I was a champion MMA fighter but ended up unrecognisable after becoming a heroin addict – I saw horrendous things | The Sun

AN MMA fighter has revealed how drug addiction dealt him a life-changing blow as he lost his career and became homeless.

Daniel Ritchie has opened up about how he witnessed murders and was even almost killed himself as he hit "rock bottom and stayed there".

The 41-year-old, from Cincinnati, Ohio, dabbled with drugs in his teenage years – but said his addiction "took off" when he was injured in a fight.

He was prescribed the painkiller Percocet, a potent opiate, and from there on his addiction spiralled to harder drugs like heroin until it gripped every part of his life.

It took five-time champion Daniel years before he was able to turn his life around and get sober.

But before that came a six-year period from the age of 30 where he was homeless and working in the dark web of drug dealing to fund his habit.

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After being hurt in a fight at the age of 25, he was taken to hospital where he was given strong painkillers.

Daniel told The Sun: "It was life-changing for me.

"I'd always dealt with depression and anxiety and childhood trauma. And the medicine took it all away.

"I believe that's pretty much when my addiction really took off. Like that was the defining moment."

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As he fell further and further into addiction, Daniel said he kept on fighting until he could no longer keep up with both his career and his habit.

He said: "The last fight I did was actually a main event and I snorted two pills off the top of the toilet when they were calling my name and people were cheering.

"It was weird – it was when I wanted to feel high when I walked in the cage.

"And that's when that pain medication took precedence over my fight career."

At the age of 30, Daniel then became homeless and involved in the drug dealing process to fund his addiction, sleeping wherever he could and spending up to $200 a day on narcotics.

Daniel said everything soon "revolved around drugs" as his life crashed to a real low point.

He said on one occasion, he was at a building in a "rough part" of town when someone tried to kill him.

The former MMA fighter was stabbed twice and left fighting for his life.

Daniel added: "Another time I was driving this kid around, because he was a drug dealer, and I took a wrong turn and he made me pull around to the back of a building, put a gun to my head and asked me why he shouldn't kill me.

"And I couldn't really think of a great reason, I was just like 'please don't'.

"I went through a lot of trauma at that time and I even witnessed two murders.

"It was one thing after another. People talk about hitting rock bottom, but I feel like I hit rock bottom and then just lived there.

"I remember everyone blocking me on the phone, it wasn't that people didn't try to help me, I just wasn't in a position to be helped."

But Daniel finally hit a turning point when his dad stepped in.

He said: "My dad never gave up on me. There were times when he would cut me off, but he would always give in.

"I made a deal with him, he would give me some money if I went to get an assessment as an addiction service counsel."

Daniel checked into a treatment centre but shortly after leaving overdosed

He added: "I remember when I came to there were paramedics standing over me and I couldn't move, nothing made sense.

"In my head, I was saying 'I've done it, I've finally really messed myself up where I'm not going to come back from this'.

"I opened my eyes and one of the paramedics said 'you were dead, we were about to call it'.

"I felt like I'd been dead and put back into my body. Realising that, even after that, I couldn't stop."

He then returned for a 30-day stint at the treatment centre before transferring to a sober living house, followed by a halfway house.

It marked a landmark shift in his life, and he now helps people battling addiction – knowing all too well what it is like himself.

Daniel said: "People treat you badly in addiction, people only see the person in addiction, they don't see the person inside or they once were.

Compassion is what saved me

"For years I had been invisible to the world, I was a shell of the man I once was, I was a walking zombie.

"I thought everybody was going to treat me that way forever."

As well as working at the Cedar Oaks Wellness Center in Cincinnati, Daniel also has a young daughter he dotes over.

He said: "The centre is what I believe treatment should be, it shouldn't be institutional, it should be an environment of healing.

"People with addiction have had enough punishment, they've been punishing themselves for years.

"There is hope for the hopeless, and you deserve better than you are giving yourself.

"It's not about what others want, it's about what they want and I know they don't really want to be that way. There is a way out, you just have to put your hand out.

"Compassion is what saved me."

After the erratic rollercoaster he has been on, Daniel said he has does have regrets – but at the same time believes they have given him the ability to aid others.

He said: "I regret a lot of the things I did and the harm that I caused others and I regret throwing away my career.

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"But I don't regret it in the way that it's given me the ability to help thousands of people. Most people will never get the opportunity to help people like I have.

"It's been amazing, but I wouldn't be able to do that if it wasn't for all the madness that was my life."

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