Dele Alli reveals rehab for addiction after childhood sexual abuse

ESPNJul 13, 2023, 06:50 AM ET4 minute reading

Dele Alli revealed that he had become addicted to sleeping pills as a way of dealing with childhood trauma.George Wood/Getty Images

Everton midfielder Dele Alli has said he hopes to inspire others after revealing he recently spent six weeks in a US rehab center for addiction, mental health and trauma treatment.

IN an interview with The OverlapGary Neville’s YouTube channel, published on Thursday, said the former England midfielder had become addicted to sleeping pills as a way of dealing with trauma from his childhood – which he said included being sexually abused when he was 6 by a family friend.

Alli returned to Everton this summer after spending last season on loan at Turkish side Besiktas, making 15 appearances in all competitions. But when he was told he would have to have surgery again, he said he could feel a negative cycle starting again and decided to seek help.

“I think with this kind of thing you can’t be told to go there, I think you have to know and you have to make the decision yourself, otherwise it won’t work. To be honest, it was I was caught in a bad cycle. I trusted things that hurt me,” Alli said.

“I woke up every day and I won the game, went to training, smiled, showed that I was happy. But inside I was definitely losing the game and it was time for me to change that because when I got injured and they told me that I had to have surgery, I could feel the feelings I had when the cycle started and I didn’t want it to happen again.”

Alli, 27, said he left the facility three weeks ago, adding that he is sharing his story now to help others.

“I want to help other people know that they are not alone in their feelings and that you can talk to people; it does not make you weak to get help, to be vulnerable. There is a lot of strength So to come out and share my story, I’m happy to do that,” he said.

Alli described the trauma he had from his childhood growing up in Milton Keynes, which he said included being molested at the age of 6 by his mother’s friend, smoking at the age of 7 and selling drugs at the age of 8, before being adopted by “an amazing” and supportive family when he was 11.

“I think [my troubles have] had been going on for a long time, I think, without me realizing it — the things I did to numb the feelings I had,” he said.

“I mean, I didn’t realize I was doing it for that purpose, whether it was drinking or whatever. The things that a lot of people do — but if you abuse it and use it the wrong way, and you’re not actually doing it for fun, you’re doing it to try to hunt something or hide from something, of course it can hurt you a lot.”

Alli said he hid his addiction from his adopted family and from teammates who tried to help, and that he considered retiring from professional football at 24.

“It is difficult to pinpoint a precise moment [when I started to feel that things weren’t right]. Probably the saddest moment for me was when [José] Mourinho was the manager, I think I was 24. I remember there was a session like one morning I woke up and I was going to training – that’s when he stopped playing me – and I was in a bad place.

“I remember just looking in the mirror – I mean it sounds dramatic, but I was literally staring in the mirror – and I asked if I could retire now, at 24, and do what I love . For me it was the heart – to break even to have had that thought at 24, to want to retire. It hurt me a lot, it was another thing I had to bear.”

Alli excelled at Tottenham after arriving as a teenager from MK Dons in 2015, becoming a crucial part of Mauricio Pochettino’s side that reached the 2019 Champions League final. He also starred at international level for England, the highlight of which came during the 2018 World Cup semi-final.

However, he has since undergone a steep decline in form. He fell out of favor at Spurs and moved to Everton in January 2022, but has made just 13 Premier League appearances for the club.

He said he is now ready to fight for a place in Sean Dyche’s team this season and said mentally he is in the “best place I’ve ever been.”

“I’m proud of who I am today and don’t blame anyone; I thank a lot of people,” Alli added. “I thank many people for the hard times they created for me, because I think it made me a tougher person, because it made me braver, made me stronger, and it allowed me to overcome challenges that , if they were just thrown at me, maybe I wouldn’t be able to handle, but I have a lot of people to thank because they helped give me the hunger and passion to keep fighting and prove that they was wrong.

“I think the most important thing for me is that I want to prove myself right because I know how good I can be as a player and as a person and it is important for me that this match against myself will win and I’ll prove myself. I was right about all these things.”

A number of players have issued messages of support, including England captain and former Spurs team-mate Harry Kane, who said he was proud of Alli.

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