NO one knows better than Tony Adams the highs of football success and the lows of addiction.
The former Arsenal and England captain, 50, overcame a serious booze problem to set up the Sporting Chance Clinic, which helps sportsmen and women battling addiction.
Tony’s new autobiography Sober — exclusively serialised this week in The Sun — discusses his life since he gave up booze in 1996.
But the one-club man reveals that the demons are never far away.
Tony had a major heart scare in 2015 before suffering panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
But now life is good. With second wife Poppy, 43, he shares a home with their three kids Atticus, 13, Hector, 11, and Iris, seven.
He is also dad to Oliver, 25, and Amber, 21, from his first marriage to Jane, 50.
Here, he begins his story . . .
I do remember p***ing and s***ing in my pants, peeling them off and going out again
MY last drink was on the back of a four-day bender.
It is very patchy and I had blackouts, so some of it I can’t remember.
I do know I went out on a Tuesday but that is a blank.
On the Wednesday, I went to a restaurant and nightclub in Chelsea called Barbarella’s and got smashed. I can’t remember where I stayed. I do remember p***ing and s***ing in my pants, peeling them off and going out again.
I remember bits about the Thursday. I went to a strip club off Piccadilly. I would get girls there.
You could take them off somewhere and pay them. I was drinking with twin girls.
It sounds glamorous — all sex and drugs and rock’n’roll — but it wasn’t. It was all s**t and passing out.
I took one of the girls off to a hotel in Kensington. I was off the planet. I passed out.
I woke up Friday morning seeing the mini-bar empty and bottles all over the room. I’d smashed it. I had sex with this girl and it was nothing and I think she could see the pain in my face.
I was completely lost. The alcohol wasn’t working for me any more and nor was the sex. Nothing was.
At 5pm that Friday I am sitting with a pint of Guinness. I used to put brandy in it. I couldn’t drink spirits straight.
Jack, the barman, came up to me and said: “You all right, Tone?” I said, “No I’m not, Jack,” and started to cry.
It felt like my moment of clarity. Something inside me said: “You are f***ed. You are beat.” It was my moment of surrender.
Jack said: “Have another one, Tone.” I said: “I can’t drink any more.” Enough was enough. Then my journey began.
During those 12 years I had gone to prison for drink-driving, had 29 stitches in my head after falling down steps drunk and been in intensive care. That’s where alcohol took me.
Any situation that’s arisen since, today I don’t have to drink. That’s f***ing amazing.
What happened in my life with alcohol makes me feel sad but also grateful that I found a way out of it.
I have so many tools for coping today. I’ve had both parents die since I’ve been in recovery and not had a drink.
I’ve got married again. I’ve had three more children with a beautiful new wife and I can do a job now.
I’ve had highs and lows, in and out of football, given up playing and gone into coaching and management.
I’ve not had a drink through any of it. My self-esteem has come back and I am all right.
We clicked and a relationship was born. Gradually, it would grow into a marriage
SUNDAY, January 20, 2002, the team was away to Leeds United. After watching the game, a 1-1 draw, on TV, I decided to go out for dinner to the Embassy restaurant in Mayfair with a couple of friends.
Carl Fogarty, the motorcyclist who went on to win I’m A Celebrity, was at a nearby table. So was a woman by the name of Poppy Teacher.
She approached our table, introduced herself and said she hoped I didn’t mind but she was an Arsenal fan and was wondering when I would be fit to play again.
Not long after she returned to her table, her friend came over.
“Look,” she said, “Poppy really likes you. Why don’t you go over and talk to her?”
So I did. She was an attractive, single woman and I was a single man, after all.
We clicked and a relationship was born. Gradually, that relationship would grow into a marriage.
It was not lost on the media that I was a recovering alcoholic and Poppy came from the Teacher’s whisky family.
The irony amused her, though her surname had not even registered with me.
Later, I could joke that I may be teetotal, I still woke up with a Teacher’s in the morning. She would say she met a successful footballer and a few months later ended up with a has-been.
TONY ON CAPRICE
THE 1999 season was also notable for something significant in my private life: My four-month relationship with the model Caprice Bourret.
Caprice made it plain she was attracted to me.
