Paul Merson breaks down in tears while recalling his struggles with his gambling addiction

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Paul Merson broke down in tears on Good Morning Britain at this time after recalling his harrowing struggles with a gambling addiction.

Merson, the previous England and Arsenal ahead, turned visibly emotional in the studio when presenter Susanna Reid learn out an extract from his memoir, Hooked.

In the harrowing passage, Merson pleads for assist with his drawback, even saying ‘God assist me’ as he regarded to beat his demons.

During the primary lockdown, the 53-year-old penned a observe, in which he mentioned he ‘hated’ himself when he gambled, and pledged to purchase a home for his spouse and kids. 

‘I have to cease gambling,’ the letter learn. ‘I like my spouse and children and I’m so glad with them. 

Paul Merson broke down in tears live on television while speaking on his gambling addiction

Paul Merson broke down in tears stay on tv while talking on his gambling addiction

He wrote a note during the first lockdown, pleading 'God help me' in his fight with his demons

He wrote a observe in the course of the first lockdown, pleading ‘God assist me’ in his combat with his demons

‘When I used to be in Orlando with my spouse and two little youngsters it was the happiest I’ve been in years cos (sic) I wasn’t gambling, I hate myself after I gamble! I hate it.

‘Please assist me God. I have to pay everybody again and get my spouse and children a home. God assist me.’

Merson has brazenly spoken about his previous battles with alcoholism and medicines over time, and likewise revealed his addiction to gambling has value him over £7million.

And, listening to again the phrases he wrote for himself, Merson welled up earlier than saying: ‘It is unhappy. In lockdown it was scary.

Merson became visibly emotional after Susanna Reid read out a passage from his new memoir

Merson turned visibly emotional after Susanna Reid learn out a passage from his new memoir

Former England and Arsenal forward Merson has opened up on his addictions over the years

Former England and Arsenal ahead Merson has opened up on his addictions over time

‘You’re watching it and my mind was telling me I’ve saved sufficient cash to get a deposit for a home, to get us out of rented lodging.

‘And watching the information… as an addict I’ve to maintain on watching stuff, and the information was blowing my thoughts.

‘Addiction talks to you, and it is like “we’re not getting out of this. We’ll be in lockdown forever, this is it. We need a house and the only way we’re going to do that is chasing the money”. I misplaced all the pieces.’

Writing for the Daily Mail, Merson mentioned that, on the pinnacle of his enjoying profession in the course of the Nineties, his addictions turned uncontrolled and he would ‘go all in’.  

‘I didn’t cease till, finally, I’d misplaced all the pieces I’d ever had – near £7 million, together with homes, automobiles, marriages, my whole pension and my self-respect,’ he wrote.


by Paul Merson

Normal folks can have a guess and never empty their financial institution accounts. Normal folks can have a few drinks and go house after they’d mentioned they might, not ten hours later p***** out of their minds.

And, though it’s harmful and unlawful, some folks appear to dabble in medicine with out craving them always.

I’m not like that. I’ve an addictive character. I am going all-in.

I positioned my first guess at 16 and misplaced my whole first month’s wages at Arsenal in ten minutes at William Hill. And I didn’t cease till, finally, I’d misplaced all the pieces I’d ever had – near £7 million, together with homes, automobiles, marriages, my whole pension and my self-respect.

You might need seen me play soccer for Arsenal, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa or Portsmouth. You would possibly scoff at the concept I undergo from crippling nervousness.

Merson, writing for the Daily Mail, revealed the cost of his addictions totalled around £7million

Merson, writing for the Daily Mail, revealed the price of his addictions totalled round £7million

I’ve taken a penalty for England in a World Cup shootout and it by no means entered my thoughts to be scared. On the sector, I used to be secure. But away from soccer, issues had been very completely different.

It’s been that manner since I used to be a toddler. I used to be nervous, frightened and delicate. I moist the mattress, sucked my thumb and my mum says I barely spoke earlier than I had speech remedy after I was six. I’m dyslexic and had a speech obstacle. So you possibly can think about how I struggled at college.

My head was always churning with worries and doubts. I wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

When I had a girlfriend for the primary time, I by no means as soon as plucked up the nerve to kiss her.

Drink was like boarding a rocket for me, a ticket to a distinct world. I may very well be the one that made everybody chortle. I might push back the nervousness of on a regular basis life.

I began consuming closely after I was an 18-year-old and enjoying on mortgage for Brentford. Drinking cured my shyness in entrance of the skilled professionals. I used to be proud I might simply handle 12 pints of beer.

I’d discovered the one factor aside from soccer I used to be good at and carried on placing it away on the crew bus and in the bar, turning louder and lairier with each.

