Paul Merson Joins The ‘Recoverlution’
Paul Merson, the ex-Arsenal and England footballer, joins Recoverlution and shares how addiction has impacted his life.
We at Recoverlution are very excited to have Paul as an ambassador for our platform. Paul believes in the same core values when it comes to living with an addiction and finding sustainable recovery.
Many of you will have seen Paul mention the importance of connecting with Recoverlution during his live appearance on Sky News. He has also talked openly and candidly about his struggles with gambling.
Paul Comes From Humble Means
There have been times in Paul’s career when the world and everything it has to offer was at his feet. Yet it hasn't always been that way. Paul comes from a very humble background; this was before Merson was thrust into the limelight on the football pitch.
Paul was a quiet, anxious child who struggled with dyslexia and a speech impediment throughout school. He sought solace in his family’s company and escape from life through football. Football quickly became an obsession for Paul, if he wasn't playing it he wanted to learn all there was to know about it.
Merson’s skills were quickly discovered, but even when he made it to the Arsenal reserve team his nerves would often get the better of him, resulting in a panic attack on the pitch.
Paul recalls that he can never remember a time when his head was quiet and peaceful. He had difficulty fitting in at school and forming friendships.
The ex-premier league footballer took his first drink at the age of 15 and despite it making him violently ill, he couldn't wait to do it again. He recalls the profound effect alcohol had on him. His nerves and anxiety disappeared. Since then, he has spent three decades battling various addictions.
Paul Merson says of his addiction,
'Addiction is the loneliest of places. You're a slave to insecurity and ego. But it has to be you that wants things to change. Never be afraid to talk: the more you talk about the addictions the more it takes the power out of them. You're never alone.'
Paul’s first encounter with gambling was at the tender age of 16 when a fellow team mate invited him to a well known gambling establishment.
Paul says of his gambling addiction,
“I started gambling at sixteen. My first month’s pay packet on the YTS scheme at Arsenal was gone in ten minutes at William Hill. A compulsion to bet has been a constant throughout my adult life. Sometimes I’ve been able to steer clear, but even when I was at my best as a footballer in five alcohol-free years at Villa and Pompey, I was losing millions”
“ I’d say to myself, ‘What am I getting paid that much for? ” says Paul Merson
Paul attributes his addictions to a low sense of self-worth. He never felt worthy of being a professional footballer, nor the enormous amounts of money that came with it.
Paul’s addictions have affected him deeply in his personal life. Yet despite the self-loathing and consequences, he was unable to stop.
“I’ve been there loads, wanting to kill myself enough times over my gambling, but I kept going back to it. I can see how people go mad”
Merson’s Gambling Addiction Relapse
Despite Paul finding recovery, like many other people with addiction, he relapsed during the Covid pandemic lockdown. He speaks candidly of his experience and how brutal addiction relapse can be:
“ In the first lockdown last year, I lost everything. There were no physical GA meetings and I didn’t look after myself properly. I lost our deposit to buy a house, lost the lot. I’d saved and saved since giving up betting the previous year so we could move from renting and get our own home. And it went before I could catch my breath. I couldn’t handle the lockdown, I couldn’t see a way out of despair or fight off the fatalistic feelings. I was thinking, when’s this all going to stop? Are we all going to die? Everything felt bleak and terrifying, so I did what I had always done to fill my mind with different thoughts. I had a bet, then another and another until I was on the floor” - Paul Merson
Like us here at Recoverlution, Paul feels it is important to be able to connect with like-minded others with 24/7 availability. This is exactly what our Community hub provides and why Paul is passionate about the work we are doing here at Recoverlution. Our community provides those seeking support a chance to connect with others, join groups and attend meetings.
Paul will also be working with our Wellness hub team and trying out a sampler day with our wellness professionals. Follow us to learn how he gets on!
Recovery Is An Ongoing Process
Much like Paul, many of us here at Recoverlution have experienced bumps in the road of our recovery. This is why we are so passionate about making recovery easier to access and more sustainable. It also a reason to be candid with others in recovery about our own experiences and connect with them frequently. This can help to prevent relapse.
Merson is currently doing well in his recovery but doesn't take it for granted. He says:
“Ask me to tell you that I’ll never have another bet or drink and I couldn’t do it. But today I’m well and thats good enough for me”
Paul and the Recoverlution team encourage anyone who is struggling with addiction to reach out and ask for help. Our platform is here at your disposal. We hope to reduce the stigma attached to this illness through Knowledge, Connection and Wellness, all within the same safe and easy to access space.