Ex-49ers linebacker Aldon Smith addresses troubled past

Aldon Smith, the supremely talented but much troubled former linebacker for the 49ers and Raiders, has opened up about his past saying he “lost hope.”
“I was in a bad place,” Smith told the Dallas Morning News in a wide-ranging interview. “For anybody who listens to this story, who reads it, if you have been in a place where you can’t see anything other than the situation you’re dealing with and then things just pile up to a point where you lose hope, that’s what happened.”
Smith, 31, said he has rediscovered a purpose playing for the Dallas Cowboys this season, nine years since his breakout rookie season for the 49ers after being taken as the seventh overall draft pick out of Missouri.
Smith’s troubles began after the first season when he was arrested for driving under the influence in Florida in early 2012. Six months later, Smith was the victim of a stabbing at a party at his home in San Jose that also included two people wounded by gunshots.
A third arrest in 2015 for driving under the influence led the 49ers to release Smith, who then signed with the Raiders.
In November 2015, NFL officials suspended Smith for a year for a hit-and-run incident that had occurred that August. Smith lost appeals for reinstatement and did not play in 2016 and ‘17.
The Raiders released Smith after an alleged domestic violence incident in March 2018.
“Being in a place now where I have everything back and it’s better than it was before, I’m just grateful for being able to see the light,” he told the Dallas newspaper.
As a defensive end, Smith leads the Cowboys with five sacks, 23 quarterback hurries and seven quarterback hits in 10 games.
Smith, who has been in and out of rehabilitation centers for much of the past seven years, told the newspaper he hopes his story inspires others who might be struggling.
“When I drank, it was always to numb,” he said. “It was to not be anxious. It was to be liked. It was for me to like myself because I didn’t know who I was, and my self-esteem was all” messed” up. I was this guy who was this superstar, but I didn’t feel like that. When I would be around people, I would have to get myself into that type of zone to feel like that.
“And if I was going through something, I didn’t know that what I was going through was fear and unresolved trauma. I just associated it with anger, and I didn’t want to be angry, so” drinking “was my way of just trying to escape it.”
Smith told the newspaper that he worked in Kansas City last year detailing vehicles at a car dealership. He said he struggled to deposit initial paychecks because an expired passport was his only form of identification.
Smith said although failing to overcome his addiction at rehabilitation facilities in the past, he tried again in the past year at a center in Arizona. He credits the facility with changing his life.
“I was completely defeated,” Smith said. “I’m broke as hell. I’ve completely lost everything, and I’m at rehab again. … I’ll never forget, in the detox when you first get there, I remember sitting in front of the fireplace, just kind of isolating. And this girl made me a plate of food without me even asking. And gave it to me.
“That was like ‘Somebody cares who doesn’t even know me.’ ”
One of Smith’s most bizarre episodes occurred in April 2014 when he was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport after an incident with a Transportation Security Agency agent. According to authorities,  Smith told the agent he was carrying a bomb. The Los Angeles City Attorney decided to drop the charges after further review.
Smith told the Morning News that his situation was exacerbated by negative portrayals in the media.
“I had a role in the situation, and I could have done things differently,” Smith said. “But at the end of the day, I didn’t write the story, and I didn’t create the narrative of how they wanted to portray me.
“That was the thing that was wrong. Because that’s not the only story that’s just been totally incorrect. I would like people who don’t know Aldon, or would like to get to know Aldon — obviously, I can’t sit down for five minutes with everybody — but if they would actually take a chance to get to know me, these writers, if you wanted to talk for five minutes, have some coffee or go out to eat. …”
Smith said he made some bad decisions but never with the intention of harming others.
“I’m a person who has feelings, and I’m a caring person, and I want this world to be a better place,” he told the paper.
Smith said he never stopped trying to return to the NFL.  Smith moved into a Los Angeles sober-living facility last year after finishing treatment at the Arizona facility, he told the Morning News. He said he joined the Unbreakable Performance Center, which is owned by Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer.
Smith said he joined a group Glazer runs called Merging Veterans and Players. Before the shutdown because of the COVID-19 crisis, the members would work out at the gym and then hold hour-long group therapy sessions.
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Cachuela said Smith inspired him and other group members by what he had overcome to return to the NFL.
When Smith prepared to meet with NFL officials in May to state a case for reinstatement, Cachuela wanted to show support.
He gave Smith his Purple Heart, a medal Cachuela received after he suffered injuries in 2009 while serving in Iraq.
Cachuela said he told Smith, “even though he didn’t go through combat like we do, you experienced the misery, the hurt, the pain that we do go through.
“He has that courage to get back up and not give up.”

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