How Jessica Traded Her Alcohol and Pain Killers For a Jiu-Jitsu Gi

    Submission Shark BJJ Article Interview:

    Jessica is a perfect example of how anyone can transform their lives for the better despite the conditions. She has been broken both physically and emotionally with her past injuries but still manages to have a kind-hearted spirit to help others. In this article, we discuss methods on how to become a better version of yourself and defeat both depression and addiction.

    It's truly astonishing how much of an impact jiu-jitsu has on some people. With this amazing sport comes great friends and a sense of purpose in life. Check out her full story as we dive deeper into the problem of over-prescribing medications and how a freak accident could turn your life upside down.

    Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @batgrl21

    Jessica Garcia Jiu-Jitsu

    Full Name: Jessica G.

    Age: 31

    Belt Colour: White

    Professor: Drew Puzon and Josh Key

    Short Term Goals: Win the Gold in a competition

    How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?

    a little over a year

    Where do you train out of?

    UFC Gym Frankie Edgar

     Frankie Edgar MMA Jessica Garcia

    Do you prefer BJJ in the gi or no-gi?

    No-gi, because you have more room to play 

    Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?

    Jiu-Jitsu Promotions

    Yes, my coaches don't just help me on the mats, they can tell when you're off and not yourself, it's like they have a sixth sense. They always push me to be the best possible version of myself as a person and a competitor.

    What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?

    There is no place for ego on the mats or in life. It is important to be humble and not judge anyone. While training, even the weakest looking person can be the strongest, the same applies to everyday life. Never underestimate someone and treat everyone with kindness and respect. The world is an open mat and the people are my training partners.

    How often do you train?

    I train 5-6 days a week. I currently work full time and am in college full-time so I can only train in BJJ 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours a day. The rest of the days I am working on my strength training and MMA.

    Jess Garcia Strength Training

    What made you want to start training?

    In 2013 I simultaneously broke 4 bones in my foot, tore my ACL, and meniscus. As a result, I had 3 surgeries. My first surgery was to repair the bones in my foot. I had 4 metal plates and 17 screws inserted. When I woke up from my surgery, I thought I was still on the operating table! I had never felt pain more excruciating. I was hospitalized for 3 days on a morphine drip because of the pain.

    My 2nd surgery was slightly better, my ACL was replaced by a cadaver ACL and my meniscus was repaired. The 3rd surgery was the removal of the plates and screws from my foot.


    I was in bed for almost a year and gained 90lbs. I fell into a really deep depression and was being prescribed pain medication like candy. I developed a strong dependency on pain medication and eventually lost my career because of it.

    When I reached rock bottom, I sought help and found MMA. MMA eventually led me to BJJ and my life has changed for the better ever since. I lost all of the weight and have been sober for 4 years.

    Do you plan on training your whole life?

    They say a black belt is a white belt that never quit! My injuries have improved throughout the years but they are still there. Although some days my injuries prevent me from being 100%, I plan to continue training for the rest of my life. I eat, sleep, breathe jiujitsu. Even on the days, I'm not training, I am watching videos or thinking of game plans.

    What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?

    In addiction recovery, they say sometimes we trade one for another, trading alcohol and pills for BJJ seems like the best possible deal I could ever get.

    Tracking my growth and progress is what makes it so addicting. Walking into the gym and saying hello to the members of my team and coaches, slapping hands, fist-bumping and rolling, watching your teammates stop right after a submission to show you what you did wrong. I was a police officer for 4 years and felt very lost after the end of my career. I felt I would never find that camaraderie again. The job defined me and when I lost it, I lost a part of myself.

    Jess Garcia BJJ

    When I found BJJ, I found myself again. I understood that life is not about letting your career or martial arts or anything physically define you. It helped me find myself as a person. It showed me what I am made of and how even the most depressed person can find happiness again. Strength, reliance, determination, will power are only some of the many attributes I gained practicing BJJ.

    There is still so much yet to learn, so much growth that has not reached its full potential and that's what keeps me coming back. 

    What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?

    Jess Garcia Obstacle Race

    Aside from BJJ, I participate in many Obstacle course races and 5ks. My orthopedic surgeon told me I would never be able to run again. Ever since I started BJJ, not only has my cardio improved, but my foot and knee injuries have significantly improved. I can bend my knee much better now. I have more mobility in my foot and have even run 6 miles.

    Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?

    Before jiujitsu, I have been prescribed antidepressants and medication for my PTSD, ever since I started BJJ my doctor has taken me completely off all medications! I was to suffer from frequent anxiety attacks and have not had any ever since.

     Submission Grappling Jess Garcia

    The worst place to be in is between your own two ears. BJJ takes me out of my own head. Even when my mind starts to wander, BJJ brings me right back because there is no time for being in la-la land when practicing BJJ lol.

    If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?

