Mike Tyson is fighting for his life—and this time, it's happening outside the ring. Less than a week after the former heavyweight boxing champ revealed that he suffers from alcoholism and admitted to having suicidal thoughts, the 47-year-old reality star opened up to Today's Matt Lauer about his personal struggles on Thursday, August 29.
"When I start drinking and I relapse, I think of dying," Tyson explained. "When I'm in a real dark mood, I think of dying, and I don't want to be around no more...I won't survive if I don't get help."
Tyson described his mind as a "strange and scary" place and admitted that 12 days of sobriety has made him "mean and irritable." (He said he recently attended an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting.)
"It's a real challenge because I don't know if I like this sober guy," he told Lauer. "It's hard for me to live normal. Straight is hard. Livin' straight life is hard."
During an Aug. 23 press conference, Tyson stunned reporters and fans when he decided to go public about his private pain. "I'm on the verge of dying because I'm a vicious alcoholic," he told the shocked crowd. "I've been lying to everybody else that thinks I was sober, but I'm not." (In a 2012 Nightline interview, Tyson said he had been sober for three years.)
Though his headline-making behavior would indicate otherwise, Tyson insisted that he's actually a "very vulnerable" person. He also said that he's been dealing with the same demons he currently faces since childhood.
When he recently returned to his Brownsville, Brooklyn neighborhood for a TV taping, Tyson was reminded of his tough upbringing. "It told me a lot—I found out a lot about myself. I'm still a scared little boy. Still afraid." Tyson's father abandoned him around the time he was born, and his mother died when he was 16. Before becoming a boxing sensation, he was arrested multiple times for committing petty crimes.
Though Tyson is taking responsibility for many of his transgressions, there is one incident he won't apologize for: his three-year prison stint in the early '90s. After being convicted of raping Miss Black Rhode Island Desiree Washington, he served time from 1992-95.
"I don't really think I have to make amends to that, because I've done nothing," Tyson said of Washington, maintaining his innocence. "I really didn't do anything to her. I didn't rape her. I didn't beat her, I didn't do anything to her. And I'm not gonna make amends. I made amends to myself. But to her, no."
Tyson later became emotional when Lauer asked how he's able to both succeed and fail at such high levels. "No one's failed more than I did. Nobody's seen more than I seen, none of these fighters, none of these athletes. I'm the king of the barbarians," he said. "There's no one that could surpass me and the pain that I've endured."