Robbins speaks out

"I was out of my mind. Life was unmanageable. I was completely living in a fantasy world." That's how Barret Robbins describes the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXVII in an interview on HBO's Real Sports. Now the former Raiders center is trying to get his life back on track.

In an interview with Andrea Kremer on HBO's Real Sports, scheduled to air Tuesday, Robbins details the tragic journey his life has been on since disappearing on the eve of the biggest night of his NFL career, one that includes losing his family, nearly dying after being shot by police in Miami, being jailed, and the emotional struggles the 35-year-old has had to deal with since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Now living in a halfway house and seven months into sobriety, Robbins talked at length about all of that in a very raw, straightforward talk with Kremer.

"I can't take anymore shortcuts," Robbins said. "I can't cut anymore corners. It's time for me to stand up, be a man and do what is ultimately the easiest thing to do, and that's the right thing."

That hasn't always been easy for Robbins, who went through most of his life not even knowing he had bipolar disorder. According to the interview on HBO, he wasn't even ready to accept the diagnosis until after he was shot by police and arrested in Miami January 2005 after trying to break into a nightclub in South Beach.

By then, Robbins had left a trail of mayhem in his wake that stretched from the East Coast to the West Coast and affected everyone from his wife and two daughters to the Raiders organization.

Robbins became the focal point of Super Bowl XXXVII when he disappeared two days before and didn't show back up until the morning of the game. Benched by then-coach Bill Callahan, Robbins and his AWOL incident served as a major distraction in the Raiders' first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 20 years, a game they ultimately lost to Tampa Bay 48-21.

At the time of his disappearance, Robbins claims he was into a weeks-long ‘manic episode' which he says, ironically, actually helped him play better in the weeks leading up to the championship game.

"The last couple games before the Super Bowl I was in a manic episode, during both of those (playoff games) … probably played some of my best games like that," said Robbins, who was voted to the Pro Bowl that same year in 2002. "(You play) fast, real fast. And real strong, real precise. Things are so much more vivid.

"When you're going through a manic episode you feel like you're on top of the world and that nothing can harm you. But it's such a false hope. It's not real. What's going on in your head is not real. That's what makes it so dangerous."

Robbins said he went through stretches like that at various times ever since college, but that no one had ever diagnosed him with bipolar disorder, which causes extreme mood swings going from the highest of the highs to the depths of depression.

To deal with it, Robbins turned to a variety of substances, including marijuana and cocaine.

"Some football guys get together and drink. Some football guys get together and smoke. Some football guys get together and do steroids. And I did all of them," Robbins said. "When you're feeling up and really high, you want to drink alcohol to come down or smoke marijuana to come down. When you're down, very down, you want to take cocaine to come up and to feel real again, to feel that spark again."

On the Friday before the Super Bowl, though, Robbins found himself in the midst of yet another manic episode. This time he tried to self-medicate and got totally out of control.

After being dropped off by his wife, Marisa, at the Raiders' team hotel in La Jolla, Robbins hailed a cab and had it take him to Tijuana, where he drank and partied for through Saturday.

He didn't return until Sunday. By then the team and Marisa had been calling hospitals and jails looking for him and the story had made it onto the national news.

"I was out of my mind," Robbins said. "I was out of control. Life was unmanageable. I was completely living in a fantasy world. In my mind we had already won the Super Bowl and we were celebrating. That's how delusional I was."

Robbins was later taken to a hospital by his wife and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His initial reaction? Disbelief.

"I thought this is not me. That's not me. I thought maybe I am a drunk and maybe I am a drug addict, but I'm not bipolar. They got this one wrong. Because no one wants to believe that they're this sicko that they think is bipolar. I wasn't accepting it at all. It took a while for me to do that."

It wasn't until after he was shot by a police officer, once in the heart and once in the lung, and slipped into a coma for nearly two months that Robbins began to accept his condition.

"It took almost dying in Miami. It took losing my family, losing my money," Robbins said. "Losing almost everything, my freedom. My motivation is my two daughters, without a doubt. Just to be able to be in their lives again and to be able to be a part of their birthdays and their violin recitals, whatever it might be."

For the entire interview with Robbins, tune into HBO's Real Sports on Tuesday.

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