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Retired NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk on his struggles with mental illness and addiction
Posted in Addiction

From a victim of mental illness and addiction to a champion of the cause, retired National Hockey League (NHL) goalie Clint Malarchuk has come a long way. In March 1989, the goaltender suffered a severe injury to his throat. Though he survived the incident, he was severely impacted by trauma. What followed was self-medication with painkillers and alcohol, struggle with depression, anxiety and paranoia, and the absence of counseling that worsened his case. He failed to understand that at the moment he needed drug addiction rehab facilities for his treatment. Years later, the retired NHL goalie decided to speak about the undiagnosed trauma that he suffered during the game and how it affected his entire life.

It all started on the night of March 22, 1989, at a match in Buffalo when the blade from St. Louis Blues forward Steve Tuttle’s skate slashed Malarchuk’s throat and severed an artery. Though he survived the incident, it was only during the next season that he started experiencing nightmares. The flashback of  Buffalo incident often left him awake and made him an insomniac. Malarchuk decided to self-medicate with painkillers and scotch. But instead of making him drowsy, the medication-alcohol duo went straight for his heart. Soon, he was in the hospital with a psychiatrist by his side. At that time, he spilled it all in front of the doctor – his obsession to clean things over and over again, constant fear of poor performance at the game and panic attacks about his wife cheating on him. Malarchuk was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He continued to live his life but after some time, the medicines stopped working.

In 2008, a similar incident happened with another player. During a regular season game in Buffalo, Richard Zednik got his throat slashed by a skate. Malarchuk was able to relate to the incident and it all came back to him. As a result, Malarchuk started drinking heavily for self-medication. What followed was a series of unsuccessful trips to hospitals and mental health facilities. On Oct. 7, 2008, he did the unthinkable – attempted suicide. He put a gun to his chin and shot himself. He didn’t want to die or feel the pain, but just wanted to go numb. But the bullet lodged in his forehead. He miraculously survived the accident.

Undiagnosed mental illnesses coupled with self-medication worsened the condition

According to Malarchuk, it was the undiagnosed PTSD that led him down the path of self-medication. With alcohol addiction, his troubles became worse over the years. Though the drinks worked for him temporarily, it soon became a habit and led to addiction. He admitted, “Being a suicide survivor, I’m a big advocate for helping people on addiction. There is no way I would have pulled that trigger had I been sober.”

Though the retired NHL player still struggles with his mental health problems, they have turned him into a mental health advocate. As per Malarchuk, there is no shame in asking for help. “Just knowing that I might be able to help someone in their journey through life is enough to make me so happy,” he said.

Integrated approach to treatment

Commonly used to refer to a combination of mental health issue and substance use disorder, co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose. What makes dual diagnosis complex is that oftentimes, people receive treatment for one disorder while the other one remains untreated. This further creates complications and worsens the symptoms of both the conditions. Treating co-occurring disorders requires an integrated treatment approach at certified mental health and drug addiction rehab facilities that simultaneously treat both the problems and provide after-care program for holistic recovery.

Sovereign Health provides adult men and women with individualized and integrated residential programs for dual diagnosis in a safe and secure environment. Basis the severity of the illness and diagnostic assessment, the treatment may combine medically assisted detox with behavioral therapies and experiential therapies. To locate our finest Texas dual diagnosis treatment centers, call our 24/7 helpline number and speak to an admission specialist or chat online for further assistance.

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