Ronnie O’Sullivan insists that “a six-year bender” has cost him a huge chunk of his career. And the Rocket is certain that early-life experiences such as his dad being sent to prison for murder did him “long-term damage” from which he has still not fully recovered.
World No 1 O’Sullivan, 46, claimed a record-equalling seventh world title at the Crucible in May – a feat that saw him almost universally hailed as the greatest player in history. But he has always maintained that there could easily have been even more than the 78 career titles including a record 21 ‘majors’ including the big three or world’s UK and Masters.
Only when he started working with Dr Steve Peters in 2011 did O’Sullivan start to understand and cope with many of the triggers for his moods and anxieties – and stop them affecting his game. O’Sullivan, speaking in a new Eurosport documentary, said: “A lot of people say, ‘If you had your time again, would you change it?’ and yes, I would.
“I would change quite a lot of things in my life. I’m not one of those ‘That was what it was and it did me good’ – no, a lot of the things I have done have made long-term damage, I think.
DON’T MISS: O’Sullivan takes swipe at Mark Selby when naming two biggest rivals
“There are some things that are out of your control, like my dad going away [to prison], I wish that had never happened. That would have probably stopped a lot of the other things going wrong in my life.
“I’m not blaming my dad for that, I just lost a lot of that support mechanism. I had never drunk, smoked or any of that stuff and then I went on a wild bender, if you like, for six years.
“I think I would change those years because I became so dependent on changing the way I felt. I never felt comfortable in my own skin, but up until that point, I had always felt comfortable in my own skin.
“I think that is where a lot of my problems arose. That then became a crutch because if I wasn’t feeling good, the first thing I would go to was the drink or something to change the way I felt.
“I think once you have crossed that line, it is hard to go back to the person that you were. I would much rather go back to the kid that was 16, 17, or 18 that was innocent, and never have to do any of that.
“But I have only got myself to blame. I would definitely change that, a million per cent, but things change. If I was going through what I was going through when I won my first world title, there is no way in a million years I would put myself through it.
“But the last 20 years I have found a way of coping with it and being on top of it, and not stressing about it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when, especially this year’s [World Championship] I went to places I didn’t really want to venture into again, but I knew that it was just a temporary phase.
“I was able to notice it and put the brakes on, but yeah, I am a lot better now at just taking it for what it is. Win, lose or draw, it doesn’t really matter, but just keeping it in its right place.”