Arsenal and England legend opens up his new book about how his demons returned when he worked as sport director of Chinese Super League club Chongqing Lifan FC
FORMER England and Arsenal captain TONY ADAMS reveals how he suffered depression and panic attacks last year after joining Chinese Super League club Chongqing Lifan as sporting director, in his new autobiography Sober.
LIFE became tough as I endured what I can only describe as an emotional crisis – one that would bring me to my knees.
After about a month in China [in the summer of 2016], I began to feel very lonely.
EXCLUSIVE – Tony Adams: My last drink was on the back of a four-day bender
I was not sleeping or eating well and lost a stone in weight, 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 now I was nearer the end of my life than the beginning.
I began to get pains in my chest – real or perceived I could not be sure.
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.
Alone in a hotel room a long way from home is not a good place to experience these things.
At least in Azerbaijan I had around me people I’d appointed.
I sobbed like a baby at times and was beset by panic attacks and bouts of depression.
I had never had them before and they came as a huge, overwhelming shock.
It was terrifying. I felt paralysed, immobilised, demotivated.
There was no pleasure in the small joys of life, like the taste of a meal or a Skype call home.
The only respite came when I dragged myself to a running machine, where I could check my heart rate on a self-testing kit and be reassured the readings were normal.
I would take my blood pressure six times a day.
But I couldn’t live my life on a running machine. Poppy asked me on the phone if I felt suicidal or like drinking again. I said I felt neither.
Later she would say that when she heard that, she knew then we had some breathing space, at least.
Those with long-term sobriety will understand that, even if people who don’t have a problem with alcohol might not comprehend why anyone wouldn’t just have a drink or two now and then to make them feel better.
But I had learned how to tolerate emotional pain without booze, knew the madness that it brought up in me, knew it was the first drink that did the damage by leading to more and more and more.
I wanted none of that back. But I did want to be free of this darkness stopping me from functioning properly.
One Sunday, in my desperation, I got on a plane back to England, thinking I would be safe there, free from panic attacks.
On the Monday, I went to see my cardiologist, Dr McCrea, who told me my blood pressure and heart were fine. I was just stressed.
I went to see my GP. He thought I might benefit from beta-blockers and antidepressants.
I was very wary. In recovery, I had always been careful not to take anything that could be mood-altering and had often thought less of people who went on medication.
I didn’t want to swap one flavour of addiction for another – alcohol for pills.
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- SOBER: Football. My Story. My Life, published by Simon & Schuster, is out on June 1.