Arsenal legend Paul Merson has spoken about how he lost around £7million due to addiction issues.
Having achieved so much as a player, we now know Merson as the pundit we regularly see across Sky Sports channels.
But during his playing days and beyond, he battled addiction to both cocaine and gambling, addictions that cost him everything.
“I didn’t stop until, eventually, I’d lost everything I’d ever had – close to £7 million, including houses, cars, marriages, my entire pension and my self-respect,” he said in his Daily Mail column.
Speaking about his wedding night, which was all-but ruined by a huge betting loss, he said: “If I back Scotland to beat Costa Rica, this wedding will cost me nothing – Costa Rica won 1-0.
“I ended the night skint, drunk, and consumed with overwhelming self-hatred. After that, everything started to snowball.
“I had bookies chasing me, dealers chasing me. I settled one cocaine debt by handing over my Arsenal blazer and reporting it stolen. Paranoia took over. I was convinced someone was hunting me down.”
Merson also spoke about how he was spending ‘way, way more’ on cocaine, revealing he was “snorting until’ he ‘was driven to the brink of madness’.
He added: “I said I’d spent about £2,000 from February to November, but it was way, way more than that. I was doing a couple of grams down the pub, then many more at home, sitting in the dark gambling, drinking and snorting until I was driven to the brink of madness.
“Among my circle of cocaine-users, I stood out because of how much I’d take in one snort and how often I would want a top up. I was constantly chasing the high.
“I even swerved a home European match with ‘tonsillitis’ because I was scared that UEFA competitions had mandatory drugs tests.
“Everything I won in my football career came while I was at the height of my addiction.
“I could never live in the moment and enjoy the team’s achievements. I only thought about what it all meant for drinking and gambling.”
Thankfully, Merson is now doing much better, adding: “For me, gambling has always been the cruellest addiction, the most difficult to live with and the most hideous for my family because it is invisible until it is too late.
“I haven’t touched cocaine for 27 years. Drink helped me to be the clown, to have a million faces, but I’ve not touched a drop for two years.
“I have reached the stage where I’m not going to drink because I know I can’t stop. And I’ve not placed a bet for a year.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life and I don’t have anything apart from my family and a television job [with Sky Sport] I love.
“I’ve lost millions and almost destroyed my self-respect, but the fog in my mind is finally clearing.”