For Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan, there are several moments over the years where he tried to stop drinking and he would briefly succeed before relapsing again.

The turning point for him to seek professional help came back in November when the Senators were on a road trip in Detroit and he woke up one morning with a panic attack and struggled to get through practice. It was that moment where Ryan realized he needed to leave and enter the NHL’s substance abuse program.

“I think that anybody that knows that plays, whether it’s an injury or whether it’s this, you find a way to kinda grind through it,” the American forward told TSN’s Ray Ferraro and Darren Dreger in this week’s edition of The Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast.

“You warm up and take a couple of deep breaths and remind yourself that this is your job and your profession and you’ve gotta find a way to do it. But I was halfway through, I think the third drill of the day, not even maybe, and just said ‘If I don’t go now, I’m gonna get through this practice and I’m gonna chalk it up to another bad experience and I can’t have that.’ I couldn’t have it professionally but most importantly, I couldn’t have it personally.”

He applauds the program for helping him but admits at times he couldn’t stand the rehabilitation process while he was going through it.

“At the time I hated it,” said Ryan. “I kinda hated the first 30 days of the rigidity and the rules and the therapy and the things you really have to tackle in the first 30 days to have any kind of success, in my mind.”

Ryan suited up for his first home game in over three months on Feb. 27 and it was a storybook return. He netted a hat trick, his first in 1,886 days, as the Sens beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 and Ryan was visibly emotional during the third period as the crowd began to chant his name.

“I think it was just a long three months that kinda culminated in just the perfect evening to come back not only to win to do that,” said Ryan. “My wife was in the building, who has been through a lot with me here and the reception was above and beyond. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get, I was overwhelmed by scoring first and then the reception just kinda got louder all night.

“It was tough, it was kinda tough to hide it being front and centre like that so it caught up with me in the third period but I tried to do my best to kinda put aside and finish the game.”

Ryan is 172 games away from 1,000 in the NHL and it’s a goal he continues to work towards. With two years left after this season on a seven-year, $50.75 million contract he signed in 2014, the 1,000 game milestone was on his mind during his rehab.

“One of the few things I thought about over the time that I was missing all those games was that number because you sign a seven-year deal at 26 I believe I was and you think that a 1,000 games is a no-brainer given where I was at the time of the contract and all that,” said Ryan.

“You get some injuries and then this is obviously a different circumstance but you look at all the man games lost that I’ve had unfortunately, like with the broken hand, and that it seems like it’s a very uphill battle to get there right now.”

As a 32-year-old on a young and rebuilding Senators squad, Ryan wants to prove he still has years left in the league. He realizes that he’s a sounding board for the younger players and hopes they will continue to come to him with questions about learning everyday life in the NHL and dealing with the ups and downs.

“You just want to set their mind right so that they can play to the best of their abilities,” said Ryan on the Sens’ younger players. “And the future is bright with a few of them, there’s some really good players that you don’t wanna see get bogged down by the losing, right? You just wanna keep it fresh, you wanna keep it exciting for them and you want to expose them to new things every day.”