Brave ex-Sheffield Steeler reveals his battle against drink and depression

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Levi Nelson - the winger whose goal won Steelers their last play off title - has been struggling with alcoholism, depression and thoughts of suicide since he left Sheffield.

The Canadian forward took the courageous decision to reveal his own mental health issues in the hope of encouraging others in a similar plight to seek help.

The Steelers' hero says he would not be alive today if it wasn't for those who have loved and supported him through his darkest times.

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His story may resonate with many people, during the coronavirus lockdown.

Nelson had enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience back in May 2017 when his goal won Steelers the Play Off final in double overtime, at Nottingham.

He'd had to dig deep to score the decider in a see-saw 6-5 victory - he was playing against Cardiff Devils with a pain killing injection in a damaged knee.

Nelson left the UK a year after that historic match. At 30 years old, fans thought he had hockey left in him.

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But his mental health demons took over and it is only now that he feels able to talk about it...on behalf of others who may be facing difficult times.

"Stress. Alcoholism. Anxiety. Depression. Suicide" he wrote on the web.

"These are the things I have struggled with over the last five years.

"I know this is probably a surprise to most of you but it just goes to show that mental health is a real thing that can't always be seen.

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Levi Nelson - matchwinner. Pic by Dean WoolleyLevi Nelson - matchwinner. Pic by Dean Woolley
Levi Nelson - matchwinner. Pic by Dean Woolley

"Just because someone always has a smile on doesn't mean they are always happy and everything is all good in the world.

"We are all fighting our own battles" said the battling winger, who often put his body on the line at Sheffield Arena.

"I have never been one to talk about my own feelings and emotions. I have tried and tried to beat this illness on my own.

"It is a game you are never going to win by yourself!

"I am happy to share I am sober just over two months and feeling the best I have mentally in two years," said the father of three in Calgary,

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"I wouldn't be here today if I didn't build up the courage and strength to admit and reach out that I had a serious problem and needed help.

"I cannot thank the doctors, therapist, family friends, God, and most of all my beautiful wife Tiffany. You guys changed my life.

"It is not easy to post this, that's for sure, but my hope is that if anyone out there is going through a tough time or just needs someone to talk to please build up the courage to reach out for help," wrote Nelson, whose on ice relationship with Robert Dowd was a tremendous asset to the club.

He ended the post by writing: "You are loved more than you know. I am here to listen and help you any way I can.'

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His message was warmly received by Steelers' defenceman Davey Phillips and former team mate Jason Hewitt, among others.

*After Nelson's goal in the Play Off final, his then coach Paul Thompson commented: “To go back on after taking a massive pain-killing injection at the start of the fifth period – I said to him ‘Levi, you can’t go on,’ but he just turned around and said: ‘I’m going.’ Then he went and scored that fabulous winner – it is the stuff dreams are made of.”

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