​How Robert Downey Jr Stopped Taking Drugs and Started Kicking Ass

He's one of Hollywood's most beloved actors, but it's no secret that Ironman star Robert Downey Jr has had his fair share of troubles. His relationship with drugs began before he'd even reached 10 years of age, when his dad - an addict himself - willingly gave them to him.

From that point onwards, Downey Jr's taste for illicit substances grew, leading him onto heroin, cocaine and various other things. For the next few decades he battled with addiction and was frequently in and out of rehab.

Downey Jr's struggle with narcotics landed him in plenty of hot water with the police, especially around the late '90s/early '00s.

There was that time he broke into his neighbour's house and passed out on the bed. The time he was picked up after being found in a rat-infested LA alleyway, in the foetal position and absolutely off his face. The time he got caught speeding down Sunset Boulevard with a gun and pockets full of smack and coke.

Basically, he was spending a lot of time in the back of police cars and even ended up serving 180 days in jail for failing to attend drug tests previously arranged in court.

Prior to this period of debauchery, he had played the role of a drug addicted rich boy in Less Than Zero, whose life was spiralling out of control.

He said that for him "the role was like the ghost of Christmas Future" and that his addiction made him into an "exaggeration of the character" in real life.

Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr

Credit: PA Images

When describing his relationship with drugs to a judge, he said: "It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal." Quite a poetic chap, really.

After several unsuccessful stints in rehab and having exhausted all of his options for battling his addictions, Downey Jr asked himself the same question that we would probably have asked ourselves in his situation...

"What would Bruce Lee do?"

That's right, he turned to martial arts and, more specifically, the martial art formerly practised by Mr. Lee himself - Wing Chun.

Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr

Credit: PA Images

Taking up a martial art can be beneficial in countless ways. For some, it's nothing more than a healthy hobby - something to get them out of the house and socialising at the weekend. For others, it's an art form and a way of life that's about so much more than just passing the time or getting fit.

For Downey Jr, however, it was the only viable alternative to being relentlessly off his tits and ultimately landing himself a lengthy prison sentence, or worse still, an untimely death.

Downey Jr believed that Wing Chun, a striking and grappling art, could provide him with the routine, discipline and focus that he needed to keep himself off the gear, keep his shoes on his feet, and keep out of his neighbour's bed. Turns out he was right.

In 2003, the Sherlock Holmes actor approached local Los Angeles Wing Chun legend Eric Oram and requested lessons. Oram was doubtful of Downey Jr's commitment at first but agreed to teach him, saying that if the actor missed a session he would personally "chop off his toes and feed them back to him".

Luckily, he committed to the training and his toes presumably remain intact.

A year into his training and with additional support from his family, the actor had turned his life around. He even appeared on Oprah, chatting about Wing Chun and encouraging the host to give it a try herself. "I think you would rock because you're formidable," he assured her.

Credit: Oprah

Downey continued to practise his martial art and went on to form a strong friendship and working relationship with his teacher.

As he began taking on more action-orientated roles, he started introducing Wing Chun techniques into his performances - you may have noticed some of his moves in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films - and Oram even acted as his personal fight co-ordinator in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.

"Robert does all his own stuff when it comes to fights. When the camera is on him, it's really him doing it," Oram says.

Since focusing his mind and committing to his martial art, Robert Downey Jr has turned his life around one hundred percent. He's clean, healthy, and in peak physical condition. We've got nothing but respect for that.

Words: Paddy Maddison

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

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