How to Beat Your Addictions Like Rocky Beat Apollo

Duke brings his voice down to a whisper and quietly tells Apollo, “….he’s all wrong for us, baby.” Apollo snorts and avoids Duke’s eyes. “I saw you beat that man… I never saw no man get beat before. And the man, kept, coming, after you. We don’t need that kind of man in our life.”

Halfway through Rocky II, Apollo Creed sits fuming in his office, debating whether or not to have a rematch with Rocky. Apollo won the last match against Rocky but only in a judge’s decision. He couldn’t knock Rocky out. After pondering the issue for a minute, he asked Duke, his manager, what he should do and despite his warnings, he decided to schedule the rematch.

carl-weathersHe launches into a fanatical workout, building his body perfectly for the challenge ahead. He trains like he’s never trained before, sweating out his weakness in the gym and working himself into religious craze so that he can prove to everyone that Rocky is nothing more than a lucky two-bit chump.

If you’ve ever stepped into the ring with an addiction you just can’t seem to K.O., watching Rocky and Apollo fight might give you the edge you need to take your addiction out for good. Not only will it inspire you (and might make you want to take up boxing), it’ll drop some hints as to how you can go to war with your toughest struggles.

If you haven’t seen the movie…spoiler alert! Rocky wins. Despite all of Apollo’s flashy strength and speed, Apollo can’t beat Rocky because Rocky just won’t quit. Rocky isn’t even a good boxer! He has no speed, isn’t smart, and takes punches to the chin throughout the match. By all accounts he shouldn’t be in the ring with Apollo.

But Apollo loses because he wants results too quickly. He’s too eager, too quick, and doesn’t have the patient endurance to last the entire match. After the 6th round he starts to lag and tire out. Rocky steadily keeps his momentum going through the match, and because he never freaks out and tries to knock out Apollo early, Rocky turns the tide and wins the match.

When you step into the ring to battle your addictions, are you Rocky or Apollo? Do you exhaust yourself in the first few rounds trying to white-knuckle punch-out your bad habits, or do you build in strength from round-to-round and win in the end?

If you’re a human being, chances are you’re addicted to something–whether that’s TV, drinking, Facebook, attention, gossip, sex, drugs, working out, porn, relationships, Instagram, Snapchat, steroids, video games, self-harm, pills, food, or whatever your habit of choice may be. If you’ve ever tried to defeat your addiction before and failed, you might have felt like Apollo–burning in desperation to knock your opponent out and fearing you might not be able to.

The problem when we try to fight like Apollo is that we feel so much shame around not being able to beat our addictions. To try to save ourselves from the embarrassment of losing, we go for the quick fix and declare, “Ok! Enough is enough. Time to stop drinking so much.” We dump out all the beer in the fridge, we tell our roommates, parents, or spouse that we’re done from alcohol for a month, and we mentally tell ourselves that we simply won’t do it again for that allotted time. Make a big public scene about it, and go for the K.O. in the first few rounds.

But when we rely on quick fixes, fast matches, and early K.O.s, we end up getting worn out in the long run. As time goes on, the addiction calls back to us. We throw ourselves at it to try and ward it off, but just like Rocky, it outlasts our fear-laced fury and forces us back into the hazy sleep of addiction. And now the “1 month alcohol-free” declaration has turned into the muffled resignation of “meh, someday I’ll get my act together.”

Most people think we need to beat our addictions fast, but I say we need to beat our addictions for good. Use Rocky’s tactic: focus on the full fight and be the guy whose arm is raised at the end of the match. Rocky’s tactics aren’t complicated; he’s just a regular guy from Philadelphia who, using the passion available to any human being, defeats the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Rocky inspires us because he shows us that anyone can defeat anything if we’re willing to fight through the punches.


And just like Rocky, we can train today to outlast our addictions in the ring by setting up practices that will become unconscious habits later. In the montage scenes throughout the movie, while Apollo is busy doing press releases on the upcoming rematch, we watch Rocky running on the train tracks, doing pushups at 5 A.M., or learning to punch more effectively with his right hand. We too can patiently build ourselves over time to build momentum in our fight.

A good place to start is to find someone who understands what you’re going through. Rocky had a trainer, and it might help to have one too. They should understand the nature of what you’re dealing with and should help you build for the long-run:

  • This week we’re focusing on our jabs. This week I’m going to limit myself to 2 beers in a sitting.
  • A month from now, we’ll start working on speed. I’ll question those around me how I may have hurt them in my addiction.
  • A year from now, we should be able to run 5 miles without getting winded. I want to be able to comfortably have a beer without crumbling to the temptation to get drunk.

When you’re training to break free of an addiction, remember to stay in the fight. Addiction has a lot of tricky moves: it lures us in with temptation, drops our guard with good excuses, and uppercuts us with shame. If we’re willing to stay in the fight, to take the hits in the process, to regain our footing round after round, and to gain strength and momentum over time, we can de-belt our addictions and take over the ring of our lives.

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