After a trial spell at the Stadium of Light, Whitley
signed a contract at Sunderland
and followed that with spells later in his career at Wrexham, Notts County, Cardiff, Stoke, Woodley Sports and Northwich Victoria.
Whitley revealed it was during his time at Cardiff between 2005 and 2008 that he first began to experiment with cocaine.
"I remember Dave Jones [Cardiff manager at the time] at one point said to me 'Jeff don't come in but we'll still pay you' [because of his drinking]," Whitley told
BBC Radio Manchester
"I never took any other drug apart from alcohol and cigarettes when I was playing at the time.
"When Dave Jones said that to me I thought 'I've never tried cocaine, I'd give it a blast' and when I did I thought 'wow, this is what I'm missing'.
"I was hooked that quick. If you're an addict you can get hooked on computer games, texting, eating... it don't matter what it is.
"When it comes to class A drugs then you're in trouble."
Having a Belfast-born father, Whitley was eligible to play for Northern Ireland and represented the country 20 times.
An occasion when his drinking binges did catch up with him was on the
eve of an international game in 2005
, when along with Philip Mulryne, they broke a team curfew to go drinking.
later apologised for the incident
but, after continued problems, he checked into the Sporting Chance clinic when he had thoughts about taking his own life, and became concerned at his health.
"The only time I would go to sleep was when my body shut down," he added.
"At times I would just be praying just to die.
"I was throwing up blood at times and waking up with urine and the rest of it in the bed and all my back was in agony."
Hear brothers Jim and Jeff Whitley talk about their lives and careers further on 'In the Spotlight' on BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday, 13 October. If you miss the show you can listen again via the iPlayer or download the show as a podcast.
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