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“My situation went beyond addiction:” Robin Lehner writes raw article on his past demons and recovery

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His journey is a harrowing and relatable one for anyone.

2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Practice Day & Family Skate Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Today in an article at The Athletic, Islanders goalie Robin Lehner spoke openly about the drug dependency and depression he had been suffering from, and about his road to rehab and recovery.

The article is unlocked at the site and is a must-read. Lehner is candid and frank in a way few athletes have ever been about some incredibly painful subjects, and his journey is a harrowing and relatable one for anyone.

Since the new year began I had been feeling severely depressed and my drinking increased. I was heavily drinking a case of beer a day just to settle the demons in my mind and then took pills to sleep. I was self-treating myself because I could not be inside my own head by myself. The thoughts of ending it all … it was real and close.

Encouraged by his lawyer and inspired by his desire to be a better husband and father, Lehner entered the NHLPA’s substance abuse program. But while detoxing in Arizona, he learned that the drinking and pills were only symptoms of a much larger problem.

Five weeks into treatment and I was diagnosed bipolar 1 with manic phases.

Now all this is not the sole reason for bad decisions I have made in life, but they were definitely affecting my mental state in ways that I did not realize. During the treatment I went through stages of grief, anger, sadness and hopelessness. I was broken and they were trying to put me together. My mind had been tricked into thinking that the terrible things that had happened to me were somehow OK. I didn’t try to change it. It was what I was used to.

After leaving rehab ready to play again, Lehner found few takers. He talks about his interviews with Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello and how he came to sign a one-year contract with the club.

The Islanders were ready to take a chance with me. I was relieved that I could start a new chapter. When I was finally offered the deal, I was so happy. I finally had someone who believed in me, now sober.

The one thing that was still making me nervous was that bipolar stigma. I didn’t understand why I was so ashamed to say anything. Would I lose my job? I finally was able to gather enough courage to talk about this with management. To my surprise, they were very accepting, knowing that I would still need more help at certain times. With my last GM checking in on me, my new one working with me, I am finally beginning to find a place of comfort without having to find something to make everything go away.

I am truly ready to battle now.

Today also is the first day of Islanders training camp. There, Lehner explained to reporters why he chose to tell his story.

A short video of Lehner’s media scrum was posted to Newsday.

Again, the article is unlocked from The Athletic’s paywall, and can and should be read by all. The scars that Lehner reveals exceed hockey or team allegiances.

I’m glad he’s feeling happier and healthier than he has in years. Thank you for sharing, Robin, and good luck.