Ronnie O’Sullivan has not played a competitive match since the World Championship in May. In his latest blog, he explains to Eurosport’s Desmond Kane why he is finally paying attention to his doctor as he battles a debilitating insomnia. The five-times world champion discusses coping with the pressure of being snooker’s most high-profile player and why honest opinion should be welcomed.
Things are good for me at the moment, but only because I am finally listening to my doctor. I’m really enjoying the exhibitions with the snooker legends nights I’m doing at the moment. The shows have been packed out. Just as much as I’d like to have been playing in the major competitions, my doctor has told me in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t think it is wise for my health situation.
I am finally taking advice from the medical experts. I have had to learn to live with insomnia, and I do have times when my sleep is fine, but this is only when I take medication. The times when I don’t sleep, I can’t function properly. I can’t even make a 20 break. The thought of competing against the top guys in such a state is a big no no, and I don’t want to be dependent on taking medication to keep going. The simple fact of the matter is, unless you’re 100 per cent fit – or in my case 80 per cent fit – I can’t compete to the levels I know I’m capable of. I know I’m not going to be winning events unless I’m well rested.
I’ve tried to do this over the past four or five years, and yes I’ve managed somehow to get some major wins, but it has come at the expense of my private life. Everyone around me has suffered. They have supported me as well as they can, and it has not been easy. My mum begged me not to take the sleeping medication. It turned me into a zombie for days, and when your mum tells you it’s not worth it, you know that she is telling you for your own good. Other people will want me to play irrelevant of how my health is. To them I’m merely Ronnie O’Sullivan the snooker player. I sell tickets, I’m good for television, I’m good for the media, but to heck with his health. They don’t really give a damn. I have four or five people close to me who really do want the best for me as a person, and they all say don’t play if you are playing under such a strain to your health, we would rather see you happy and not under pressure.
THE DEMANDS OF BEING SNOOKER’S HIGHEST PROFILE PLAYER
The simple fact of the matter is, I’m never going to want to be a player who is simply there to make up the numbers. That’s all I would be doing if I was to play right now. I’ve worked very closely with my doctor at home, and he has strongly advised I get my health and sleeping in order. He says my body has been worked so hard, that it’s exhausted. He puts it down to a combination of travelling, playing and the responsibility of being the most high-profile player in the game. I’ve really battled against his orders for the past three or four years, but I can no longer deny the reality of my predicament. It has to be dealt with in a serious matter. I understand people may think it’s just a matter of turning up and playing but I can assure you, a lot of preparation goes into what people see on the TV. That is merely the end product. Believe me when I tell you, a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into what I do to get my game in peak condition. It’s the only way I know. I have very high expectations of my game, and in order to deliver it takes a lot of perseverance.
HEAVY FINES WILL MERELY STIFLE PERSONALITY SNOOKER NEEDS
It is not only about playing how I want to play. There comes a lot of responsibility, and I can no longer take the constant high standards World Snooker have placed on us as players. We are not politicians, we don’t always use the right language and we don’t always say what’s best for the game. But that doesn’t mean we want to harm the sport. Players are fined constantly for some of the above reasons. I find this very frustrating. Some of the fines are not relative to what most players are earning on the table. I do believe this issue needs to be fixed. It is pushing certain players away, including me, from wanting to promote the game. Why would a snooker player do an interview, if they know that whatever they say could be interpreted as bringing the game into disrepute? No one wins here. If that’s what they feel they need to do to get the players onside, good luck to them.