Drink made my relationship with my fiancee Lorraine unstable. Cruelty comes simply to addicts. If you possibly can’t stand your self, it’s a knee-jerk factor to challenge all that loathing on to the folks you’re keen on. I’d be provocative when Lorraine protested in regards to the state I used to be in, the lies I’d advised about after I was coming house and the group of drinkers I’d introduced in at 4am.

Before lengthy, I used to be banned from driving. I hadn’t observed how drunk I used to be till I wrapped my new automotive spherical a lamppost driving the few yards house from the pub. I laughed it off as all a part of my rising repute as a nasty boy, a delusion that might mess with my head a lot that I used to fantasise about strolling on to the pitch to the music Wild Thing.

I managed to remain dry for 48 hours earlier than a sport, however I thought-about all different occasions truthful sport: Saturday nights, all day Sunday, all day Tuesday if there was no midweek sport and Wednesday evening if I might face it.

Pictured:  and Paul Merson of Middlesbrough celebrate a return to top flight football on May 3 1998

Paul Gascoigne and Merson of Middlesbrough rejoice a return to high flight soccer in 1998

There aren’t any photos of me with fancy cocktails. I drank with the followers, generally in locations you’d by no means consider going sober – gambling dens, after-hours golf equipment, dodgy pool halls. I obtained a kick out of these locations; they suited my self-image as a correct geezer.

My consuming had develop into actually critical by the point Arsenal gained the league in 1989.

I can keep in mind a barbecue on the Saturday evening, the open-top bus tour on the Sunday and getting house on Tuesday morning. Other than that, it’s a blur.

I’d by no means thought-about myself an alcoholic. But I used to be on the entrance pages thrice in the subsequent few months because of a brawl in a pub close to my home, a prosecution for drink-driving and for being concerned in a combat on the formal dinner to rejoice Arsenal profitable the championship.

I used to be additionally a compulsive gambler. I knew each racehorse, yard and jockey – all the pieces besides find out how to win. I’d run up enormous money owed borrowing cash to stay on Steve Davis to beat Joe Johnson in the 1986 World Snooker Championship closing. Johnson was a pub singer, Davis was free cash at seven-to-two on.

The pub singer gained and it took me months to pay everybody again.

Lorraine and I married in the summer season of 1990, however I spent my wedding ceremony evening in a foul temper as a result of I’d misplaced hundreds betting on a World Cup match.

Most folks would attempt to make it the very best day of their life, however all I might suppose was: ‘I need a lot of drink to turn me into the person everyone likes, and if I back Scotland to beat Costa Rica, this wedding will cost me nothing.’

Costa Rica gained 1-0. I ended the evening skint, drunk, and consumed with overwhelming self-hatred.

After that, all the pieces began to snowball. The betting markets exploded in the Nineties and I went with them, including soccer, rugby, cricket and tennis to the horses and canine. Then got here American sport – these long-drawn-out video games the place the sense of scrumptious uncertainty can final 4 to 5 hours. If I gained, I had a much bigger pot to gamble with. If I misplaced, I’d chase my money owed to make my a reimbursement. The extra I gambled, the extra I drank to melt the blow.

Merson is pictured miming drinking while playing for Arsenal during his stint there in 1986-87

Merson is pictured miming consuming while enjoying for Arsenal throughout his stint there in 1986-87

By the summer season of 1991, I’d been picked to play for England, I had contract for a boot endorsement and we’d gained the league for a second time.

With our first little one on the best way, we purchased a much bigger home, however I couldn’t afford carpets. I used to pop spherical to my mum and pop’s simply to get one thing to eat. I organized a financial institution mortgage on the day my son Charlie was born and spent a lot of the day in the bookies while Lorraine was in labour. I’d make up gambling video games on the crew coach. When you’re betting on what color the subsequent automotive’s going to be, you’ve obtained an issue.

We did that on a regular basis.

My previous team-mate Ray Parlour will let you know a narrative from the times once we roomed collectively for away matches. I’d put Teletext on for the canine races. I’d inform him to choose a quantity and telephone up the bookies and put £1,000 on, say, lure three in the 8.06 at Walthamstow.

And we’d look ahead to the consequence to flash up. Absolute insanity. Win, or extra normally lose, I’d go: ‘Pick another number.’ And I’d dump one other grand simply so I wouldn’t must suppose. Kick-off at 3pm on a Saturday was the one time I might discover peace.

You must be blind to not discover a blizzard of cocaine blowing by means of the pubs and golf equipment I frequented.

I politely declined after I was first supplied medicine in the Mousetrap, a energetic pub in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, in February 1994. Not lengthy afterwards, after I ended a drought with a very good objective towards Everton, I knew I used to be going to occasion.

I drove to the pub, ordered a beer and scanned the room. I felt an actual rush of pleasure after I noticed the bloke who had supplied me cocaine. My first snort of cocaine took impact just about immediately. And as I walked again in the direction of the bar, my coronary heart was pumping at one million miles an hour.