    I would have started at a younger age. Being 31 and starting BJJ at 30 isn't the best situation but definitely not the worst. BJJ could be started at any age but I feel a lot of the hardships in life I have gone through could have been avoided if I would have started BJJ at a younger age.

    Jess Garcia

    Best 30th bday ever!!!

    Additionally, life gets in the way more when you're older and sometimes I can't make it to practice because of work or a doctor's appointment.

    What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?

    DON'T QUIT plain and simple you will thank yourself later

    Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?

    Earning my black belt one day.

    What’s your favourite BJJ move?

    Jess Garcia Jiu-Jitsu

    Triangles, all-day

    If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?

    hiding in a cave very sad and lonely growing talons lol. In all seriousness, I think I would be okay but what good is it to be okay if you can be exceptionally great!?

    Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?

    Jess Garcia

    I've seen the sport become more mainstream little by little thanks to MMA and the UFC. My ultimate goal is to get good enough at BJJ and Muay Thai to fight in at least ONE amateur MMA fight. I really feel there should definitely be more women competing and practicing BJJ.

    Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?

    Every person I have ever rolled with has pushed me to reach my full potential in one way or another. Everyone has their own style and I feel as if every time I roll with someone I learn some kind of a valuable lesson. Some training partners go harder using more strength, while others use proper technique, the great ones use both in my opinion.

    Jess Garcia BJJ

    Whenever I roll, I try to observe their strategy and become better.

    When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?

    Not jumping into someone's guard. I still get yelled at for that by professors today lol

    What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?

    Like many, I have felt sadness, anger, weakness. I know what it is like to have it all and lose it. I know what it's like to be in a place of desperation with no light in sight. I would like to show others that there is definitely a way out, it is possible to climb out from the depths of despair.
    Help Others  Help Others
    Everyone is strong, everyone is exceptional, and everyone deserves to have the happiness that I was so blessed to find. I want to help others the same way I was helped. We all have a journey and if there's any way I can help it be an easier one, I want in! Not to mention that by helping others, I am also helping myself.

    What caused your accident that left you with multiple broken bones and tears in your knees?

    It is NOT a great story at all. My doctor always tells me I should make up a better one because my injuries are usually sustained by extreme sports athletes.
    While dancing at the tiki bar, my sandal got caught in one of the planks on the floor causing my knee to pop out of place. When I fell, the weight of my body caused the bones in my feet to snap. A very freaky accident with such minimal effort.

    Did you regret taking the pain medication they prescribed you?

    Life is filled with regrets and if there is one major regret I have it's taking those pills. Life does NOT get any better, I lost everything because of them and they nearly earned me an early grave.

    What would you tell someone that is trying to give up their addictions but is having a difficult time?

    Don't give up trying! I have sponsored women that are recovering and it is so difficult especially starting out. Find a network of people that will be there for you and have experience with recovery. I also attend meetings a few times a week and there is always one nearby. Find a meeting and when you get there, find people that have some time in recovery, get their number and CALL them.
     How Jiu-Jitsu Helped Me Recover From Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Justin Bachman's Story
    There is nothing wrong with asking for help and most of the people at the meetings might have an idea or two about what you're going through.

    What made you want to begin eating healthier and do you believe a good diet is essential for the recovery and support of an active lifestyle?

    In 2014, I was 230lbs, for a female that is 5'10 that is entirely way too heavy. If I wanted to start changing for the better, I also had to start changing my eating habits. Making healthier eating choices helped me shed a large quantity of weight that was harmful to my injuries.
    The swelling in my knee and foot were less frequent. I stopped taking the anti-inflammatory medication that was bad for my stomach. I started to sleep and walk better.
     Healthy Food
    spinach, arugula, radicchio blend, carrot chips, avocado, dr. Praeger's super greens veggie burger, topped with miso ginger vinaigrette.
    Without a good diet, none of my physical progress could have been possible. Eating healthy is essential to boost energy levels and keep the mind healthy as well.

    How much weight have you lost since you started MMA/BJJ?

    Jess Garcia Weight Loss

    100lbs but I gained a little back so it's really 90 😁

    What's your advice for someone that is trying to lose weight but is having a difficult time?

    I have co-workers that keep saying they are going to start their diets on Monday but never do. I really think that if you want to start a diet start right now. Don't wait. I was the best procrastinator in the world and putting things off for me was just an excuse.
     Healthy Food Advice
    Ezekiel bread with sweet potato hummus, grape tomatoes, spinach, arugula and radicchio blend, and Portabella veggie burger topped with sriracha flakes.
    Start with manageable goals and work your way up. For example, don't switch from eating fast food every day to salads. Extreme diets rarely work. If you have taco bell for lunch every day, switch from the chalupa to the power bowl. Eat smaller portions, don't add more salt to your food. I do believe that when we have a craving for sweets or something specific, in my case, it's Oreos, we should treat ourselves to ONE or TWO. Everything in moderation will help to reduce the urge to binge eat later on.

