New "30 For 30" Explores Dennis Rodman's Addiction Battle, Tough Childhood

By Kelly Burch 09/18/19

In the ESPN doc, Rodman gets candid about parenthood, surviving childhood trauma and living with addiction.

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Dennis Rodman
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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is speaking out about his tough childhood, his substance abuse and his own issues as a father as part of a documentary about his life. 

Speaking ahead of the release of his 30 for 30 ESPN documentaryDennis Rodman: For Better or WorseRodman told ESPN that he was trying to be a better dad to his three kids, who were born in 1988, 2000 and 2001. 

"I want to," he said. "But it isn't so easy.”

Living With Alcoholism

Rodman has struggled with alcohol abuse for years and has been in and out of rehab. Last December, Rodman relapsed, but said that he realized drinking was a mistake. He vowed to get back to 12-step meetings. 

Speaking with ESPN, Rodman didn’t explicitly say whether he was sober or not at the moment. However, he did say that drinking isn’t his biggest challenge right now. 

"We all have demons. I've had plenty,” Rodman said. “Alcohol being one of them—everyone knows that. But I think the only major demon I have right now is trying to convince myself that I am a good dad. That's the worst one for me. And it's so hard for me for some reason. It's very hard for me to break out of that cycle, you know. You feel like it's too late. It's one of those things where I never had anyone ever want [to love me]."

Navigating Fatherhood

He lives only a few miles from his youngest two children—who are now in their late teens—but he doesn't have much of a relationship with them, he says. That’s partly because Rodman lacked a father figure in his life who could teach him how to be a dad. His own father didn’t have any contact with him until he flagged down Rodman one day while the star was on his way to NBA practice in 1997. 

“This black guy runs up to my truck and says, 'I need to talk to you. I need to talk to you.' I said, 'Dude, I'm late for practice.' And he said, 'I just want to let you know that I'm your father,’” Rodman recalled. “Out the blue, just like that. And I'm like, 'Oh, come on, I gotta deal with this stuff today?’"

Later, during a game, Rodman’s father was signing autographs, and Rodman learned from a reporter that the man had written a book about him. 

“I think it's still a big joke, because this guy came out of the blue and I've never seen him before,” Rodman said. “I was so used to not having a father after 37 years, I'm thinking, 'You know, it's a little late. It's a little late.’"

Rodman was unable to break the cycle of being an absent absent to his children, he said. 

"I lie to myself a lot about shit,” Rodman said. “‘I’m a great dad. I love my kids.' And then I have to go home and sit there and beat myself up because I'm just telling myself all these lies.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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