CHRIS KIRKLAND has opened up about his battle with painkillers addiction in a powerful interview.
The former Liverpool and England goalkeeper developed an addiction to painkillers as he managed a back injury during his playing career.
Kirkland, 41, first sustained a back issue during Liverpool training, with the problem continuing to rear its head after he joined Wigan in 2006.
His addiction nearly resulted in tragedy, when he found himself standing on the roof of an eight-storey apartment block while on a pre-season trip with Bury in 2016.
After considering taking his own life Kirkland felt the presence of wife Leeona and daughter Lucy and stepped down – flying home the next day to seek help.
Following three stints in rehab Kirkland is now getting his story out there to aid his recovery – and potentially help others suffering in a similar situation.
Speaking to The Times, he said: “My story is going to shock a lot of people. I shouldn’t be here. Because of the amount I was taking.
“It’s Tramadol so you’re not meant to take any more than 400 milligrams a day, maximum.
“I was taking 1,000 milligrams of Tramadol a day every day. I was taking 2,500 milligrams a day at Sheffield Wednesday.
“I’d get 100 pills over the internet from India, they were about £300. I’d get through those in a week, easy.
“I’d go to the bottom of [my] drive and meet the postman and then whack the parcel in my car before Leeona even knew about it.
“They told me when I went to rehab the only reason I am alive is my fitness.”
Kirkland began getting bad back spasms in the 2009-10 season with Wigan, receiving painkillers to take from the Latics.
After falling behind Ali Al-Habsi in the pecking order he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in 2012, but struggled to cope with the change.
Kirkland found himself having to get up at 5:30am to head to training, missing his daughter’s plays and stressing about a contract clause that could have seen him released for missing three consecutive games.
To make sure he would meet his contract criteria he believed he should take more painkillers, explaining: “I thought I’ll never get addicted.
“I’m strong enough to only take them when I need them but it got a grip of me, my body needed it more and more and I became dependent on them.
I was sneaky. That’s what addiction is. Anything to get my hit – Chris Kirkland
“The first season was manageable. The second season I was on them a lot every day, more or less. Leeona didn’t know.
“I kept them in the car, hidden, took them on the way to training.
“I was sneaky. That’s what addiction is. Anything to get my hit.”
A move to Preston followed in 2015 but by this point his mental health had deteriorated to the point where his heart wasn’t in football anymore.
Kirkland‘s move to Bury came a year later, as did his scary brush with death on the roof of an apartment block.
He recalled: “I was in the worse mental state ever, all over the place but the professional thing kicks in, ‘right you can get through this’. Bury didn’t know.
“I took loads of painkillers when I was out on pre-season with Bury.
“We were in an apartment block, I was actually on the top floor and literally went out the door on to a roof.
“The first night, I wasn’t standing on the edge, but I was in a bad way, crying my eyes out, thinking I have to do this.
“The second night, I was standing there and was going to jump but then I felt that pull back.
“I rang Leeona, and said, ‘I need help, I am addicted to painkillers’. ‘You need to come home,’ she said.”
After contacting the PFA Kirkland received help and was okay for 18 months, before relapsing on Tramadol in 2018.
A stint in rehab followed as the country entered lockdown in 2020, with Kirkland dragged back into a dark place.
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