“The tablets messed me up”

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Chris Kirkland has spoken on talkSPORT about his painkiller addiction which left him close to suicide.

The former Liverpool and Wigan goalkeeper has spoken forcefully and emotionally of how a back injury led him to become addicted to tramadol.

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Kirkland spent 10 years dealing with an addiction to painkillers

Kirkland revealed he stood on the edge of a building’s roof and was considering retirement while on a pre-season tour of Portugal with Bury in 2016.

The painkillers had made his anxiety worse and left him hallucinating before he finally went to a rehab center to get the help he desperately needed after a decade of battling.

“The tablets have screwed me up,” Kirkland told talkSPORT’s White and Jordan show. “At the end of the day, they don’t work, they don’t do what they’re supposed to do. They change you as a person.

“I retired, I didn’t want to do anything, I lost interest in everything. Just a different person.

“People say now we got the old Kirky back, but I just didn’t want to live.

“I was in so much pain with the painkillers. The back was always a problem, but it was always manageable.


Kirkland's former club list includes Coventry, Liverpool, Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston

Rex

Kirkland’s former club list includes Coventry, Liverpool, Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston

“What the painkillers were doing to me mentally, I had just had enough. It was around 2am, I got out and was on the top floor, stood on the roof and was just about to jump.

“But I felt a setback. No one was there, but I know it was my wife [Leeona] and my daughter. That’s when I immediately called her and said, “Listen, I have a big problem with painkillers and I need help.”

“She said ‘well, make an excuse and come back’. I came back from Bury from Portugal.

“I phoned the PFA and left them the first time.”

Kirkland eventually resumed pain medication and took 2,500 mg of tramadol daily when the upper limit was 400 mg.

Kirkland also made an England appearance in 2006

Rex

Kirkland also made an England appearance in 2006

The former England goalkeeper has revealed how he contacted the PFA again for help, and they suggested Sporting Chance – the clinic founded by Tony Adams – but faced a long wait for treatment, so they decided to find a place himself.

“It almost killed me several times,” he said. “I was hallucinating, I remember some nights when I forgot who I was. I was violently ill, violently ill.

“I didn’t want to do anything at all. I didn’t answer my phone or my texts. After these incidents, you think “I have to stop, I’m going to die”.

“I would quit for three or four days, but then your body will be in pieces because you’ll be addicted and your withdrawal symptoms will be just as bad.

“You go back to them, and I did. I told Leeona the second time ‘I have a big problem’. She said you should leave now and go to rehab.

Kirkland went to rehab to deal with his painkiller addiction

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Kirkland went to rehab to deal with his painkiller addiction

“I totally agreed with her because I knew I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.

“I phoned the PFA, as you do when you are a former player, but unfortunately the waiting list was too long to enter Sporting Chance.

“I think it was three months. I said I didn’t have three months, I didn’t have three days.

“We just went online and found a place.

“I don’t like being away from home so the thought of being there was daunting and then we found Parkland Place in North Wales.

“I called them and told them I was addicted to painkillers, I am a former footballer and can you get me in.

“They said yes and I could go today if I wanted to.”

Kirkland is now doing charity work in his local community and wants to raise awareness about painkiller addiction

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Kirkland is now doing charity work in his local community and wants to raise awareness about painkiller addiction

Kirkland attended group therapy at Parkland Place where he heard tell-tale stories from other drug addicts. He also had individual sessions and fondly remembers his time there.

The retired goalkeeper is now demanding clubs do more to help players and stop the warning signs of addiction.

“I’m not going to come here and slaughter clubs,” he added. “It’s up to them to do their own internal investigations.

“I had them outside of football. GPs, the internet and pretty much everywhere I could.

“Some people – it wasn’t their fault because they had no idea.

“Football clubs maybe need to start testing internally because it’s so easy. It’s alcohol, that’s all.

Kirkland now works for a charity in his local community and also participates in Walking and Talking Charity Hikes, a mental health group set up by former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley.

He supports related charities and he has taken on the Three Peaks and Coast to Coast challenges, with climbing Kilimanjaro being their next major goal.

Contact CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserable) for help and support – their helpline and webchat are open from 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by email at jo@samaritans.org.



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