Former NFL Star Johnny Manziel Talks Sobriety, Mental Health

By Kelly Burch 02/14/18

"I was self-medicating with alcohol because that's what I thought was making me happy to help me get out of that depression." 

Johnny Manziel

Former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel revealed this week that untreated bipolar disorder and addiction were key factors in the demise of his professional football career. 

When Manziel won the prestigious Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M in 2012, it seemed like he was setting the stage for an impressive career as an NFL quarterback. That rang even more true when he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round. However, Manziel’s career quickly went downhill and his behavior became more erratic and his performance suffered, eventually leading the Browns to let him go after two seasons.

Manziel, 25, received a diagnosis of bipolar about a year ago, he said earlier this week on Good Morning America. Before that, he was using substances to deal with the mental health issues that he didn’t know he had. 

"I was self-medicating with alcohol because that's what I thought was making me happy to help me get out of that depression to a point where I felt like I had some sense of happiness," he said, according to

However, he realized that that was not a sustainable solution. 

"But at the end of the day, when you wake up the next day after a night like that or after going on a trip like that, and you wake up the next day and that's all gone,” he said. "And that liquid courage or that liquid sense of euphoria that's over you that's all gone and you're left staring at the ceiling by yourself and you're back in that depression and back in that hole, that dark hole of sitting in a room by yourself and being super depressed again thinking about all the mistakes you made in your life. Where did that get me? Where did that get me except out of the NFL? Where did it get me? Disgraced.”

Manziel said that he is ready to prioritize his mental health. 

“The difference that I know this year is I started taking a look at my mental health a little bit and making it a priority in my life to where I'm taking medication for bipolar and I'm working to try and make sure that I don't fall back into any type of depression because that leads me... I know how slippery of a slope that is,” he said. 

He knows that he owes it to himself and his family, including his fiancée Bre Tiesi, to gain control of his mental health. 

"I can't help that my wires are a little bit differently crossed than yours. I can't help my mental makeup of the way that I was created,” he said. “But I know that if I stay on the meds and continue to what I'm doing right now, I think my dad, my mom, Bre, I think would all agree that they've seen a drastic change.”

Eventually, he hopes that change might lead him back onto the field.

"I'm coming back from a huge downfall. I don't know what kind of comeback it will be. But I know I want to get back on the football field and do what brought me so much joy." 

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