Tony Adams\u2019 glittering football career could not mask deep-seated problems that needed to be tackled. He shared his story at the NHSSMPA conference. \u2018You don\u2019t suddenly become an addict \u2013 there\u2019s a path, a journey,\u2019 Tony Adams told the NHSSMPA conference. Adams\u2019 19-year football career had included 669 matches for Arsenal and 66 for England since his debut in 1983, but over much of that time he had become increasingly addicted to alcohol. Read the full article in October's DDN Magazine \u2018I was very shy as a kid, full of fear. I had the worst attendance at the school \u2013 I just couldn\u2019t do it. The book would be going round the class and I\u2019d be having a panic attack. When I got the book I was such a mess, I couldn\u2019t say the words. \u2018My family would say \u201chow was school today?\u201d and I would just shove it in a box, bury it as deep as I could. Football was my escape, psychologically, emotionally. I was as free as a bird out there, kicking the ball. I did that instead of facing the fear and going to school. I couldn\u2019t do real life, I couldn\u2019t do interaction, I couldn\u2019t do school. I couldn\u2019t do thoughts and feelings. So I\u2019d pick up the ball. On the football pitch I was comfortable in my own skin. \u2018When I was 17 I broke the metatarsal in my foot and I couldn\u2019t go to football to escape those thoughts and feelings. But I found that alcohol did exactly the same thing for me. It took me away from all that stuff \u2013 everything. \u2018When I first picked up alcohol, I didn\u2019t like the taste. So I had to work on it because I loved that feeling of numbness, that escape. I\u2019d wet the bed and it became normal \u2013 I\u2019d just roll to the other side. It got to the stage where I\u2019d do that and then sleep on the floor \u2013 no personal hygiene, no dignity, no self-respect. \u2018My football career and my using career went side by side. Every time I didn\u2019t have football, I needed something else to numb all those thoughts and feelings in life. \u2018I was spending a lot of time in pubs and clubs and I married a barmaid. She\u2019s part of my story, and I\u2019m part of hers. Her drug of choice at the time was crack cocaine. I knew she took a little bit but over the six years we were together it developed. It was a very volatile relationship \u2013 we were soulmates in sickness really. I\u2019d think, \u201cat least I\u2019m not like her \u2013 she\u2019s the druggie.\u201d So I\u2019m out there sleeping with other women, pissing myself, going to prison \u2013 but thinking, \u201cat least I\u2019m not as bad as you because you do crack and I do booze.\u201d \u2018I was trapped in denial. If you\u2019d have told me I had a problem with alcohol I\u2019d have told you to get lost. The consequences then started to happen and the pain became unbearable. \u2018I put my wife into treatment at Clouds House to sort her life out \u2013 \u201ccos it\u2019s her fault\u201d \u2013 and I saw the 12-step programme on the wall. I thought, what the hell\u2019s that? I sat down with two counsellors and they looked at me as if they could see straight through me. I said \u201cI haven\u2019t got a problem \u2013 sort her out and we\u2019ll be ok. She\u2019s got to stay in here for a couple of months and I\u2019ve got three kids at home I\u2019m looking after. Sort her out.\u201d \u2018So the wife\u2019s gone. Then I got injured and couldn\u2019t play. As long I was on the pitch I was getting rid of all that anger \u2013 and getting paid for it! \u2018I took the kids out one Sunday to an Indian restaurant and got absolutely smashed. I brought them home and passed out. The next thing I know, my mother-in-law\u2019s slapping me round the face \u2013 and she took the kids away. My first thought was \u201choliday!\u201d Then the consequences became more and more painful: \u201cWife\u2019s gone, football\u2019s gone, kids have gone.\u201d \u2018It was starting to dawn on me. My mother-in-law gave me the name of a therapist. It was the first time in my 12 years of drinking that I didn\u2019t want to drink again \u2013 yet I was still getting drunk. I had crossed the line and I couldn\u2019t get back. I had completely lost all control over it and it frightened the hell out of me. \u2018I tried to do it with willpower \u2013 \u201cI\u2019m not going to drink again.\u201d But with no tools and no idea how to stay stopped, I continued to use. There was the big tournament in \u201996, the European Championships, and I white-knuckled it \u2013 football had always worked for me. I locked myself in my room on the 15th floor of the hotel, with my life falling to bits. I said to the lads, \u201cwhen we win it I\u2019ll go and have a drink with you, we\u2019ll celebrate,\u201d but until then I was scared \u2013 I didn\u2019t know how to drink. As soon as the last game of that competition was kicked and Gareth missed that penalty, I went back into the bar in the corner of the dressing rooms and I was off. \u2018I had my moment of clarity, my surrender moment at 29 years of age. I started to cry. \u201cI don\u2019t want to drink, I\u2019m still getting drunk. All this behaviour I\u2019m doing, I don\u2019t want to do.\u201d My life was a complete and utter mess. \u2018But as soon as I surrendered, as soon as I gave in, it was a release. Somewhere inside of me I had a moment of clarity, something shifted within me that let a shaft of light in and the therapy got me well. \u2018The best thing about recovery is that you get your thoughts and feelings back \u2013 and the worst thing about recovery is that you get your thoughts and feelings back! \u2018My life is fantastic today. I get angry, but I express that anger appropriately. I\u2019ve had to learn absolutely everything from people who are down the journey a little bit further. \u2018I\u2019ve had many \u201csurrenders\u201d and emotional \u201cbottoms\u201d \u2013 things that took me to a very dark place. But I got through it with different tools, including talking about it. We don\u2019t know what the triggers are for other people \u2013 all we can do is to lay out the tools in front of them, whether it\u2019s a treatment centre, a counsellor, a friend, or a coffee with someone. \u2018If one programme doesn\u2019t work for you, try everything. And as professionals, put everything in front of people and they might pick up one of the tools. It\u2019s the pain that gets them usually. The consequences of your life become so unbearable, you\u2019ve got no other choice.\u2019 Tony Adam\u2019s book Sober was published in August by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9781471156755. He has used the proceeds of his books to set up Sporting Chance Clinic to support current and former professional sportspeople.