Rio Ferdinand has revealed he turned to alcohol following the death of his wife Rebecca, aged 34, after experiencing ‘guilt’ that she died and not him. Breaking down during filming for his one-off BBC documentary, the former England footballer admitted he relied on drinking in the middle of the night to get through the grief of losing his other half to breast cancer in March 2015.
In tandem with the documentary, the 38-year-old – who is now a single-parent to their three children Lorenz, 10, Tate, eight, and Tia, five – told Radio Times this week about how he is struggling to adapt to parenting without his late partner.
The pair met when Londoner Rio was just 21 and married in 2009 on Peter Island, after he popped the question during a trip to Las Vegas in 2007, a year after their eldest Lorenz’s birth. Left reeling from the sudden realisation he was a single-parent two years ago, Rio explains in his documentary Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad that he was left self-medicating with alcohol to combat his grief.
The ex-Manchester United defender said: ‘At the beginning I was drinking a lot at night time.
‘We have a lady lucky enough who lives with us, she would go to bed and I’d come back down in the middle of the night and probably drink a lot for the first three or four months. But I would get up and do the school run and stuff.’
Opening up about his wife’s death on the BBC special, the sports star revealed he can now sympathise with people who go to ‘dark places’ following trauma and grief.
Discussing the ‘selfish’ aspect of suicidal thoughts, he insisted that it was the people who he surrounded himself with that gave him the drive to succeed for his children.
He said in the upcoming show: ‘That’s why a network of people around you is so important. And I was fortunate to have that and also having my kids as inspiration to make sure I get up and do things and try and make things work.
‘Some people aren’t afforded that, some people haven’t got that, and that’s when I started to become a bit more sympathetic when people do go to places that are dark places.
He added: ‘I used to look at people or read stories and think, how can you be so selfish and commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide or whatever.
‘But I can actually sympathise now because I understand that you get to places where you think, if I didn’t have that network of people or my kids who I use as an inspiration to be able to get up and think straight, I can understand that.’
Speaking to Radio Times, the former England footballer revealed the painful aftermath he continues to tackle following the devastating loss of his wife after she lost her battle with breast cancer two years ago.
Reflecting on his difficult few years, the footballer-turned-restaurateur was asked if he feels guilty about being the parent alive after she died the same month he retired from sport.
Taking a moment, he emotionally answered: ‘Yes, probably, yes. Because mums are different.’