I don’t think it was purely physical – and there were plenty who would say I was punching above my weight.
I was aware of that but I think I was then a more attractive person than I had been, more at ease with myself and open to new experiences.
I liked her very much. She was an honest and sincere woman.
And, I have to say, I felt like a king in the company of this beautiful woman.
In the end, though, I knew I would have to end the relationship due to the lack of emotional connection.
It felt like an act, that she was playing a game before and after she met me. The honesty and sincerity I saw initially got lost behind the facade. I did have second thoughts – and there is always regret when a relationship ends. But I knew it was right to move on. Sex can be such a drug and could have kept me in the relationship.
But part of my recovery was to be the master of that and look beyond the physical to the spiritual and emotional as well.
This from a bloke who once dumped a girl because the underwear she wore was, to his eyes, too big!
A few years later I was asked if I would be interested – for £50,000 – in going on Celebrity Big Brother.
I then read in the papers that Caprice was going on the show and rang her up, as we were still civil towards each other. We both agreed the producers were probably looking for fireworks between us in the “house” and I told her it was not for me.
By then I was making better decisions, and not based on money.
My heart was not getting blood through. Two of the arteries were blocked, one a dangerous 99 per cent
IN the run-up to the Dortmund game (at home with FC Gabala of Azerbaijan) in October 2015, I started to feel pain round my right shoulder.
After some blood tests, I was given an angiogram. The doctor told me I would be going down to theatre and I grew frightened. Very frightened.
I was getting chest pains because my heart was not getting the blood through.
Two of the arteries were blocked, one a dangerous 99 per cent and one 70 per cent, almost as dangerous.
The procedure took ten to 20 minutes. Then I was being returned to my room, waving the cardiologist goodbye and thanking him.
Everything was fixed. I had nothing to worry about physically.
TONY ON ROBBIE
ROBBIE WILLIAMS has spoken of his alcohol and drug addiction, so I’m not betraying any confidences when I talk about our friendship.
He is another who has had to live it all in the public eye. I got to know him when he got clean and sober.
We met at an AA meeting just off Oxford Street in London and went for a coffee afterwards to share our experiences.
We would also have another, very powerful, conversation a few years later. It was back in March 2001.
I was nearly five years sober and we were playing Bayern in the Champions League in Munich. I got a call at the team hotel on the day of the game. It was Robbie.
He was in Munich playing a gig that night, one of his first sober, and was nervous about going on stage without some alcoholic drink or substance to take the edge off, as he often had in the past. Could we talk? Of course, I said. For the next hour or so we talked about performing in front of big crowds in big venues, about the butterflies and self-doubt.
“What if the audience don’t like me?” Robbie asked. “That’s a possibility,” I said. “But if it does happen, I now have the emotional equipment to deal with that situation.”
I told him I was a better player after I stopped drinking and it would probably be the same for him.
He would be a greater performer clean and sober.
“Nobody wants a shy legend,” I added. “Now go out there and give your paying public the superstar they want.”
Perhaps I was practising team talks. It must have helped, as sharing always does. I saw from TV Robbie was in the crowd before going on stage. He apparently wowed his audience in the Olympiahalle.
I sobbed like a baby at times and was beset by panic attacks and bouts of depression
LIFE became tough as I endured an emotional crisis that would bring me to my knees. After a month in China (in 2016) I began to feel very lonely.
I wasn’t sleeping or eating well and lost a stone, which took me back to my prison weight of 25 years earlier.
I was nearing my 20th AA anniversary of stopping drinking and my 50th birthday. My vulnerability, my mortality, really hit home.
It dawned on me I was nearer the end of my life than the beginning. I began to get pains in my chest — real or perceived.
I sobbed like a baby at times and was beset by panic attacks and bouts of depression. It was terrifying. I felt paralysed, immobilised, demotivated.
One Sunday, in desperation, I got on a plane back to England, thinking I would be safe there, free from panic attacks.
My GP thought I might benefit from beta-blockers and antidepressants. I was very wary.
In recovery I was careful not to take anything mood- altering. I didn’t want to swap one addiction for another.
- SOBER: Football. My Story. My Life, published by Simon & Schuster, is out on June 1.