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Robert Smith opens up about struggles with alcohol

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In a frank, candid, and above all else inspiring segment on Friday’s edition of ESPN2’s First Take, former NFL running back Robert Smith disclosed that he has struggled for years with alcoholism.

The comments were made in connection with the struggles of 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, who recently spent roughly five weeks in rehab after a DUI arrest in September.

“I would just caution him to understand what he is,” Robert Smith said.  “Because what you are is an alcoholic.  And every decision you make every day flows from that. . . .  I’m an alcoholic, and I don’t have a chance to be the husband and the father that I want to be if I decide to drink.  How am I going to teach my son to be a man if I’m not being a man?  And if I’m drinking, I’m not being a man.”

Robert Smith explained that alcoholism ultimately is mental illness.

“It’s not your fault that you’re alcoholic,” Robert Smith said.  “You’re born that way.  But it’s damn sure your problem.”

Via the News-Herald, Robert Smith also said that his addiction began at Ohio State and increased during his NFL career with the Vikings.

“If you don’t deal with [alcoholism], it will take you down and take down the ones around you,” Robert Smith said.  “It’s a living death.  Absolute misery.”

We admire him for talking so openly about it.  Even if it helps only one other person get the help that they so badly need, it will have been worth it.

Also, here’s hoping that Aldon Smith contacts Robert Smith for assistance as Aldon Smith tries to manage his own addiction.  Their shared experience as NFL players could give Robert Smith’s advice extra weight.

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26 Responses to “Robert Smith opens up about struggles with alcohol”
  1. thestrategyexpert says: Nov 2, 2013 11:22 PM


    Everybody should honor this good piece by Robert Smith and open up a fresh beer right now and pour it down the drain.

  2. fdugrad says: Nov 2, 2013 11:22 PM

    The difference in the two Smith men is, Robert is highly intelligent and thinks deeply. Aldon on the other hand, well, let’s just say isn’t. I doubt Alden reaches out. It would be in his interest to do so though.

  3. rhabdodontidae says: Nov 2, 2013 11:22 PM

    “You’re born that way.”

    I don’t know about that, Rob.

    Rest of what he said, I agree with.

  4. skito13 says: Nov 2, 2013 11:26 PM

    Good advice from Robert….it is what it is.

  5. vikingarsk says: Nov 2, 2013 11:32 PM

    What do you know….an honest, frank assessment from someone who actually knows what is going on. Thank you, Robert Smith.

  6. krenshaws says: Nov 2, 2013 11:37 PM

    I am a USAF veteran and an alcoholic. Robert Smith has now became an idol of mine, he has amazing courage for coming forward with his problems.

  7. detectivejimmymcnulty says: Nov 3, 2013 12:13 AM

    Learn from your own mistakes, but more importantly learn from others. Give him a call Aldon, it couldn’t hurt.

  8. blacknole08 says: Nov 3, 2013 12:15 AM

    I saw some of his interview Friday on ESPN, and he made some good points, one being that players don’t see it as a problem amongst themselves because all (or majority) of them drink. So no one is gonna say you need help since they all (or most) do it.

    Good for Smith for speaking out. It takes a man to admit his own mistakes.

  9. misterdreamer119 says: Nov 3, 2013 12:19 AM

    a lot of people like drinking its just some cant stop. I dont believe all that born that way stuff.

  10. bobzilla1001 says: Nov 3, 2013 12:54 AM

    I saw Robert Smith’s speech during “First Take,” and my immediate thoughts were that when lots of money, youthfulness and lots of free time are combined, it’s a wonder that more players aren’t in trouble, either physically, emotionally or criminally.
    Twenty-something is awfully young to be a multimillionaire who plays a once-a-week, five-month sport. At least NBA and NHL players are kept busy for nearly 10 months out of the year.

