of wonder as well as discernment, opening to a process of mutual discovery.” Becoming a better observer of my life while surfing is every bit analogous to the journey of recovery.

So from here on out, don’t hesitate to go-with-the-flow and read recovery practice and surfing practice as two sides of the same coin.

Move Well | Think Well | Eat Well

Surfing has never been a sport or anything quite so mechanical for me. Invariably, every time I step into the ocean with the intention of feeling, playing and dancing with Her mysteries, I am transformed from whatever I was to pure gratitude and joy. I bring all of what I am only to be humbled and welcomed by relentless surprises which never cease to amaze me. A functional movement practice? You bet and much, much more.

It has come to my attention that the frame of mind or mood I bring affects each experience I have in my surfing sessions. If this is true for me it is certainly true for each and every one of us in the lineup, (pack of surfers). Our individual and collective ways of being profoundly affect the lineup and our surfing experiences. In this way, surfing is also a magnificent cognitive behavioral–thinking well–therapy.

And if I’m not honoring the eating well part of the synergistic wellness practice equation, none of the above is likely to happen.

Surfing is not a casual thing. The learning curve and playing field are much too long and full of the unknown to produce anything predictable or ordinary. Each session offers a full spectrum of possibilities and lessons. Every surfing lineup has its own inimitable personality. It is palpable when paddling out. The lineup, like a swarming flock of entrained birds or school of synchronized fish, moves and morphs as a collective consciousness. There is a sixth sense in the water. The lead–or more experienced surfers are beckoned toward an incoming set of waves just as homing pigeons know how to get home. There is something else by which we are informed…something else.

Next best thing: Watching

Next best thing: Watching

As the lineup follows the beckoning relationship with nature obediently, trillions of neuro-physiological events occur in the “mind” of the collective for one or two surfers to meet the wave at its most optimal shape and place for taking off and riding. There is an honored and unspoken “rotation”, IE, everybody in the water knows whose turn is next. The remainder of the group watches from myriad angles and perspectives, learning and knowing that their moments of ecstasy are not only riding, but observing and enhancing the experience while doing so.

Being submerged in the Earth, playing and diving into the very mantle of where we live, speaks to the magic and ineffable longing that surfers have to return again and again. Author, Steven Levine writes, “This living is the densest part of our being.” Surfing offers holy instants of temporal transcendence. Momentary feelings of being in the weightlessness Light for us Beings of Light are why you can take surfers out of the ocean but you cannot take the ocean out of surfers.

Welcome to our home

Welcome to our home

Real surfers

Real surfers

Like experiencing a Picasso exhibit a surfer can walk upon the water and rise above the mess on a wet and wild canvas so dynamic and thrilling that just being in the water next to such an artist is tantamount to a holy communion. In between these breath taking nuggets of joy we surfers can be met with the nonchalant presence of an otter having breakfast on her chest or a pod of dolphins arriving to show us how it’s really done. If that is not enough, just look over your shoulder, because a synchronized cascade of pelicans is approaching on a cushion of air as the wave proudly offers up the ancient aviators their liquid reef.

An ancient aviator on her liquid reef

An ancient aviator on her liquid reef

Any surfer will tell you that just stepping into the benevolent and powerful sea is enough. The gift that just keeps giving seems to revel in allowing human intention to move Her molecules as desired. But as human complacency washes over the potential hyper-lucid zone that She offers, our Mother Ocean can be a terrific and stern disciplinarian. Like any magnificent work of art, the request for paying close and abiding attention to the work, is why it was created. Looking at the ocean from a distance can be awe-inspiring and spectacular, but getting into it–is nothing short of divine.

Addiction recovery and surfing are two very good practices of living life on life’s terms. While living and loving both ways of life, I have learned to, “fall down seven times and get up eight times” and to go for waves and visions I never thought possible. I have learned to paddle out and paddle back out into the unknown while being reassured by that “something else”, all will be well every stroke of the way. I have learned to trust Life in a healthy and measured way even when I am scared-to-death.

Surfing and addiction recovery are ways to be in relationship with the world that have been gifts of a lifetime. They are cherished ways of being that offer up the bottom line of what I always wanted; to see and to be seen, and to love and be loved.

I’ll look forward to seeing you out there.

Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email: herbybell@me.com.  Connect with me online too:  Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Wow wow wow – I was there with you the whole way – beautiful! I especially loved this line, “Like experiencing a Picasso exhibit a surfer can walk upon the water and rise above the mess on a wet and wild canvas so dynamic and thrilling that just being in the water next to such an artist is tantamount to a holy communion.” As I was reading, I was having similar thoughts and sensations about what I experience when scuba diving through a kelp bed into “their” living room and outdoor rock climbing where ascent is possible by staying one with the rock. You’ve captured the bliss of eating well, thinking well and moving well and what that can mean to long-term addiction or secondhand | drugging recovery. Thank you, Herby… and now you’ve got me so wishing I surfed!!
    Lisa Frederiksen – BreakingTheCycles.com Wants You To Read…Hidden Half-Empty Bottles – Should I Dump Them Out or ???My Profile

  • Dang, Herby, this is sweet. You held my attention, as I didn’t know much about surfing – and was really quite fascinated with the details you provided. And then there’s the matter of the obvious love affair – it was all over the article. Articles that come straight from the heart have such great impact. I mean, you know the writer is deeply into it, and the passion nicely transfers. Whatever it takes, Herby. Whatever it takes. I’m just glad you’ve found your sanctuary – and peace. And that it’s an extension of your father is sweet. Thank you…
    Bill
    Bill White, Licensed Counselor Wants You To Read…Self-Loathing | Thoughts on a Dark “Living” HellMy Profile

  • HerbyBell says:

    As you so admirably exemplify with your work and life, whatever it takes is right, counselor. In my experience it takes dancing with the whole environment for this living experience to really rock. Duke Kahanamoku said it like this, “Don’t worry. Paddle out. Wave come. Don’t worry.” Having you stop by and take the time to “observe” in the RHC lineup rocked my day. You’re the King, Bill White.
    HerbyBell Wants You To Read…#34: Steve Sundberg – Journaling and Writing Your Sober DiaryMy Profile

  • Love this analogy with surfing, Herby. I have never surfed, but have friends that do. I have spent a lot of time on southern California beaches. I would think surfing like recovery gives you freedom, and from your article, such immense joy. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing what keeps you getting up in the morning!
    Cathy Taughinbaugh Wants You To Read…Spread the Word … One Pill Can KillMy Profile

  • HerbyBell says:

    Thanks, Cathy. Yes, I think you’re right. Recovery is about freedom to be who we are…what could be more joyful? And in my experience, it takes practice! So great for you to “paddle out” with me. Thank you for your comments.
    HerbyBell Wants You To Read…#34: Steve Sundberg – Journaling and Writing Your Sober DiaryMy Profile

  • Oh my gosh, I am now in love with surfing and I’ve never been on a board! Super-cool analogy, Herby, and I’ve long-thought that the Church of the Ocean is spiritually squared. You write amazing visual descriptions! And–you’ve make me so grateful to know a Super Surfer Dude!
    Beth Wilson Wants You To Read…How Do You Define Everyday Spirituality?My Profile

  • Jody Lamb says:

    Oh my goodness, Herby. Awesome writing here! I do not believe I’ve ever read such a tender ode to surfing! I’ve spent my life in Michigan so my view of surfing is similar to that of other sports I’ve never tried: “Seems cool enough.” I definitely did not have a solid understanding of it at all. But then this – “Each session offers a full spectrum of possibilities and lessons. Every surfing lineup has its own inimitable personality. It is palpable when paddling out. The lineup, like a swarming flock of entrained birds or school of synchronized fish, moves and morphs as a collective consciousness. There is a sixth sense in the water. The lead–or more experienced surfers are beckoned toward an incoming set of waves just as homing pigeons know how to get home. There is something else by which we are informed…something else.” Wow. I’m going to look at surfing differently forever. What a healing role it’s had in your life! How fortunate that you were introduced to it as a toddler.

    Now am I putting surfing on my bucket list. Thank you!

  • Herby this is awesome. I relate 100%. Its the purest form of active meditation. We had incredible head high-over head windswell at Mission Beach this morning. Full on barrels in San Diego county. What a treat!
    I’ve seem so many guys recovery from addition due to the fact that surfing eliminates complacency and removes boredom. I can personal relate when I was in early recovery. When I’m surfing, I can’t focus on the self-centered fears that inhibit my life at times. When surfing I am present, I am one, I am in my authentic self. Thats why all I wanna do is surf!! :) My favorite bumper sticker goes something along the lines of…”God created surfers to keep the truly gifted from taking over the world.”
    Take care Herby! Keep up the great work!
    Z

    • HerbyBell says:

      Z,

      You’ve got me fired up all over again. Love the quote and agree, we surfers should stick to looking for lefts instead of taking over the world! However, YOU are the KING, Z!

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