Legendary Arsenal footballer Tony Adams is the latest big name to speak out on the More Than My Past podcast in a bid to smash the stigma that stops former prisoners and those who have battled against addiction from getting on in life.
Hollywood actor Jason Flemyng is hosting the podcast which builds on The Forward Trust’s More Than My Past online campaign that Adams fronted last year, alongside ex-Big Issue vendor-turned-London’s happiest bus driver Patrick Lawson, to celebrate stories of people who have overcome these barriers.
Big Issue founder Lord John Bird kicked off the series before Adams shared his story in an episode debuting last week.
The former England captain has been frank about his battles with booze since the end of his playing career, penning two raw and emotional books on his recovery from addiction.
Adams spoke of the lack of support he received when he spent two months in prison in 1990 after crashing his car while well over the legal drink-driving limit. It brought to the fore the battle with alcoholism that plagued his early career.
That lack of support has motivated his work to help others in similar positions. “There wasn’t anything in place around why I was actually in prison – I had no counselling so I just did my time and came out to another six years of hell getting to the end of the my drinking… I’m so grateful now that I have a 12-step program. I‘m now 24 years sober – I only played for 22 years!”
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Later, that experience provided him with a “lightbulb moment” that led him to use money from his book sales to set up the Sporting Chance Clinic which supports sports men and women dealing with addiction. The charity recognises that fame and fortune is no barrier to addiction: “This doesn’t discriminate, unfortunately […] the money just got me quicker drunk.”
Adams mentions how much of Sporting Chance’s work now tackles more than just drink and substance abuse: “There’s an epidemic at the moment in football with gambling addictions because they can’t play to the levels they’re playing at physically now [while drinking] so they have to look at other options if they’re not at peace with themselves.”
Also discussed are the childhood roots of Adams’s psychological issues that he had to deal with later on, and how they’ve informed his open and honest approach to fatherhood. “I was bullied at school, and bullied other kids – physically, emotionally and mentally. When I was growing up we weren’t a family that sat round the table and talked about our feelings. I’ve gone completely the other way [with my kids]. I over-share!”
The More Than My Past podcast is available now on all major podcast platforms.
Adams also delved into his past in The Big Issue back in 2018 when he spoke to us for a frank and honest Letter To My Younger Self.
He told The Big Issue how the end of the Euro 96 football tournament forced him to confront his alcohol demons.
“I threw myself into getting fit to captain England, but after the tournament I had nothing to stay sober for,” said Adams. “I went on an almighty six-week bender then finally surrendered and hallelujah, I started to cry again. I’m thankful I had the courage to walk through the door for my first AA meeting. I got it straight away. Within weeks I had told the world, come clean to my teammates and was free of the past.”