NHL Player Rich Clune’s Battle with Addiction and Mental Health

NHL Player Rich Clune’s Battle with Addiction and Mental Health

When I was 22 years old,
I was playing in the NHL for the LA Kings. You would think from the
outside that I was basically living out my dream and any kid from Canada’s
dream, but it was completely
the opposite. I wanted to be anywhere
in the world but where I was
playing in the NHL. Around the age of 13 is
the first time I consciously made a decision
to get drunk. That kicked off an
obsession in my mind. I chased that first drunk
that I ever had. I mean, all the things that it
did for me, alleviated insecurities, and you know, you fill that hole
deep inside of you. From the age of 19 to 23 I did
as much cocaine as I could. I would do like a little bump
of cocaine before the game and I was doing it after, in
between games. I built up an addiction
to Percocet. It was nothing for me to sit
in my condo or my house and drink all night. I just tried to
escape my own mind. I tried to escape my own
inner thoughts. It helped me to cope
with emotional trauma, you know, spiritual traumas
that I had. It’s just basically a soul
sickness. I’d show up to practice
two, three, days in a row not having slept. By the time I was 23
and playing for the LA Kings in the playoffs, I was praying to get
healthy scratch because I would shake
in the mornings if I didn’t drink or
if I didn’t use other substances. It’s an embarrassing thing
to say, but you know, I wanted to be anywhere
in the world but on the ice in an
NHL playoff game. After the playoffs with
the LA Kings I went on a bender. I basically said to myself,
if I survive this bender, I will drive myself to treatment and I will check myself in and
I will get sober. For two weeks, I went on I would drink till
I blacked out and I was using drugs. I remember calling my brother
and I just said, “Listen man, I’m done. I need you to drive me to rehab. I’m going to fly out there and then we’re going to go.” We just loaded up his car
and drove back from Worcester, Massachusetts
to Toronto. That car ride was the
longest car ride of my life because by that time I was
two, three days of being off pills and coke. I was immediately starting
to withdraw and I would puke and
I would shake. My poor brother Matt, who’s two
years younger than me, you know, there’s things
that he’s seen that he’ll never unsee. It’s gut-wrenching just to
even think about. I can’t even imagine you know, the amount of pain
that I caused for him and my other
brother Ben. I just made the decision
I was willing to do anything to get sober and basically
reclaim my happiness and reclaim my sanity. Once I got sober, I just
made the decision to get back in the gym and do whatever it takes to
live my life and keep my hockey dream going. I realized that I truly did
love hockey, and I did want to continue
to play, and keep my career going,
and fight, and do whatever it took. Winning the Calder Cup certainly
made all those days and those nights that I never
slept worth it because I literally wouldn’t
change anything I’ve gone through my whole life. It’s made me the man I am today. It’s put me where I am today.


(1 Comment)

  • Cassandra Espinosa

    Rich Clune is one TRUE example of how one determined young hockey player FINALLY learns to overcome his addiction demons off the ice and return TRIUMPHANTLY to the game he loves (and eventually leading the Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup trophy!!). Rich Clune, you're a hero to many by being a positive example of what it TRULY means to NEVER, EVER give up on yourself, no matter how long it takes to ULTIMATELY defeat drug/alcohol addiction!!

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