Theo Fleury: Healing from Abuse and AddictionPublished on 06. 22. 2015
Theo Fleury is considered small among hockey players at only 5’6”, but the pint-size, former Canadian professional hockey player is remembered for his determination, rough and rowdy playing style, and for his tremendous athletic success, which is anything but small.
Fleury is also well known for a gigantic taste for alcohol and nearly every type of drug imaginable, an addiction that nearly claimed his life. Fleury retired in 2006, his career cut short by the illness of addiction. The good news is that the hockey star managed to turn his life around and now dedicates his time to helping others escape the downward spiral of addiction.
Addiction led him to sink to depths
The former hockey player was definitely a loose cannon during his 16-year career with the NHL. Today, Fleury freely admits that his life was out of control and that his addiction led him to sink to depths that only a person with a serious substance abuse problem can understand. In one interview, Fleury recalls his numerous failed drug tests and his attempts at fooling the system, which included tricks such as adding Gatorade to his urine samples. As he spiraled out of control, Fleury gambled away millions of dollars, while strip joints and seedy nightclubs become home away from home. Life became a series of drunken brawls, both on and off the ice.
The NHL finally required Fleury to enter rehab in 2001, but success was short-lived and relapse soon followed.
Addiction Fueled by Childhood Abuse
Today, Fleury openly admits that he spent much of his career living in fear that his history of sexual abuse would become public, and that he used drugs and alcohol to quiet the anxiety. Fleury began drinking at age 16. Full-blown addiction to marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs soon followed.
Fleury says he has always been passionate about hockey, and was convinced at a young age that he was bound to be a successful NHL player. When he was 13 and playing for a minor league hockey team, he was recruited by a hockey coach. What came next was two years of nightmarish, nearly unbelievable sexual abuse which the coach promoted by threatening the young player that without his expert coaching, his chances of success were miniscule.
The Damage Done
On the home front, little help was to be found from an alcoholic father and a mother who abused prescription drugs. It wasn’t difficult for the manipulative coach to convince his moneystrapped parents that he was the best thing that ever happened to their family, and they were proud of their talented, high-achieving son. The coach was eventually let go due to rumors of his inappropriate sexual behavior, but not soon enough. Fleury was left exhausted, depressed and broken down, with sense of self-loathing and a deep mistrust of other people. Fleury was not the only victim.
It wasn’t until after a critical game loss and a drunken tirade that he confronted his parents about the sexual abuse at the hands of the hockey coach. Fleury says that his parents’ tearful apology was the turning point that allowed him to face his past and finally put his demons to rest.
Fleury now speaks openly about sexual abuse and has written two books about his experiences. He is in high demand as a public speaker, and uses the opportunity to encourage other victims to tell their stories.
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