Grief, Pain, Addiction, Substance Abuse: the Athlete.

Having a client in the UFC, I have been intently following the world of MMA fighting and recently read about the death earlier this month of UFC middle weight fighter Josh Samman. After being found unresponsive at his apartment, Samman died after being in a coma for 6 days. His friend Troy Kirkingburg was also found in the apartment unresponsive and pronounced dead at hospital from overdose of cocaine, heroin and painkillers.

Josh wrote of his struggle with addiction in his book The Housekeeper: Love, Death, and Prizefighting. He also wrote of the death of his girlfriend Hailey Bevis who died in a car wreck while the 2 were texting each other.

I have no personal connection to Josh or privy to any specifics about his life and my observations and comments are limited to what I read and glean from the news stories, his words and anecdotal comments from those who knew him.

As a life coach who specializes in sports performance and addictions, as I read about him, what jumped out at me was his DEEP grief over the death of his girlfriend and the guilt that he was cause of her death.

As a specialist in addiction, the root of addiction is the inability to handle one’s emotional pain. It crosses all demographics of people and economic, familial and social backgrounds.

At a long term drug rehab I worked in, after intake/interview one resident told of witnessing family burn in a house fire as a child. Another went through the infidelity and betrayal of her husband, while another resident told of how he was ridiculed as a child by his older brothers and sisters who would not let him interact with their friends and he was sent off by himself.

All three were addicted to heroin, all for different reasons, but the root is their inability to handle their emotional pain. The heroin or whatever their recreational drug of choice is covering their pain and keeps them from having to deal with the emotional hurts, stresses and pressures.

In regard to Samman, it is obvious from his interviews that he never got over the guilt and grief of the death of this girlfriend. You could still feel his emotional pain as he tells of what he went through and obviously whatever method he was using to get through and over it was not bringing results.

Not long after his girlfriend’s death, he also shared that his mother’s husband, his step father died and he was trying to help her handle her grief, all the while still overwhelmed with his own.

He tells of using his fighting as a way to work through his pain and to dedicate it to his girlfriend. Surely he was getting counseling and had a strong support group of friends. But obviously it was not enough as he was still stuck in the trance of grief and guilt.

In my experience with working with clients going through grief, you have to remove the emotional pain, take them out of the emotional trance, have them feel the pain, let the pain go and replace it with a new feeling that empowers them, yet honors their love and feelings for the deceased.

Just talking about it, replaying the grief in their mind, being stuck will only reinforce the program/grief and the individual cannot move forward. They will continually seek out way to drown out and push away the pain.

My hope in hearing of Samman’s story is that no one else will have to unsuccessfully deal with their emotional pain and addiction. That’s why I am always sharing with agents and athletes my work and success in helping people let go in a safe loving way, and replace it with a love and peace that allows them to move forward in life.

Peace and Love to Samman and his family and friends.

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