Chris Kirkland opened up about the punishing physical side effects of not using painkillers in an interview to mark a year of breaking free from his 10-year addiction.
The former Liverpool and Wigan Athletic goalkeeper had already dealt with his addiction and quit drug use in 2016, but Kirkland suffered a severe relapse during the Covid-19 lockdown which saw him return to the drug during the ‘testing period’ drug use began.
Learning habits and establishing new routines has helped him stay clean since he made the decision to be sober, as has his family’s support.
But the former England international has been honest about his ongoing mental health struggles and stressed the importance of sharing advice via social media to help other addicts find their own recovery.
Speaking to the i, Kirkland opened up about the “extremely dangerous” process he went through to wean off the painkillers.
Chris Kirkland has shared his experience of quitting cold painkillers last year
The former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper took his first pill in 2012 to treat a serious back injury
“I’d done it before in 2019 and I was fine at the time, maybe had a runny nose for a day or two,” Kirkland began.
“So I figured I’d be fine, I’d done it before.” But that was awful. I wouldn’t wish these seven or eight days on anyone.
“I had hallucinations, constant sweating, cold, vomiting, pain and cramps all over my body.
“Basically, I haven’t slept for five or six days. (My wife) Leeona was sleeping in the room next door because I was tossing and turning and she came in to check I was still breathing properly.
“It’s extremely dangerous and not recommended, but I didn’t want to lose weight, I just didn’t want to put another pill in my mouth.”
“Seconds seem like hours to me, but I made it.” Once you hit the six or seven day mark, you need to start being productive again — ice cold showers help, baths, walks help. Then it’s about setting things up in such a way that you don’t go back to it.”
Kirkland believes he is coping well with his recovery 95 per cent of the time and thrives on routine and physical well-being, which includes attending a running group alongside former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley and offering hold training in exchange against food donations.
Habits that have developed as a result of getting clean include having his wife do random drug tests and not accepting packages handed to him by the postman.
At one point, Kirkland (pictured in 2015) was taking 2,500 milligrams of the pain reliever tramadol
Kirkland thanks his wife Leeona (pictured) and daughter Lucy for supporting him during the turbulent recovery period
The decision to kick the habit came after Kirkland bought what he believed to be painkillers over the internet in March 2022, and within minutes of taking the pills he knew “that they were painkillers”. [he] was in trouble’.
“I just didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening. I entered “home” into the sat nav and somehow managed to get home, then I became seriously ill and slept for 18 hours.
‘I got up the next day and flushed them down the toilet.’ I still had a few real ones around the house, but I knew there was no going back that day.’
Last August, Kirkland revealed he was taking 2,500 milligrams of tramadol a day at the height of his addiction after initially suffering from painful back spasms during his second season on Sheffield Wednesday in 2013.
In an interview with The Times, Kirkland revealed he came close to suicide in 2016 while standing on the roof edge of then-club Bury’s preparatory base in Portugal, before feeling like he was “from afar”. to be retired” wife and daughter.
Kirkland continues to treat mental health issues and takes antidepressants, and said doctors suspect he has bipolar disorder because there are “three to four days a month.” [he] just can’t work’.
“It feels like there’s a black cloud over you. “You can hear people talking, but it’s like you’re not there.”
The goalkeeper, who is preparing for his first game in years as part of the Walking Brilliant team who will play against a Harry’s Heroes XI – coached by Harry Redknapp – in aid of a range of mental health charities, is keen to share his story with us an attempt to raise awareness of addiction.
“When you’re an addict, you’re sneaky, you know you can get away with it and you hide it all over the house, in your sock drawer or under the bed,” he added. “It just feels so liberating to be honest about it and talk about it.” “You can’t keep little secrets anymore.”
Addiction to painkillers and sleeping pills remains a problem for players across the football pyramid, with ex-defender Ryan Creswell highlighting the problem in August last year.
Kirkland (in 2018) believes his playing career was held back by injuries and addiction, which is why he finally retired in 2016
Ryan Creswell is another ex-pro who has been vocal about addiction issues in football
“I think there’s a big problem with sleeping pills in football, and it’s from the top, as high as possible,” Creswell said.
“For me it started with one after every game, which was great and I think it’s for a good cause using them.” But then it went from one after games to one a day and then two a day, and then I knew I was addicted to it.
“It wasn’t my craving, it was my body, I knew it wasn’t the right thing.” It’s awful.
“There’s going to be 22-year-old or 23-year-old boys in the Premier League, Championship, whatever, taking too many painkillers.”
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