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Hooked: Addiction and the long road to recovery By Paul Merson

Release date: 19th October, 2021
Publisher: Headline

List Price: 19.99
Our Price: 14.67
You Save: 5.32 (26%)
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A decade ago, former Arsenal star turned TV pundit Paul Merson wrote How Not to be a Professional Footballer, the book?s cover featuring his face adorning a beer can, a deliberate and carefully-nurtured image of a likeable geezer who enjoyed a drink, a bet, a snort of coke and a laugh. Most people who reviewed the book were Gooners who wondered how ?Merse? had survived given the industrial quantities of alcohol and cocaine he had consumed.

A couple of weeks ago, Merson featured in a BBC documentary: Football, Gambling and Me which focused primarily on his longest-standing addiction, gambling. Considering the calibre of his earlier biography, your reviewer suspected the film would portray Merson as a ?victim?: rich ex-footballer with a compulsive personality unable to impose discipline on his life.

Impressively, however, Merson sought no sympathy in what proved a poignant profile of a once brilliant footballer now in his mid-50s. A man who gambled away the deposit on a house which would have lifted his family out of the rented property they currently occupy.

Merson calculates he lost more than ?7 million at the bookies. No wonder he looked lost. I suspect the film resulted in a huge increase in the sale of his latest book, Hooked: Addiction and the Long Road to Recovery. I certainly hope so ? and for the sake of his family that his long-suffering wife protects the proceeds.

It?s difficult for most people to understand the ravages of addiction and its horrible impact upon loved ones; incredibly, Merson, this outwardly jovial, happy-go-lucky man, has battled addiction for more than 30 years. The fight continues, as Merson admits: ?I've come to realise that I'm powerless over alcohol ... I'm an alcoholic. My drinking and gambling have left a lot of wreckage.?

After three decades of often utter despair and the accompanying weight of misery and hopelessness, it?s no surprise that Merson considered suicide as the anguish brought on by drinking and gambling continued to rage.

Redemption, of a kind, arrived late one Sunday night as he walked home from the pub and ?something clicked.? Merson had had enough of ??feeling like this every day of my life. I rang up Alcoholics Anonymous the next day, and since then I haven't had a drink.?

Merson no longer resembles the jovial fool of his first book, nor that of his laddish TV persona. Here is a guy in desperate need of help who pulls no punches in a searingly honest account of a life spent in hand-to-hand combat with addiction and its horrendous fallout.

The ex-Arsenal man has been brave enough to acknowledge that only he could make the first move and want to stop drinking. If he can do the same with his gambling habit, it would surpass anything he ever did on a football pitch.

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