Pulling no punches
Whether or not you’re into boxing, the name Oscar De La Hoya probably rings a few bells. In the ring since the age of five, he became known as ‘The Golden Boy’, eventually winning ten world titles and an Olympic Gold medal. As a Spanish and English speaker, and with film star looks, he was idolised in both hispanic and white communities across America. His fights were watched by millions.
De la Hoya retired a couple of years ago, in his late thirties, and has since begun to explain in a series of interviews that throughout his glittering career, his mental health was not in such good shape. He suffered with addiction to alcohol and drugs, depression, and at times has had thoughts of taking his own life.
“I haven’t been truly sober since I was eight,” said De La Hoya in a televised interview. Throughout most of his life, alcohol was the only thing that made him feel ‘safe’ and ‘ok’. The more famous he became, the greater the temptations and the pressures, and the more extreme his behaviour got. After retiring and starting his own business, he also started using cocaine.
Determined to change
The boxing champion says that he reached “rock-bottom” a few months ago when he started feeling his life was worthless. He checked himself into rehab, and though it wasn’t the first time he had tried it, he was determined to make a change. He went for seven weeks, and has been clean since then.
“I told one of the counsellors that I can win this fight, “ he said, “ He told me, ‘You’re not going to win this fight, you are going to survive this fight”. He is surviving. One day at a time.
De La Hoya is now in Alcoholics Anonymous, in therapy and feeling much happier. He says that it’s still the toughest fight of his life to keep clean, but that since opening up, he has felt a huge weight lifted.
It’s easy to stop paying attention to stories of celebrities going off the rails, being sent to rehab and going off the rails again. But for every person that opens up about their mental health problems and seeks help, other people hopefully feel less afraid to do the same. Stories like Oscar De La Hoya’s show people that depression and addiction can happen in anyone’s life, no matter how ‘golden’ things seem to other people or how tough and strong you are.