I felt sharp and, weirdly for me, super-confident. Not simply glad to speak to anybody however eager to speak to everybody after I’d normally wrestle to beat my shyness.

I keep in mind downing increasingly lager, however the true cause I saved popping again to the bathroom was the cocaine. I wished one other line of cocaine, then one other and one other. It was a choice that led to 10 months of hell.

Even after I confessed, begged for assist and went into therapy on the finish of the yr, it suited everyone to play down the quantity of cocaine I caught up my nostril.

I mentioned I’d spent about £2,000 from February to November, however it was manner, far more than that. I used to be doing a few grams down the pub, then many extra at house, sitting in the darkish gambling, consuming and snorting till I used to be pushed to the brink of insanity.

Among my circle of cocaine-users, I stood out due to how a lot I’d take in one snort and the way typically I might desire a high up. I used to be always chasing the excessive.

I even swerved a house European match with ‘tonsillitis’ as a result of I used to be scared that Uefa competitions had obligatory medicine checks.

Did I really feel responsible? Of course, however the medicine had been sending me around the bend. Certain that I couldn’t belief anybody, I might disappear on benders for a few days, hang around in dodgy locations, kip spherical a mate’s or crash out in the spare room, hunkering down in entrance of the telly in the nighttime doing gram after gram when Lorraine was asleep.

I began going to an all-night pub in Smithfield Market. Drinking by myself and snorting in the bathrooms. I’d hail a black cab at 8am to take me as much as coaching and even have a few massive hits sitting in the again.

I had bookies chasing me, sellers chasing me. I settled one cocaine debt by handing over my Arsenal blazer and reporting it stolen. Paranoia took over. I used to be satisfied somebody was looking me down. It began taking me an hour to finish what ought to have been a ten-minute journey, doing U-turns to see if a automotive ‘on my tail’ would go previous.

I used to be injured in September 1994 and, at a unfastened finish, ran up monumental money owed in a vicious circle: place a guess, snort a line, sink a can of beer. Rinse and repeat. I used to be terrified of Lorraine discovering out and did my finest to keep away from her. The solely answer, my mind was telling me, was to kill myself.

By November, I used to be in disaster. I took a lot cocaine one Saturday evening that I couldn’t get my coronary heart charge down. I used to be sure I used to be going to die. But I used to be again on it on the subsequent alternative.

Then Lorraine intervened, calling the Arsenal supervisor George Graham to get assist for me. I felt offended, frightened and cornered however nonetheless went out on a five-hour drink-and-drugs bender. I obtained house to an empty home and cowered in a nook with nothing on, bawling my eyes out, begging for assist.

I didn’t need to stay like this and I didn’t need to die like this both, strung out on booze, coke and paranoia. That’s after I lastly accepted I desperately wanted a hand-up.

The membership and the Professional Footballers’ Association organized for me to go to rehabilitation.

Both Arsenal and the Football Association made it clear that I’d must have profitable therapy and undergo frequent drug and alcohol checks if I ever wished to play soccer once more.

I entered rehab pondering I used to be addicted to at least one factor – gambling – and left understanding I used to be addicted to 3. But I used to be clear, sober and retaining a lid on the urge to gamble for the primary time in ten years.

What I didn’t respect was that relapse is a traditional a part of restoration for many a number of addicts. Not understanding that signifies that when you do get drawn again into previous habits, the disgrace and guilt are even worse than earlier than.

I stayed clear for 3 years, however relapsed into gambling and consuming after transferring to Middlesbrough. The transfer doubled my wages, however Lorraine refused to maneuver north and I finished going to addicts’ conferences. You would possibly suppose my relapse was provoked by sharing a home with a fellow alcoholic (not that Paul Gascoigne recognised he was an addict on the time), however in fact, I began gambling a month earlier than Gazza joined the crew.

I withdrew £10,000 from the financial institution, caught £4,000 of it on a Scottish soccer accumulator (a guess on a sequence of soccer video games) and misplaced it.

Next day I lumped on Dewsbury, a second-tier rugby league crew, to win a match towards Leigh by 20 factors.

They had been too obscure to be given Teletext updates so I took to ringing up the woman on the membership’s switchboard for the rating each couple of minutes. They misplaced.

As evening follows day, I began consuming once more. Not in the previous manner however indoors with Gazza.

We would sit in the home and play a mad sport Gazza made up for fun. Looking again it might have killed one among us.

Gazza was hooked on sleeping tablets. He thought if he slept a lot of the day he couldn’t eat and placed on weight. He would deal tablets out, we’d all put money in the center and take a tablet with each glass of purple wine. Whoever stayed up longest gained the pot.

Life with Gazza was lived at 100 miles an hour however his wildness suited me. He would by no means put on any garments spherical the home and, regardless of us having six bedrooms, he would at all times kip on the couch, which added to that sense of an unreal existence.

