Everton midfielder Dele Alli said he recently spent six weeks at a rehab facility in the United States for addiction, mental health, and trauma treatment.
Dele Alli, in an interview with The Overlap, Gary Neville’s YouTube channel, on Thursday, said he was addicted to sleep medication while trying to overcome the traumas from his childhood — which included being sexually abused by a family friend at age six and dealing with drugs at eight years old.
“So, at six, I was molested by my mom’s friend, who was at the house a lot…my mom was an alcoholic, [so] that happened at six. I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back. At seven, I started smoking; eight, I started dealing drugs”.
“An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight. Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man”.
“After that, I just felt so betrayed and let down and hurt that I just couldn’t keep the relationship with my mom,” Alli said when asked about his relationship with his mum.
In a 2018 interview, Alli’s mother told the Daily Mail that it was “painful that we’ve become estranged and the hard part is I don’t really know why.”
“If God created people, it was them,” Alli said of his adopted family when he was 12 years old. “They were amazing, and they’ve helped me a lot, and that was another thing, you know –- when I started living with them, it was hard for me to really open up to them, because I felt within myself, it was easy to get rid of me again.”
After returning to the UK, Alli decided to enter rehab.
“I was in a bad place mentally. I decided to go to a modern-day rehab facility for addiction, mental health and trauma” said Alli.
“I felt like it was time for me. With things like that, you can’t be told to go there. You have to make the decision yourself.
“I was caught in a bad cycle, I was relying on things that were doing me harm. I was waking up every day and [I] was winning the fight, going into training, smiling, showing I was happy, but inside, I was definitely losing the battle and it was definitely time [for me] to change it.”
Alli said he got the much-needed support from Everton, saying how “open, honest, and understanding” the Premier League club was while he was “probably making the biggest decision of [his] life.”
“I couldn’t have expected it to go the way it did. Before you hear about it, it has [this whole] stigma. It’s something people don’t want to do, going into rehab, it definitely sounds scary.
“But I could never have imagined how much I would get from it and how much it [would help] me mentally because I was in a bad place.”
Everton said it had been supporting “Dele in both his return to fitness and overcoming the personal challenges highlighted in his interview with The Overlap.”
His former club, Tottenham Hotspur, also tweeted a picture of Alli alongside an emoji of a white heart.
Continuing with the interview, Dele Alli said “it’s been going on for a long time (my addiction) … the things I was doing to numb the feelings I had. I didn’t realize it was for that purpose, whether it be drinking or whatever.
“I got addicted to sleeping tablets and it’s probably a problem that not only I have. I think it’s something that it’s going around more than people realize in football.”
“If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk about it this soon, I think maybe give it a little bit more time … I maybe could have done with a little bit more time in terms of when I was talking about it, but unfortunately, the way the world is now, you know the tabloids they found out and they was calling my team a lot and they were telling that they knew where I was and stuff.”
Alli said that he hid his addiction from his adopted family and from teammates who tried to help and that he considered retiring from professional football at 24.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment [when I started to feel that things weren’t right]. Probably the saddest moment for me was when [José] Mourinho was manager, I think I was 24. I remember there was one session, like, one morning I woke up and I had to go to training — this is when he’d stopped playing me — and I was in a bad place.
“I remember just looking in the mirror — I mean it sounds dramatic but I was literally staring in the mirror — and I was asking if I could retire now, at 24, doing the thing I love. For me, that was heart-breaking to even have had that thought at 24, to want to retire. That hurt me a lot, that was another thing that I had to carry.”
Many players have issued messages of support, including England captain and former Spurs teammate Harry Kane, who said he was proud of Alli.
Dele Alli’s performance has seen a decline in recent times. He fell out of favor at Spurs and moved to Everton in January 2022 but has made just 13 Premier League appearances for the club.
Prior to then, Alli excelled at Tottenham after his arrival as a teenager from MK Dons in 2015, becoming a crucial part of Mauricio Pochettino’s team that reached the 2019 Champions League final. He also starred at the international level for England, the peak of which came during the World Cup semifinal run in 2018.