Oscar De La Hoya, boxing's golden boy and one of the sport's most powerful promoters and iconic figures, gave a bombshell of an interview Tuesday to Univision's Teresa Rodriguez in which he laid bare the most intimate secrets of his personal life:
• He contemplated suicide, but didn't have the courage to follow through.
• He is an alcoholic who also began using cocaine in the last two years.
• He was unfaithful to his wife, Millie, and the pair separated for a time.
One after the other, De La Hoya yanked the ghosts from his closet and waved them for the world to see.
It was hard not to feel sympathetic for him as he solemnly discussed the demons that nearly destroyed his life and caused him to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Malibu, Calif., earlier this year.
Fortunately, he sought professional help before he faced an irreversible situation. Clearly, his actions were putting his very life at stake. De La Hoya appears to have recognized the warning signs in time, before he made an alcohol- or drug-induced decision that he could never turn back from. He recognized he needed assistance, as does anyone who contemplates suicide.
[Related: Former champ admits to suicidal thoughts]
"My life was a big mess," De La Hoya told Rodriguez. "Rock bottom was recently, within a couple of years. [Me] just thinking, 'Is my life even worth it?' I don't have the strength, I don't have the courage, to take my own life. But I was thinking about it. It got to that point."
Thankfully, it never got beyond it.
However, why he chose to share all these revelations is not clear. It had to be extraordinarily difficult for his wife, Puerto Rican singer/actress Millie Corretjer, to relive those dark moments as her husband went on national television and shared his personal demons to the world.
Addicts talk of their problems at meetings as a way of unburdening themselves and understanding the consequences of their actions. Acknowledging his problems and seeking treatment was the best thing he could ever have done. It's just tough to see the collateral damage left in his wake as a result of his public admissions – particularly the pain that his family is enduring – but if the end result is a happy, healthy father and husband, it will have been worth the angst.
De La Hoya said he used drugs and alcohol to fill something that was missing in his life. He was, by many accounts, one of the most successful men on the planet.
He was rich beyond his wildest dreams; a young man who grew up in an impoverished part of Los Angeles with few material possessions had become worth millions upon millions of dollars. He owns powerful companies and sports teams and real estate and fancy cars and lavish homes and designer clothes. He's married to a beautiful woman who bore him two beautiful children.
Yet, amid all of that, he was still searching for something else. He turned to drugs and alcohol to find what he wanted and wasn't getting from his life.
"There were drugs," he said. "My drug of choice was cocaine and alcohol. Cocaine was recent, in the last two years, last two and a half years. I depended more on the alcohol than the cocaine. It took me to a place where I felt safe. It took me to a place where I felt like … nobody could say anything to me. It took me to a place where I could just reach out and grab my mom [who died of cancer in 1991]. I was dependent on those drugs, those alcohols."
As part of his dependency and trying to fill a void in his life, he had several extramarital affairs.
"I don't consider myself a sex addict, [but] I've been unfaithful, to my wife, yes," he said. "We're obviously not talking a Tiger Woods here, but I was unfaithful. It was filling a void of maybe not feeling loved, to a certain point. It was filling a void of maybe … not feeling safe."
He says he's been sober since May 8, though he's learned enough to never say he's beaten the problem. He referred repeatedly during his interview with Rodriguez to "the monster" – his way of describing his alcoholism.
He frequently professes his love for his wife publicly, often on his Twitter page, because he better than anyone understands the pain his addictions have caused her.
"We haven't had the best relationship in these last few years, my wife and I," he said. "The substance abuse, the drinking, the being unfaithful, the partying, coming home late, not caring. She's better. She's better. We're taking it one day at a time. We were separated for a while. All I can do is just get myself better. I don't want to explain to her any more that I'm doing well. I want to show her. It's like they say: You have to walk the walk, and that's what I'm doing. I'm walking the walk. "It's not an easy walk. It's a struggle. Temptation is always going to be there. It's your choice, whether you want to drink or not. Now, I have tools. I understand how this disease works. I'm fed up with the lies. I'm fed up with working to be … to be an alcoholic. It's a 24/7 job. I just got tired. I was tired of it. I wanted this for myself: a clean, sober life. It's much better."
De La Hoya is not a mean-spirited person, and it's good to see that he's appears to have taken steps to turn his life around. But it's hard to tell the difference between what is true and what is smoke and mirrors because so much of De La Hoya's life has not been what it seems. He's had a carefully crafted, squeaky clean image that cost him many dollars to build and protect.
If this public confessional Tuesday was real, and not another bit of stagecraft, then this day – when he admitted his shortcomings and vowed to change his ways – should be remembered more than any of his triumphs in the ring as the greatest day of his life.
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