Recently, on the news, all you hear about is Ronda Rousey and her win against Bethe Correia that secured the UFC 190 title in just 34 seconds. This isn’t the only impressive things she’s accomplished this year. In May she released her new book My Fight/Your Fight. It’s through this book that you learn of her earlier struggles with eating disorders and substance abuse addiction.
Her book showed a refreshingly honest take on her past and the battles she fought with herself but also sheds a bit of hope on what addiction actually looks like. At one point in her life, she was in a very dark place but was able to overcome and go on to do great things.
If you don’t know who Ronda Rousey is, all you have to do is open nearly any magazine, turn your TV to any sporting channel, or scroll through your newsfeed and you can find some mention of her. Ronda is a fighter and has been since she lost her father to suicide when she was younger. A couple years after her father committed suicide, she entered her first class of Judo. She hadn’t always dreamed of becoming a bantamweight champion but it soon became a reality when she learned that she was a quick study in the martial arts.
When she was only 17 years old, she won a judo match in Budapest at the World Junior Championships…in only 4 seconds. At the Athens Olympics, Ronda became the youngest fighter ever to compete. The 2008 Olympics brought her a bronze medal at the Olympics in Beijing. This is when she decided to leave judo and pursue Mixed Martial Arts or MMA. After the transition, in nearly no time at all, she became a force to be reckoned with. At her Amateur debut she fought against Hayden Munoz and won in 23 seconds. In 57 seconds, she triumphed over seasoned challenger Autumn Richardson at the Tuff-N-Uff quarterfinals. She won again in the semifinals against Taylor Stratford in 24 seconds. She moved on to further her professional career before complete the amateur tournament.
Even after advancing into the professional league, she didn’t slow down. She was on a mad man’s dash to the top, and she wasn’t letting anyone stand in her way. Her first two professional matches were won in 25 seconds against Ediane Gomes and against Charmaine Tweet in 49 seconds.
In 2011 she started making television appearances after her fight against Miesha Tate, who then became her biggest rival as well as one of her biggest supporters in the last match against Correia. After appearing on TV she signed up to be the very first female UFC fighter—in history. She has held the title since then and has continued to defend it, accumulating win after win. To this day she remains undefeated at 12-0.
As you can see, “Rowdy” Ronda has a talent at beating even the most destructive and forceful opponents in her life, but the fight that defined her, the fight that could have killed her, wasn’t a fight she fought in a ring. She couldn’t punch this opponent or make it tap out with her signature armbar. No. This fight was fought with herself.
One of the things that led her to become addicted to drugs and alcohol, would actually be a less talked about subject. You see, Ronda struggled with eating disorders. As Ronda was taking the Judo mat by leaps and bounds, behind the scene she was battling her weight. To make weigh in, she would often have to eat large quantities of food and then she would purge her body to stay at the proper weight. This is known as bulimia. If she wasn’t eating then throwing up, she would often starve herself. To some, this may seem like the signs of anorexia, but the main difference between the two is that those with bulimia believe that what they are doing isn’t right and therefore causes them to think less of themselves which harms their self-esteem.
This described Ronda to a “T”, as she was quoted in an interview with Amathyst Recovery Center as saying this about bulimia:
“Any sport that involves weight divisions is going to make you super conscious of your weight. And it makes you way more susceptible to having problems. And being a teenage girl certainly didn’t help. I thought I was alone in it. I thought I was only having problems because I was a weak-willed person. I thought having problems with my weight made me a bad person.”
She already hate herself for not being able to make weight, but now her eating disorder made her feel even worse about herself. Not only that, but briefly she was in a relationship and lived with a verbally abusive, unfaithful man. When she won the 2008 Olympics, she wanted to take a break. During that year she quickly ran out of money and had to get a job as a bartender. During this time she slept in her car and developed an addiction to alcohol, marijuana and also Vicodin. Vicodin is one of the most common painkillers on the market and has very addictive properties. It was then that she discovered MMA and became motivated to kick her addiction to the curb…just as she would every opponent after.
Today, Ronda Rousey has a complete 180 view on drugs and alcohol. Her struggles have now encouraged her to end her toxic relationship with a heroin addict and advocate for stricter drug screenings in the UFC. They have taken her words to heart and are now revamping the policies for drug screenings, so much so, that even she was given three random drug tests before her fight against Correia.
You may ask yourself, how can one person’s story of substance abuse addiction help others see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, her fight with her addiction is inspiring but that’s not the most impressive part of her recovery. The most impressive part is what she has done after her recovery. Her life didn’t begin until she owned up to herself and became accountable for those things that she could change in her life to make her a better person. She is what a strong woman looks like; not perfect, but someone who is willing to acknowledge her mistakes and own up to them. She credits her mother for encouraging her to develop the strength she has now:
“In our family, we were always told that we were meant to be something extraordinary. It’s not your job to maintain a home and have kids. You’re supposed to do that. It’s your job to leave the world better than how you found it. Everything I am I owe to my mother.”
The fight with her body issues didn’t make her a weak person, it made her stronger person and showed her that she was worthy of a healthy body and healthy relationships. Many women suffer the same effects from addiction, Ronda just decided that she would never again be the weaker opponent against something she could change.
She is able to recognize that the way people perceive her and react towards her is out of her control. Her willingness to understand and accept her lack of control over that speaks highly of her character but it also shows essential attributes that every recovering addict should strain for.
Though her father’s death still affects her from time to time, she has found a passion that she loves and it has brought her further than she ever dreamed of going. She has proven to all addicts that they should never let complacency rule their lives.
You should never stop striving to be the very best you can be, that doesn’t mean be perfect, it means be perfect in your imperfection. To find true recovery, you must first learn to be content, but at the same time you must also have a desire to overcome your character flaws and allow your recovery to lift you into a new life.
A true recovery starts with the addict learning to find a purpose in their life. By doing so, it gives them more power and freedom than they could ever acquire though their addiction.