    What is it about running that you enjoy? Do you feel like it has helped your cardio for MMA and BJJ?

    I HATE running.
    Jess Garcia
    True happiness is not accepting defeat, hard work, dedication, pushing yourself each and every day to meet your goals and helping others accomplish theirs. Too often we find ourselves complaining about what we could have accomplished. THAT ENDS TODAY!
    I honestly really do it because the doctor told me I would never be able to run again. I feel that every time I run and complete a 5k I have achieved the impossible. The perks are that it does help my cardio for MMA and BJJ. I think BJJ and MMA also help my cardio for running. To add to the list, I also suffer from asthma. Learning to control my breathing while running has helped significantly reduce the effects of my asthma.

    How did you find the motivation to pull yourself out of pain medication addiction and depression to begin living your life to the fullest again?

    I almost lost someone very close to me in active addiction and it made me realize that if I didn't start to make positive changes soon, I could end up like him. When I woke up and realized I had lost nearly everything, I knew that I could not continue down the path I was headed. Once I stepped both feet on the ground and started to move forward, I never looked back.

    What would you tell someone that is currently battling depression right now?

    There are people in this world that love and care about us deeply but in order to be of any use for others, we have to be okay with ourselves. If BJJ or MMA is not something you can become passionate about, find something you can.
    I was fortunate enough to find spirituality, BJJ, MMA, alcoholics anonymous and in doing so I have met countless amounts of amazing people that have become my support system.
    Letting go of all the negativity is difficult but when I surround myself with others that have similar goals as I do, it makes it way easier. The help is there but we have to find the strength and courage to find it.

    Is there anyone that helped inspire you to keep training and never give up on your goals? Or was the ambition always inside of you?

    As I previously mentioned, my journey has led me to meet so many inspiring people but my number one inspiration is God. My sponsor suggested I find something bigger than myself live my life the way my higher power would want me to live it. I chose God and I feel with his help I have become stronger, mentally and physically, strengthened bonds with my friends, family, coaches etc.

    Read Nathan's Story Above

    My older brother who was in the Army for 20 years and served in wars, is one of my biggest inspirations. He is also battling PTSD among other war-related medical issues and he trains very hard to meet his goals. I have always looked up to him and try to follow in his footsteps.
    Cuba Old Car
    My parents migrated here from Cuba before I was born. They left behind their family never to be able to return to provide a better life for my brother and I. My father was a political prisoner from the very delicate age of 16-21 and also suffers from PTSD. We are a very small tight-knit family but we always have each other's backs and keep trucking forward no matter the odds. My father is currently battling Crohn's disease and every day is a struggle for him but I feed off of their strength every day to be a better person for myself and for them.

    When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?

    The biggest reason I was a police officer was that I wanted to help people. Now, I am earning my degree to become a high-school health and physical education teacher to also help people in a different capacity.
    I want to be remembered as the girl that never quit. The girl that fell hard but learned to pick herself up and not only learned to walk again but to run and make a difference.
    I want to be remembered as the girl that helped others even when they seemed hopeless. The girl that kept fighting for what she believed in.
    I want to be remembered as the girl that loved everyone no matter what.
    Everyone has a journey and everyone is destined for greatness. I want to achieve that greatness and bring as many people to the top with me as I can. I know that life is not always about butterflies and rainbows but, I want to be remembered as the girl always tried to make life beautiful.
    Jess Garcia Beautiful Story

    Submission Shark BJJ Interviewer: 

    Thanks for sharing your story! You are a true inspiration for proving that through hard work, perseverance and dedication, anything is possible. Sometimes horrible events were meant to happen to allow for growth and change. Without those hardships you wouldn't have started MMA/BJJ, perhaps it was all just a blessing in disguise. Keep up the great work and I can't wait to see where life takes you next. Osss!

    Submission Shark ArticlesIt's empowering to see Jessica thrive and gain her life back through BJJ. Seeing her transform her health is inspiring and promotes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the best ways. Is there anything from this story that you can relate to? Let me know in the comments below.
    If you enjoyed this article, I'd suggest you check out Barbara Fleuret's story about how world BJJ champion Claudia Do Val inspired her to start training. BJJ has been able to help with other substance abuse cases. Kola Shippentower shares her BJJ story and how it's helped her remain sober from alcoholism. This community is filled with many different reasons and interesting perspectives on this martial art. Feel free to browse through the Submission Shark community section for more stories.

    1 comment

    • Andres Garcia

      No words…I"m on tears, I’m feel very proud of you ! It is still a long way to complete the journey, but you can make, you are a warrior and "my champion ". Lets go Jessi.!

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)
    jiu jitsu gear BJJ apparel The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)

    The Ice Breaker BJJ Gi (Limited Edition)

    Regular price $300.00 CAD Sale price$150.00 CAD