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

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

Paul Merson broke down in tears on Good Morning Britain in the present day 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 be aware, in which he mentioned he ‘hated’ himself when he gambled, and pledged to purchase a home for his spouse and youngsters. 

‘I have to cease gambling,’ the letter learn. ‘I really like my spouse and youngsters and I’m so joyful 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 be aware through the first lockdown, pleading ‘God assist me’ in his struggle with his demons

‘When I used to be in Orlando with my spouse and two little kids 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 youngsters a home. God assist me.’

Merson has overtly 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 ceaselessly, that is it. We want a home and the one method we will do that’s chasing the cash”. I misplaced every little thing.’

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

‘I didn’t cease till, ultimately, I’d misplaced every little thing 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 dwelling once 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 consistently.

I’m not like that. I’ve an addictive persona. I’m 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, ultimately, I’d misplaced every little thing I’d ever had – near £7 million, together with homes, automobiles, marriages, my whole pension and my self-respect.

You may need seen me play soccer for Arsenal, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa or Portsmouth. You may 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 sphere, I used to be protected. But away from soccer, issues have been very totally different.

It’s been that method 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 may think about how I struggled in school.

My head was consistently 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 could possibly be the one who made everybody giggle. I might thrust 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 group bus and in the bar, turning louder and lairier with every one.

Drink made my relationship with my fiancee Lorraine unstable. Cruelty comes simply to addicts. If you may’t stand your self, it’s a knee-jerk factor to mission all that loathing on to the folks you like. I’d be provocative when Lorraine protested concerning the state I used to be in, the lies I’d instructed about after I was coming dwelling and the gang of drinkers I’d introduced in at 4am.

Before lengthy, I used to be banned from driving. I hadn’t seen how drunk I used to be till I wrapped my new automotive spherical a lamppost driving the few yards dwelling from the pub. I laughed it off as all a part of my rising status as a foul boy, a delusion that may 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 recreation, however I thought of all different instances truthful recreation: Saturday nights, all day Sunday, all day Tuesday if there was no midweek recreation 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 have a good time a return to prime flight soccer in 1998

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

My consuming had turn out to be actually critical by the point Arsenal received 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 dwelling on Tuesday morning. Other than that, it’s a blur.

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

I used to be additionally a compulsive gambler. I knew each racehorse, yard and jockey – every little thing 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 received and it took me months to pay everybody again.

Lorraine and I married in the summer time 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 perfect day of their life, however all I might assume was: ‘I would like a number of drink to show me into the particular person everybody likes, and if I again Scotland to beat Costa Rica, this wedding ceremony will value me nothing.’

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

After that, every little thing began to snowball. The betting markets exploded in the Nineteen Nineties and I went with them, including soccer, rugby, cricket and tennis to the horses and canines. 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 received, 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 time of 1991, I’d been picked to play for England, I had a great contract for a boot endorsement and we’d received 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 many of the day in the bookies while Lorraine was in labour. I’d make up gambling video games on the group coach. When you’re betting on what color the subsequent automotive’s going to be, you’ve acquired an issue.

We did that on a regular basis.

My previous team-mate Ray Parlour will inform you 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 cellphone 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 often lose, I’d go: ‘Pick one other quantity.’ And I’d dump one other grand simply so I wouldn’t should assume. 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 extremely good objective towards Everton, I knew I used to be going to social gathering.

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 1,000,000 miles an hour.

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

I keep in mind downing increasingly lager, however the true motive I saved popping again to the bathroom was the cocaine. I needed 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 remedy 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 method, far more than that. I used to be doing a few grams down the pub, then many extra at dwelling, 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 prime up. I used to be consistently 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 necessary medicine assessments.

Did I really feel responsible? Of course, however the medicine have 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 midnight 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 huge 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 searching 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 scared of Lorraine discovering out and did my greatest 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 fee 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 acquired dwelling to an empty home and cowered in a nook with nothing on, bawling my eyes out, begging for assist.

I didn’t wish to stay like this and I didn’t wish 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 should have profitable remedy and undergo frequent drug and alcohol assessments if I ever needed to play soccer once more.

I entered rehab pondering I used to be addicted to 1 factor – gambling – and left figuring out I used to be addicted to 3. But I used to be clear, sober and protecting a lid on the urge to gamble for the primary time in ten years.

What I didn’t admire was that relapse is a traditional a part of restoration for many a number of addicts. Not figuring out that signifies that in case 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 may assume 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 group.

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

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

They have 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 jiffy. They misplaced.

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

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

Gazza was hooked on sleeping tablets. He thought if he slept many 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 capsule with each glass of pink wine. Whoever stayed up longest received 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 have 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 instructed 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 foul 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 desirous to get effectively, 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 received in my soccer profession got here while I used to be on the peak of my addiction. I might by no means stay in the second and benefit from the group’s achievements. I solely thought of what all of it meant for consuming and gambling.

Even after I was at my greatest as a footballer in 5 alcohol-free years at Aston Villa and Portsmouth, I used to be dropping hundreds of thousands. I wasn’t gambling on a regular basis, however after I did it will 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 huge wages. That’s how dropping every little thing I earned, near £7 million, crept up on me progressively.

It wasn’t simply concerning 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 have been enjoying Charlton Athletic away and I used to be on the cellphone to the bookies for the entire afternoon like I used to be a prepare 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 should take drastic motion.

What if I broke all my fingers so I couldn’t decide up the cellphone 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 form 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 might 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 every little thing 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 acquired again I swapped one addiction for one more – drink.

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

That’s why, in the present day, 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 defend had gone. When a number of my tv and talking work was cancelled on account of Covid, I began to scheme. I attempted to double our financial savings by gambling and misplaced every little thing, even the deposit for a home.

For me, gambling has at all times been the cruellest addiction, probably the most tough 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 1,000,000 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 complete life and I don’t have something other than my household and a tv job [with Sky Sport] I really like.

I’ve misplaced hundreds of 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 duplicate for £18, go to or name 020 3308 9193 earlier than September 26. Free UK supply on orders over £20.

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