NHL Star’s Recovery From Addiction An Inspiration To Others
Patient Perspective Theo Fleury was ready to pull the trigger until something pulled him back to reality.
It’s been 13 years since NHL legend Theo Fleury put a loaded gun in his mouth but he remembers it like it was yesterday. “I was about to pull the trigger when something in me said, ‘You’ve never quit anything in your life. Why would you quit now?’” Fleury threw the gun into the Arizona desert and decided to conquer his demons.
The Saskatchewan native had a lot to overcome. He was born with a deficit of dopamine because his mother had been addicted to valium while pregnant. When Fleury played hockey, the excitement and physical exertion flooded his body with the feel-good hormone. He became devoted to the game.
When he was 15 years old, he moved to Winnipeg to play junior hockey. The scout who recruited him, Graham James, sexually assaulted him repeatedly for two years. Fleury didn’t tell anyone. He turned to alcohol and drugs to cope.
Helping leads to healing
Fleury rose through the hockey ranks to become an NHL all-star. He played for the Calgary Flames when they won the Stanley Cup in 1989 and for teams that struck gold at the Canada Cup (1991) and the Winter Olympics (2002).
Despite his success, his depression deepened and his substance abuse worsened. He suffered personally and professionally and ended his 16-year NHL career in 2003.
Since that day in the desert, Fleury has rebuilt his life. He has penned two books — one that details the sexual abuse he endured and another that gives addicts advice on how to heal. He devotes much of his time to public speaking and charity work. “The more I help others the more I heal,” he says.
“We’ve all experienced trauma and struggle to find meaning in it. But you are not alone in your pain and suffering,” he says. “The healing begins only when you start sharing your story with others.”