Mental Health Awareness Week 2024: finding strength in the ring

Boxing in Recovery - information poster detailing key information (hosted by London Community Boxing, Peckham SE15 4RF; mix of boxing technique and development, reading and reflections, guided meditation; open to people in any 12-step recovery programme; contact Emma at
13th-19th May is UK Mental Health Week.  2024’s theme, as set by the Mental Health Foundation, is ‘Movement: moving more for our mental health’.
Here, Emma, a boxing coach, personal trainer, and the founder of ‘Boxing in Recovery’ at London Community Boxing, shares her powerful personal account of boxing’s role in her recovery from addiction.
  • ‘Boxing in Recovery’ runs every Saturday and is open to people in any 12-step recovery programme.  More details are at the bottom of Emma’s piece.

I spent 29 years of my life with untreated mental health issues. 16 of those years were in active alcohol addiction. I came into recovery in 2020 after 2 years of rock bottom, and total chaos, leading to the loss of my husband and his family, my home and my job. I have learned that the moment I started drinking when I was 13 years old, I stopped connecting with my feelings, myself and my body. I stopped playing, moving and connecting with my body, which I had loved as a child, and started living only for oblivion, and the validation of others (especially men). I also had disordered eating and spent those years starving myself, making myself vomit or binging. Alcoholism also led me to experience a lot of sexual trauma from a young age.

Early recovery was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Once I’d put the drink down, I was left to deal with the embers of my destroyed life and the reality of my untreated mental health issues. But through the programme of AA, the Humankind treatment centre, my therapist and my doctor giving me medication, I got through it. Around a year sober I decided to start training with a boxing coach. I still don’t really know why I did it. I just remember wanting something to look forward to, to help me get through each unbearable week. Looking back, I think I was enraged by how powerless, vulnerable and broken I felt. Learning to fight and protect myself were like the opposite of that.

And so I boxed. For the first time in my life, I kept going. I was terrible at it, but recovery was teaching me to be consistent and show up, one day at a time. So that’s what I did. About 6 months later, I joined an amateur boxing club. I didn’t really know what that meant, I just worked out it was the cheapest way for me to do more and get better at this thing which was healing my body and my spirit. God eventually took me to a little place in Peckham called London Community Boxing. There I found a group of people who are like family to me now. My coaches taught, guided and encouraged me and expected nothing in return except that I show up and try my best. I had my first boxing match in an international tournament in Sweden in February 2023, and I have now had 7 bouts. In October 2023 I started my own business as a boxing coach and personal trainer. I am currently on the England Boxing Women’s Coaching Development Programme to support and empower me further on my coaching journey. My journey is just beginning.

In December last year I started ‘Boxing in Recovery’ at London Community Boxing – a weekly boxing session for people in any 12 step programme. I teach other people in recovery to box, and we also play games and laugh and connect and find freedom and expression in our bodies. We also do reading and discussion and guided meditation. Now, those Saturday afternoons are a highlight of my week and I feel we are building a really special community down in our little corner of Peckham.

My life today is committed to giving back to other people what was freely given to me, in recovery and in boxing. With and through God, these two pillars saved my life and created a foundation for this beautiful new life I never could have imagined where I do things daily which I would have thought impossible.

Boxing in Recovery takes place every Saturday, 16:30 – 18:30, at London Community Boxing in Peckham. Free with optional £5 donation to the boxing club. Email for more info. We would love you to join. No fitness or experience required – everyone welcome.

Logo for Mental Health Awareness Week, 2024, in purple lettering. The Mental Health Foundation's log is visible to the left of the image (white letters against a purple background).

  • Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 here, with tips to help move more every day here.


  • This week, we have been privileged to share personal stories highlighting the transformative power of physical activity in recovery.  We extend our sincere gratitude to Emma and Pawel for so generously sharing their experiences with us.