Fleury: 'I'm not sober'

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Bloated and haggard, Theo Fleury resurfaced yesterday to confirm personal demons continue to exert a destructive force in his life.

The popular former Flames captain, appearing in the public eye for the first time in months and speaking his mind in an interview with Rogers Sportsnet, admitted his battle for sobriety is still being waged.

"I'm not sober today," said Fleury, obviously much heavier than he was during his playing days.

"But am I trying? Yeah, I'm trying. I'm trying every day.

"Do I want to be sober?

"Yeah, eventually, at some point, I want to be sober."

Fleury, the Flames' all-time scorer, hasn't played an NHL game since the 2002-03 season when he was suspended after a well-publicized incident at a Columbus strip club while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Last spring in an exclusive Sun interview, Fleury admitted he's likely finished as an NHL player and said the Flames are the only team for which he would play. Judging from yesterday's interview, beating his substance dependencies is a more pressing issue for the 36-year-old than resuming his playing career.

Fleury said his problems are with drugs and alcohol.

"It was all of them," he said.

"It was every single one of them you could put your finger on. Once you get a handle on one thing, then something else creeps up. And then once you get that under control, then something else creeps up. That's the nature of the disease that people really don't understand. This is a life-long sentence."

Fleury, whose career appears to have ended with 1,088 points in 1,084 games, wouldn't get into specifics of what has caused his troubles.

"There's lots of people that know but I don't think it's good for me to say those things in public," he stated. "It's my right as a human being to be able to deal with these things in whichever way I want."

However, he admitted some of his problems stem from his childhood. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was addicted to painkillers, Fleury said.

"My whole entire family, there is lineage of alcoholism and some type of abuse, some type of nervous disorder, anxiety disorder, depression," he said.

Which made hockey his great escape. At least it was for most of his 36 years.

"When I was at the rink, I didn't have to focus on those things,"he said.

"Hockey was always a safe place and a safe haven for me to go and have fun and enjoy myself. That place didn't become that place anymore."

Fleury was in the NHL substance-abuse program, which he called "an absolute joke."

Although Fleury hasn't spoken much in past months, he has been around Calgary.

He received a rousing ovation from the Calgary faithful when shown on the JumboTron during one of the Flames playoff games.

Of course, with his presence in the city comes all the whispers and innuendo.

"People would rather look at famous people and look at their problems so they don't have to look at their own problems," he said.

"I used to put a lot of substance into what people thought about me ... I couldn't care less anymore."


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