November 20th, 2023
Addiction can have a relentless grasp on you. The clutches of drug and alcohol abuse lead to isolation and intense feelings of helplessness. Breaking free from this hellish cycle is immensely challenging and requires that you develop values such as courage and determination in order to do so.
There are innumerable alternatives to hard drug use, but the skill of boxing is one of the most effective weapons against all kinds of addiction. As many famous athletes can attest to, boxing (and really, any combat sport) helps you develop a mindset which counter-balances any helplessness or lack of control you may feel.
The Link Between Addiction and Physical Activity
It’s important to understand the connection between addiction and physical activity. Substance addiction often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, as your natural instinct tends to prioritise consumption and easy dopamine hits over difficult, stress-inducing activity. This inactivity leads to even further health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular problems, and mental health challenges.
Engaging in intense, stressful physical activity (beyond simply running or lifting weights) can be a powerful tool to counteract the negative effects of addiction.
Despite common misconceptions that boxing is a violent bloodsport – it actually offers a holistic, meditative approach to recovery, addressing both mental and physical aspects of addiction.
Mental benefits of boxing
Management of stress is the first and most obvious benefit of boxing. The ring provides an intense, controlled environment where all pent-up stress and tension can be released. The physical exertion allows you to channel your frustrations and anxieties into training with another person rather than rely on external substances for support.
Again, despite misconceptions, boxing has less to do with physical strength and “destroying your opponent” than the media would have you believe. It is about mental resilience and overcoming your own emotions in order to dominate. It teaches you to push through setbacks, fear, challenges and excuses. This mental strength is a direct bolster against addiction.
As you progress through your training and become aware of your capacity to overcome strife and hardship in the ring, your self-worth and self-esteem will naturally grow. This is an essential part of addiction recovery, as low self-esteem often contributes to substance abuse.
Physical benefits of boxing
Boxing is a high-intensity cardiovascular and aerobic workout that can help you shed excess weight and maintain a lean, mean body in constant fighting shape. It also enhances endurance, agility and strength.
The sport also triggers the release of “good” dopamine, a natural mood enhancer, as well as testosterone. This is contrary to the temporary dopamine hit you get when consuming drugs, pornography or alcohol. It may feel good in the moment, but the weight of the crash outweighs the benefits. That being said, the positive dopamine hit from boxing helps to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Achieving fitness-oriented goals and mastering boxing techniques can be extremely fulfilling and will leave you feeling as if you’ve accomplished something outside-the-box that most people don’t ever access.
The role of discipline and structure
The rigorous and stern approach to the discipline required to become a good boxer can parallel the regimented routine required for addiction recovery.
In order to become a success in the ring, setting goals is essential and often leads to fast progress. This includes setting the best times for runs, learning new jump-rope techniques, conquering fears and drills in sparring and mastering new footwork movements. This will mimic your addiction recovery and help you with steps such as setting specific milestones for sobriety.
But like in recovery, consistency is crucial in boxing, and this regularity can lead to serious stability for those recovering from addiction.
Coaches often hold you accountable for this consistency and ensure you always stick to your regiment – much like the support system in recovery.
The mindset for boxing and recovery is the same. It’s a skill, and if you learn one, you learn the other.
Boxing teaches emotional regulation and self-control, particularly over intense desires and impulses, such as anger, sexual instincts, laziness and gluttony.
Addiction tends to be an uncontrollable reliance on substances to cope with emotional pain. Boxing offers a much healthier way to release these intense emotions and channel or transmute them into a constructive outlet.
Learning to control and channel aggression is a key aspect of the sport, and it is impossible to become effective at it without learning this skill.
It demands intense self-discipline, patience and impulse control. These attributes are also invaluable in addiction recovery, where avoiding temptations and trigger points is essential.
Examples of Success Stories in Famous Boxers
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016):
Known for his legendary boxing career, Muhammad Ali’s battle with Parkinson’s disease due to boxing showcases the importance of training safely and responsibly.
Mike Tyson (1966-):
Overcame addiction and a life of crime and turned his life around, emerging as an inspirational figure for those in recovery.
Jake LaMotta (1922-2017):
His turbulent life (as depicted in the film “Raging Bull”) exemplifies the struggles many face in addiction and the potential for redemption through determination and discipline.
Micky Ward (1965-):
Fought addiction and returned to the boxing ring (as depicted in the film “The Fighter”), proving that it’s never too late to reclaim one’s life.
Tips for incorporating boxing into recovery and general detox
- It’s essential to start boxing with the guidance of qualified trainers and coaches who can monitor your progress and make sure you’re approaching the sport safely and correctly.
- Find a local gym which helps you set realistic goals, and begin with gradually increasing the intensity of your training until you build confidence and strength.
- Don’t forget that consistency is king and helps you maintain structure in your life. If you start, don’t stop!
But in addition to boxing, it’s important to maintain a strong network of support for your addiction recovery. This includes therapy, support groups and regular communication with loved ones.
Overall, don’t forget to celebrate small wins in your life, regardless of whether they’re linked to boxing or your personal recovery journey.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, remember that you don’t have to face it alone. UKAT is here to help. Contact us today to take the first step towards a healthier, addiction-free life. Don’t let addiction hold you back – consider boxing as a potential lifeline to a brighter future.
(Click here to see works cited)
- The Raw Knuckles podcast. “MICKY WARD – Tough As They Come – #1.”. – YouTube, 29 September 2023. Accessed 20 October 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxT_jCGck6c
- Murphy, Robert. “’It can get everybody’ – how boxing helped teenage drug addict turn life around.”. ITVX, 24 February 2023. Accessed 20 October 2023. https://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/2023-02-24/it-can-get-everybody-how-boxing-helped-teenage-drug-addict-turn-life-around
- Graham Bensinger. “Mike Tyson: Overcoming drug addiction.”. – YouTube, 3 March 2016. Accessed 20 October 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mgMo3uzdD4