Jake Livermore thinks failing a drug test ultimately helped to save his football career. The Hull City midfielder tested positive for cocaine in May last year, almost 12 months after his newborn son Jake Junior died, and Livermore has admitted he "almost felt relieved" at being caught.
The 26-year-old's son passed away towards the end of the 2013-14 Premier League season. Livermore was preparing to face Arsenal in the FA Cup final at the time – and the Football Association ultimately decided against imposing a ban because of "the unique nature of circumstances" involved.
"It was a young human being who got lost in circumstances and didn't know how to react," he told the BBC. "I put my hands behind my head and laid back in the manager's office. He looked at me, saying this could be serious, this could be two years or four years banned. I didn't care."
Livermore revealed how quickly his life unravelled following the FA Cup Final, which Arsenal won 3-2 after extra-time. "It should have been the best weekend of my life," he recalled. "It's what kids dream of. We were on a high that season, we'd already got safe and really we overachieved. What happened after, we weren't really expecting.
"The day after the final, my missus went into labour and from then it all sort of spiralled out of control. To lose a son in a scenario which should have been under control – and was under control at one point – makes it all harder to deal with.
"It should have been a glorious and happy time for everyone. It was tragic and very difficult to stomach. That is one place I wouldn't want anyone to be."
Livermore admitted his personal problems were exacerbated because they came at the end of the football season, meaning he was not in regular contact with people at Hull City. "It's difficult," he explained. "With your usual day-to-day life at the club, people can pick up on your behaviour, they'll know what's happened. But everyone I would normally turn to – my mum, my dad, my partner, my grandparents, whoever it may be – they were all affected like I was."
The midfielder – who achieved promotion back to the Premier League with Hull last season – is glad his drug use was uncovered. "At least people knew the mental state I was in needed addressing," Livermore reflected. "It was something a lot deeper that I needed to get off my chest. But whether you're too strong to talk about it or not strong enough, it didn't come out."
He revealed, too, that his former manager Steve Bruce, as well as the FA and Professional Footballers' Association, offered the support he needed at the time. "He was fantastic," said Livermore. "On top of all the pressure of being a football manager, you have 25 players, kids, men to look after. Being one of his senior ones, so to speak, if I tell him I'm OK, then I should be OK.
"It's only once it's happened that you realise who is there and who it would be beneficial to speak with. The FA and Professional Footballers' Association, once it all came out, have been nothing but supportive. That's something I would urge any young player with troubles to do... to go and talk to those people.
"The chairman of Hull, Assem Allam, was fantastic. He was very worried for my welfare. Then I started to get support from those close to me. My dad was a rock for me. A few close friends were also very, very close in that time."
Although Livermore was temporarily suspended following his positive drug test, the FA decided against banning him. The midfielder returned to action in September 2015, helping the Tigers to achieve promotion back to the top flight. "Walking onto the pitch when making my comeback was up there with one of the best football moments of my life," he said.
"This club is a very special place. The fans were fantastic. Not just football fans, people you bump into at petrol stations with words of encouragement. Little things like that can give human beings a lift.
"I'm thankful we could return to the Premier League at the first attempt and I'm really enjoying my football. I think we all are here. I wasn't able to play with a smile on my face for a little while. Now it's come back."