Gazza saved consuming once we had been each chosen for an England World Cup coaching camp in 1998. Big mistake. I spent the night with Tony Adams in the espresso store, and we two recovering alcoholics needed to throw him in the pool to sober him up.

When supervisor Glenn Hoddle advised him he was out of the squad, Gazza was Keith Moon and began smashing up the furnishings. He was in a horrible state after I caught up with him in his room, bleeding, crying, not making sense. It was terrible to see him like that. Having lived with him for 3 months, I knew he was in a nasty place.

A month later, I went to see him at The Priory at Roehampton, anticipating to speak to him about how I used to be now again in restoration, taking someday at a time.

He was very jittery, one second speaking about eager to get properly, subsequent minute about doing a bunk. A nurse talked about that Eric Clapton, a volunteer helper there, had requested to see us.

He joined us in Gazza’s room and was very gracious, telling us the story of his restoration and giving recommendation. As quickly as he left, Gazza sat up and mentioned: ‘Who the f***’s that tramp?’ He didn’t have a clue about a lot past soccer.

I’ll at all times treasure Gazza’s friendship. I simply hope the penny drops someday and he thinks: ‘I’ve had sufficient of this.’

Everything I gained in my soccer profession got here while I used to be on the top of my addiction. I might by no means stay in the second and benefit from the crew’s achievements. I solely thought of what all of it meant for consuming and gambling.

Even after I was at my finest as a footballer in 5 alcohol-free years at Aston Villa and Portsmouth, I used to be shedding thousands and thousands. I wasn’t gambling on a regular basis, however after I did it might spiral till I’d cleaned out my checking account.

Losing £35,000 in a binge was manageable as a result of I used to be incomes massive wages. That’s how shedding all the pieces I earned, near £7 million, crept up on me steadily.

It wasn’t simply in regards to the cash. Those binges made me secretive, defensive and irritable past perception. It was the ultimate straw for my first marriage and would end my second one, too.

In 2002, Aston Villa had been enjoying Charlton Athletic away and I used to be on the telephone to the bookies for the entire afternoon like I used to be a practice with no brakes flying down the tracks. I simply couldn’t cease.

I keep in mind sitting on the foot of my mattress and pondering that if I couldn’t management the urge, I’d must take drastic motion.

What if I broke all my fingers so I couldn’t decide up the telephone to dial the bookies? I pictured getting a hammer and doing the fingers on my proper hand, one after the other. But a hammer isn’t the type of factor you get from room service.

I used to be attempting to get on a fair keel in 2003 when the worst factor that would have occurred dropped by means of my letterbox.

It was a letter from my commerce physique, the Professional Footballers’ Association, saying that now I’d turned 35, I might entry my £750,000 pension.

I didn’t even know I had it, not to mention that I might draw the whole thing out.

Those months after I misplaced all the pieces are a haze. Like an alcoholic’s blackout, solely fragments stay.

I’d put 60 grand on a match, lose it after which put 80 grand on one other to attempt to claw it again.

I’d have £15,000 on Roger Federer to win a match after which put £10,000 on the primary batsman to be out in that day’s Test. It was insane.

By February 2003, I used to be on the very finish of my tether. When I used to be supplied a rehab place in Arizona, I used to be as reluctant because the final time.

I stayed for a month and managed to kick the gambling, however as quickly as I obtained again I swapped one addiction for one more – drink.

I wouldn’t sober up correctly for one more 13 years.

That’s why, at this time, I have to attend conferences. Hearing folks’s tales helps me keep in mind why it’s value not giving up. Talking is the one remedy that works for me.

During the primary lockdown, I finished going to Gamblers Anonymous, however carried on with Alcoholics Anonymous, pondering I might kill two birds with one stone.

But with out GA my protect had gone. When quite a lot of my tv and talking work was cancelled because of Covid, I began to scheme. I attempted to double our financial savings by gambling and misplaced all the pieces, even the deposit for a home.

For me, gambling has at all times been the cruellest addiction, probably the most troublesome to stay with and probably the most hideous for my household as a result of it’s invisible till it’s too late.

I haven’t touched cocaine for 27 years. Drink helped me to be the clown, to have one million faces, however I’ve not touched a drop for 2 years.

I’ve reached the stage the place I’m not going to drink as a result of I do know I can’t cease. And I’ve not positioned a guess for a yr.

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life and I don’t have something other than my household and a tv job [with Sky Sport] I like.

I’ve misplaced thousands and thousands and virtually destroyed my self-respect, however the fog in my thoughts is lastly clearing.

© Paul Merson, 2021 

  • Hooked, by Paul Merson, is printed by Headline on September 16, priced £20. 
  • To pre-order a replica for £18, go to or name 020 3308 9193 earlier than September 26. Free UK supply on orders over £20.