Theo Fleury – Play Your Part
Olympic superstar and NHL All-Star Theo Fleury shares his harrowing story of abuse in a powerful speech about the need to start a conversation around trauma and mental health.
I had a fully loaded pistol in my mouth, ready to pull the trigger. And you may ask why is a Olympic champion, Stanley Cup Champion, seven time All Star got a gun in him mouth ready to pull the trigger? Well, my experience as a very young child was one of constantly living in fear. My dad was an alcoholic, my mom was a prescription pill addict, and my complete and entire existence in life was complete and utter chaos. When I was six years old I moved to a community in Russel, Manitoba, and the thing that I loved to do the most was I loved to play hockey. And then when I was 14 years old over a 2 1/2 year period of my life I was raped 150 times, by my coach. And so I never slept for 27 years. Never slept. Because I was molested in a dark room where I couldn’t see anything. And so every time I shut my eyes at night I was in that dark room, waiting for this man to force himself upon me. What I was left to deal with was the aftermath of all of these traumatic experiences.
So I became addicted to drugs and alcohol and sex and gambling and food and workaholism to overcome the pain and suffering. But I faced the consequence because of my drug addiction and my alcoholism. They kicked my ass out of the NHL. And so the reason why I had this gun in my mouth was I was completely and utterly exhausted from living in emotional pain and suffering for most of my life. And so shortly after the gun incident, and obviously I didn’t pull the trigger. I started on a path of healing and recovery.
I’ve strung over 3,000 I don’t know, 500 and some days of sobriety. I’m healing. I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not depressed. I’m not anxious. I don’t have panic attacks anymore. Why? In 2009 I wrote this book called Playing With Fire. With no expectations other than the fact that I just wanted to put a bunch of stuff on paper, take one last look at it, put it in its rightful place in the past. So I go to Toronto for the first book signing. And I show up at the biggest book store in Canada, and 400 people show up too. Well I started signing books, out of the corner of my eye I see this guy in line. And he’s got my book like this. Clutched to his chest and his face is buried in the floor and he’s walking really slow. Gets to the front of the line, sets the book on the table, looks me in the eye, and says, “Me too.” “Me too.”
Now I know why I wrote this book. Because I go to the next city, and 10 quickly became 100, 100 became 1,000. 1,000 became 10,000, 10,000 became 100,000 100,000 became 1/4 of a million, 1/4 of a million became 500,000. Over 500,000 people either directly or indirectly have said those two words to me. Me too, me too. And so for six years I’ve traveled back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and everywhere else in between talking about trauma. Trauma is the string which binds us all together. There’s a whole bunch of people out there that are hurting, that need a safe place to tell their story. And that’s what this is about. It’s about sharing your story without shame, without fear, and be okay and be safe.
My reality is the same reality that one in three girls and one in five boys have experienced in their lifetime. Look in the room. How many people are in the room? One in three. In 2009 I was shitting in my pants going what have I just done? And you know what you all did for me? You know what you said? You didn’t shame me. You know what you said? Man, you have courage. Man, you have strength. And guess what? That’s all I needed to hear. So we have an opportunity we need people that talk about compassion. Talk about love. Talk about connection and are willing to have the tough, tough, tough conversations. Do you want to be a part of it?