Dele Alli, a midfielder for Everton, recently disclosed that he spent six weeks receiving addiction, mental health, and trauma treatment at a rehab center in the United States. He stated he hopes to inspire others via his experience.
The former England midfielder revealed in an interview with The Overlap, Gary Neville's YouTube channel, released on Thursday that he had developed a dependency on sleep aids as a way to cope with traumas from his past, including being sexually abused by a family member at the age of six.
After spending the previous season on loan at Turkish club Besiktas, where he made 15 appearances across all competitions, Alli returned to Everton this summer. He claimed he could feel a negative cycle starting again when he was told he required another surgery, which is when he decided to get treatment.
"In my opinion, when it comes to situations like that, you can't just be instructed to go there; you have to know the facts and decide for yourself, or else it won't work. I was, to be honest, stuck in a negative loop. Alli said, "I was relying on things that were harming me.
"I was waking up every day, winning the fight, demonstrating my happiness by grinning as I went to training. When I was hurt and told I required surgery, I could feel the emotions I get when the cycle starts, and I didn't want it to happen any longer. But on the inside, I was obviously losing the battle. It was time for me to change it.
The 27-year-old Alli claimed to have fled the facility three weeks ago and said he is now telling his experience to help others.
"I want to make other people aware of the fact that they are not alone in their sentiments, that they can communicate to others, and that asking for help or being vulnerable doesn't make you weak. That has a great deal of strength. I'm pleased to share my story and come out as a result," he stated.
Growing up in Milton Keynes, Alli described the traumas he had as a child, including being molested at age six by his mother's friend, starting to smoke at age seven, and selling drugs at age eight. At age 11, Alli was adopted by "an amazing" and loving family.
I mean, I don't think I've been aware of [my problems] for a long time; I was doing things to dull the feelings I felt, he stated.
"I mean, whether it was drinking or whatever else, I wasn't aware that I was doing it for that reason. The things that a lot of people do, but if you misuse it and utilize it improperly, and you're not truly doing it for pleasure, but rather to try to chase something or hide from something, it can definitely cause a lot of damage to you.
Alli admitted that he tried to hide his addiction from his adopted family and from colleagues who offered to help, and that at the age of 24, he thought about giving up playing professional football.
"It's difficult to pinpoint a specific time [when I first sensed that something wasn't right]." I suppose the most depressing time for me was when [José] Mourinho was the manager; I was maybe 24 at the time. I recall one such session where I was in a horrible mood and had to leave right away for training since he had stopped playing me.
"I recall asking myself whether I could retire now, at the age of 24, and doing what I love. I know it sounds dramatic, but I was literally staring in the mirror. For me, it was heartbreaking to even consider retiring at the age of 24. That was yet another burden I had to bear, and it hurt me a lot.
After moving to Tottenham from MK Dons as a teenager in 2015, Alli flourished there and was a vital member of Mauricio Pochettino's squad that advanced to the 2019 Champions League final. He was also a standout for England at the international level, reaching his peak during the 2018 World Cup semifinal run.
However, his form has drastically deteriorated since then. He moved to Everton in January 2022 after losing favor at Spurs, however he has only made 13 Premier League appearances for the team.
He claimed that he is now prepared to compete for a spot in Sean Dyche's team this year and that mentally he is in the "best place I've ever been."
Alli continued, "I don't blame anyone; I thank a lot of people; I'm pleased of who I am today. "I thank a lot of individuals for the difficult times they put me through because I believe that they made me stronger and tougher because they gave me the courage and strength to face difficulties that, if they had been thrust upon me, I might not have been able to handle. But I have a lot of people to thank because they contributed to giving me the desire and the fervor to carry on and battle and disprove them.
"I think the main thing for me is I want to prove myself right because I know how good I can be as a player and as a person. It's important for me that this battle against myself, I will win, and I do prove myself I was right about all these things."
Many athletes have expressed their support, including former Spurs teammate and England captain Harry Kane, who stated he was proud of Alli.