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Paul Merson this morning opened up on his struggles with addiction in an emotional interview on ITV's Good Morning Britain programme.
The former Arsenal and England star has openly admitted his past struggles with gambling, alcoholism and drugs over the years.
Merson says his gambling addiction cost him over £7m and his marriage – as well as his self respect.
In a hard-hitting interview this morning, he told presenters Richard Madeley and Susanna Reid how tough it has been trying to beat his demons.
"In lockdown it was scary. My brain was telling me I have saved enough money to get a deposit to get us a house, to get us out of rented accommodation," he said.
"I was watching the news all the time. As an addict, I have to keep on watching stuff. It is hard for me to stop watching stuff.
"The news was blowing my mind. People understand that addiction talks to you and it was saying 'we're not getting out of this, we're in lockdown forever, this is it'.
"And I needed to get a house. The only way I could do that was by chasing my money.
"I lost everything. It was sad. But it was from my heart. That was where I was.
"I have got a casino in my pocket. I have got a walk-in 24 hour casino. That's my phone!
"I'm lucky, I have a thing called Game Ban. You pay for a year and it cuts out every single thing about gambling if I put anything on my phone."
Merson also shared on screen a hand-written note he had penned on August 30th last year, pleading with himself to stop gambling for good.
The heartbreaking note read: "I need to stop gambling. I love my wife and kids and I'm so happy with them.
"When I was in Orlando with my wife and two little children it was the happiest I have been in years. Because I wasn't gambling.
"I hate myself when I gamble, I hate it. Please help me God.
"I need to pay everyone back and get my wife and kids a house. Please God help me."
Merson admits he tried to get help at Arsenal, when he would drive to training feeling suicidal.
The football pundit was asked how he stays focused these days as he tries to stop betting for good.
"Years ago when I was at Arsenal, I went in for addiction for drugs and drink but gambling was pushed aside. I would drive to work and I wanted to kill myself," he bravely admitted.
"How can you be playing for England, playing for one of the best teams in the world, and you're gambling your money away. How do you tell people? I got scared.
"Now I try to live in the moment, try and live in the day. The one thing about the richest person in the world and the poorest person in the world… we only get given the day.
"Try to live in the day and don't worry about what happens a year ago or three years ago, or what you're going to be doing next week or in a year's time.
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"A month ago I was sitting indoors, I was sitting on the sofa and my wife came in and she can see the situations I am in. She said 'why are you like that, why are you down, I can see the situation you are in'.
"And I went 'I'm bored'. I searched all my life for that and then I get to it and she said 'but is it better than when you were right down here?'
"I said it was 100 times better. "There was go. That was it. I was alright."
Merson has never been one to hide away from his issues and has regularly spoken out about his struggles.
He now acts as a role model for others trying to battle addiction and remains one of the nation's most-loved football pundits.
Merson remains on Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday panel and is a Daily Star columnist, sharing his thoughts with us every Friday.
Frank offers confidential advice about drugs and addiction (email [email protected] , message 82111 or call 0300 123 6600) or the NHS has information about getting help.
If you’re struggling to cope with mental health issues, there are ways you can access help.
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]
- Good Morning Britain
- Arsenal FC
- Premier League
- Susanna Reid
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