CRUSADERS wing Zac Guildford has admitted publicly for the first time that he is an alcoholic.
He made the admission at a press conference last week where it was announced that he would be reinstated by the NZRU, despite suggestions his contract may have been torn up.
The former All Black told reporters that he had accepted that he had a mental illness that included addictive tendencies.
He simply answered “yes” when asked if he was an alcoholic, Fairfax NZ reported.
The 24-year-old said he had been “powerless” against booze in the past, but thought he could now say no to a drink.
“If you asked me this time last year while I was still in denial I guess it would have been. But now I’ve been away, I’ve seen the experts and had help. I have a great acceptance of who I am.
“My understanding was limited around alcoholism and the issue I had. That’s the first step admitting I was powerless over alcohol and once I realised that everything became a bit easier.”
He spent a month in rehab.
“The first step was acceptance. I went away to a facility for 28 days where I learned lot. I guess I went in there thinking I knew it all, but I didn’t.
“That’s when I got out of the denial stage and started accepting who I am and realised I can’t keep doing what I’ve done in the past.
“Look at the damage it’s [alcohol] caused for me. It’s a pretty small sacrifice and the road I’ve been down for the past 60 days has been a happy one and a pleasant one and one I want to continue.”
He did not think the issues were related to the pressure of being a top rugby player, but were related to his youth.
“It was just part of who I was growing up. We all did it and I was just one of the ones who couldn’t handle it,” he said.
He said he was unable to guarantee that he would never drink again, but hoped that would be the case, and had committed to attending AA meetings.
Guildford said his teammates had been supportive and he was looking forward to addressing the team.
NZRU professional manager Neil Sorensen said the decision not to fire Guildford was a tough one.
“Zac’s under no illusion that this was a really close call. Termination was absolutely on the table even up until last night,” he said.
“It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t predetermined. In fact I think an easier decision would have been to terminate. I think we’ve made a tough decision, but the right decision.”
Sorensen said Guildford’s honesty had helped save his career.
“‘The key thing we’ve seen is that for the first time since we’ve been dealing with this young man he’s being honest with us, and honest with himself and his friends.
“We wish we were at this stage 14 months ago, post Rarotonga, but we didn’t get there.
“The difference really is Zac said ‘I’m an alcoholic’ and all the medical information and experts have said this kids an alcoholic and he has a mental illness and Zac has accepted that.
“Over the last two days it didn’t really matter what submissions were put forward. When this man spoke of himself in brutal honesty it wasn’t a hard decision to make.”
He did not say it was Guildford’s last chance.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder is not guaranteeing Guildford an easy ride back into the team.
He was not named to play the Bulls at the weekend and Blackadder would not say whether he would be considered for the match against the Kings the following weekend.