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Claus Lundekvam says that he turned to booze and drugs to cope with his mental health issues after retirement.
Lundekvam was a key part of the Southampton defence for over a decade after joining the south coast club in 1996 from SK Brann in his native Norway.
But injury cut the centre-back's career short when he was aged just 34 which had a severe impact on his life, with playing football being the only thing he'd known for a long time.
After his testimonial match for Southampton in 2008 following 389 appearances for the club, he soon spiralled into a dangerous position.
Speaking to talkSPORT, he said: “From my testimonial to waking up every morning and having to drink a milking glass of pure vodka – that only took nine months.
“It’s quite unbelievable how quickly I was losing myself and found myself in a hopeless situation which I couldn’t see a way out of.
“I was so tired and so depressed. My life was horizontal for 23 hours a day. I was just ordering the things I needed to have: alcohol, pills and cocaine.
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“I was destroying myself slowly but surely. Actually, pretty quickly.
“It ended up with a lot of paranoia, a lot of anxiety. So much came with it that I tried to take my own life twice.
“Luckily I didn’t succeed. The other time, I had so much guilt and shame about where I was, being a legend of the club, all of a sudden I was completely lost and destroyed.”
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Lundekvam's wife took their two children back to their home country to protect them from their father's breakdown, which at one point had him hiding in his wardrobe and searching for imaginary paparazzi.
The 48-year-old did escape from the worrying situation with help from the Sporting Chance Clinic, a recovery facility for former athletes that was created by ex-Arsenal defender Tony Adams.
Lundekvam, who is a cult hero amongst the Southampton fanbase, now shares his stories to try and help other footballers who could experience the same troubles.
If you’re struggling to cope with mental health issues, there are ways you can access help.
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]
- Southampton FC
- Premier League
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