Republic of Ireland and Glasgow City forward Clare Shine has sat down with Sky Sports to discuss her struggles with alcoholism as she continues her recovery.
Shine, 27, released her autobiography, ‘Scoring Goals in the Dark’, earlier this month, in which she details her story of being a promising young footballer who turned to drink as she battled with mental health problems as a teenager. “Maybe, just maybe my story can help in some small way,” she hopes.
Her first international call-up came aged 13 for the U17 World Cup. It gave Shine aspirations of becoming a top footballer. By 20, she had won her first senior cap with the Republic of Ireland and scored a hat-trick in the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian to lead Glasgow City to their fourth consecutive treble.
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But her career had already begun to veer off course at the end of her teenage years as she was overcome with anxiety and panic attacks, at which point her drinking spiralled out of control and almost cost her everything.
Shine attempted suicide in 2018 after an evening of drinking alcohol and using drugs. It felt like a turning point for her until the coronavirus lockdown struck, not long after her last-gasp winner in the 2019 Scottish Cup final against Hibs.
Her relapse, after spending a year-and-a-half sober, brought feelings of shame and embarrassment. She felt her career was over.
But Shine has found a way back and is now playing for Glasgow City again. She signed a one-year extension at the end of May. Her focus now is on maintaining stability in her life as she prepares for the forthcoming season, with their Champions League campaign set to get underway in August.
How it all began
“I was brought up in Douglas in Cork and I grew up in such a sports community in Douglas, full of football and Gaelic games. When I went to the European finals when I was 15 and the World Cup, I think that experience gave me that drive to go on and try and achieve.
Shine says he didn't know how to cope when she struggled with her mental health and turned to alcohol
“I think I started having panic attacks when I was 17 or 18, and it was something that I didn’t really know how to handle. I didn’t know anything about mental health. I didn’t know how to manage it, how to control it and it kind of overpowered me. And it just started to become very obvious to people, especially in the footballing world. Turning up to games and training under the influence is just not acceptable as a professional athlete. I think I was starting to get a bad reputation. I didn’t look after myself at all.”
Realising she had a problem
“I was in the squad a number of months before [a game against the Netherlands, but lost my place]. I travelled over for it because it was a massive game, and I remember hiding the bottle of wine in my bag, trying to sneak a couple of sips here and there. For me, to realise I should have been on that pitch, not drinking a bottle of wine and watching them, I think that was kind of when I really realised that I did have a serious problem.
“I was a compulsive liar through everything, really. In October 2018, I tried to commit suicide in Cork City. I can’t remember exactly the time it was, but I was under the influence, I had taken on a lot of drink, and I was taking drugs as well, and I’m not sure really what triggered it. I had been thinking about it for a number of months before that.
“I woke up in the hospital the next morning, my best friend was on the hospital bed, and I was on the couch beside her and there was a nurse outside the door because I was on suicide watch. It kind of hit me then: ‘What am I actually doing with my life? How do I make this right? How can I change?’.”
Shame and embarrassment of relapse
“At the end of the season with Glasgow in November 2019, I scored the 90th-minute winner in the Scottish Cup final, and then I had a really good pre-season and got back into the international squad, got my first start, and then I come home, and it’s lockdown.
“It’s like, ‘What do I do now?’, I had no structure or routine. You’re left up to your own doing, I suppose, and I didn’t know what to do, and that’s when I hit the drink again. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I had gone through a year and a half of recovery – for it to just be over in a split second was something that I didn’t want to accept.”
Thinking her career was over
Republic of Ireland and Glasgow City's Shine says she is proud of her recovery
“I’m nearly two years sober now, and I can kind of look back on my journey and think, wow, I’ve come out of two really dark places, and it’s something that I can be proud of.
“The day after [my relapse], I never ever thought that I would ever play football again. I said, ‘That’s it, that’s done. I want to try and find happiness in life, I just need to take it slow, get a bit of stability in my life’.
“It’s been very up-and-down over the last two years, and so yeah, I’m just hoping to get a good pre-season now when I go back in July and hit the ground running for the Champions League in August.”
Scoring Goals in the Dark by Clare Shine, with Gareth Maher, came out on 6 June from Pitch Publishing, £19.99.
If you are affected by these issues or want to talk, please contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or visit the website.