It’s not easy to open up about addiction and mental illness the way Robin Lehner did on Thursday. But there he was just hours after the most personal item he likely ever penned was published in The Athletic. An emotional look at his battle with addiction to alcohol and drugs and diagnosis of with bipolar 1 with manic phases and ADHD with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a world where a stigma still remains around people with mental illness and addiction, it took guts to be so open just as Lehner was getting ready to start a new chapter in his career with the Islanders.
“It was extremely hard,” Lehner told reporters on Thursday after the piece was published. “The main reason I did it was hopefully I help someone else go through what I went through. It’s been an emotional couple of days, but I feel good to have it out and ready to move forward, and get ready for a fun season.”
But it was his words a few minutes into his media session that really drove the point home.
“Sometimes there’s more than hockey,” he said. “It’s just my reality and my truth. A lot of things happened this summer and I started over. I started over in a new organization. I took a step backward to hopefully take a few forwards here.”
For anyone who has gone through addiction or deals with a mental illness, there are surely parts of Lehner’s story that they can relate to. Perhaps it brings some comfort to know that they aren’t the only one dealing with it.
And that was the whole reason Lehner decided to come forward and tell “his truth” as he put it.
Now the Islanders goaltender is feeling better and taking the next steps to continue to better himself. He will play this season sober, the first time he’s done that in his NHL career.
“As I said, finally I got a diagnosis of something and I have medication for it,” he said. “It’s been a lot of experimenting, but I feel great. I obviously didn’t have that before. As I said in the piece, it’s going to be my first sober season and I don’t feel that’s going to hurt me.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Luckily, Lehner has found support from his new teammates and organization. The Islanders quickly rallied around Lehner after the story was published and management has been there for him since he told them.
Sadly, while the Islanders have supported Lehner, that hasn’t been the case with other organizations who have sat down with him during this past offseason.
“We’ve been extremely honest about my rehabilitation to every team,” Lehner said. “As I said in the piece, there’s a few things I’ve been hesitant about, which is unfortunate in this day and age how it is in the league with the support of mental health they feel that way. But when the first time I told Lou (Lamoriello) and told (Barry) Trotz I was surprised about their response.
“They didn’t think anything of it. They were just happy I’m here and I’m healthy and that’s great.”