  11. krypticking says: Nov 3, 2013 1:05 AM

    I wouldn’t say your born with it, anyone always has the choice to pick up the bottle and what they do after is their choice. I know plenty of people my age who at one time would party non stop. I’m 25 so some people are still in that stage. I grew out of it, I barely drink anymore lol, but there was a time people were concern about the alcohol intake I was having and how bad I was. I simply grew out of it, I’m lucky. I just don’t desire it anymore. For others, it’s not. And a lot of people deal with this struggle day in and day out. Good for Robert smith to realize this.

  12. moss49thteam says: Nov 3, 2013 1:36 AM


    Robert Smith walked away and Dennis Green along with Randy Moss left two Super Bowl rings on the table. (along with 2 O and D beefed up talented lines)

    Robert Smith walked away with nothing to say and no questions to answer.

    If he has something to say, I believe we should listen. I also hope he is better of for his experience.

  13. chucknorrissinspiration says: Nov 3, 2013 1:50 AM

    I’ll drink to that.

  14. favrewillplay4ever says: Nov 3, 2013 1:08 AM

    Even growing up as a Packers fan, I always admired how Robert went about his business. He’s one of the few former athletes on the sports network that does his job how it’s supposed to be done. He’s articulate and makes sense when talking.

  15. wallskol86 says: Nov 3, 2013 1:13 AM

    I think for a player to open up about their struggles takes a lot of courage. My only hope is that other players who struggle with alcoholism who are unable to openly speak about their personal issues listen to what Robert has to say.

  16. 10yardslant says: Nov 3, 2013 1:52 AM

    Born with it???? You choose to drink.. you choose to make rational and responible choices.

  17. robuff716 says: Nov 3, 2013 1:54 AM

    Is that the reason he retired early?

  18. zombiebuddha says: Nov 3, 2013 3:32 AM

    This is assuming that Aldon Smith isn’t just going to rehab to get his sentence lessened and to make his PR image look better.

  19. sfm073 says: Nov 3, 2013 4:38 AM

    I’m assuming he’s saying that you are born a high addiction possibility.

  20. TheWizard says: Nov 3, 2013 5:35 AM

    I applaud Robert for dealing with it like he is.

  21. blackqbwhiterb says: Nov 3, 2013 6:19 AM

    He didn’t get the media hype of a superstar, being on a team with Randy Moss & Cris Carter, and several others… But this guy was Fantastic for 8 or 9 seasons, a GREAT player

  22. jjbadd385 says: Nov 3, 2013 11:37 AM

    I always liked Robert. I think a lot of us agree (right or wrong), that alcoholism isn’t necessarily something u r born with. But myself, I drank with the best of alcoholics, for many years. Oddly, I never considered myself an alcoholic, even though by AA standards, I met many of the symptoms. I just woke up one day and said, ok, I’m done drinking now, kinda like Forrest Gump did after running. Maybe alcoholism should be determined on each person individually instead of grouping everyone that drinks into one category.

  23. joeyg88 says: Nov 3, 2013 11:37 AM

    I thought he retired early to become a doctor? Good piece of advice. People say alcoholism is a disease but I really think it’s a choice

  24. monetdali says: Nov 3, 2013 12:45 PM

    Some of you need to understand that being an alcoholic has much more to do with the mental aspect of the disease and not as much as the whiskey that is poured down the chute. The alcohol is merely a symptom of something much bigger…which is a mental state of an alcoholic. Some are born with a mind that cannot shut off. Anything that helps shut off your brain and relax is welcomed, and many times it is alcohol that becomes the medication. Unless one has been through the misery of what is an alcoholics life and state of mind, you would not know or understand. That is okay not to understand but please don’t play expert and take the easy argument that a person is not born with it or it is not a disease. It is most definitely a disease and it does not discriminate based on race, social status, age, profession, etc. hopefully this awesome piece from #26 will help more to understand (or want to understand) this social illness. Thanks Robert!

  25. stoicpaisano says: Nov 3, 2013 7:15 PM

    Did Smith learn that at med school?

    Oh wait…

  26. filthymcnasty1 says: Nov 3, 2013 7:59 PM

    He played in MN. When in Rome…………….

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