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Soccer hero Paul and tycoon Dunne unite to tell addicts: You are not alone

FOOTBALLER Paul McGrath has revealed that at his darkest hour fellow players didn't understand his addiction and thought he was 'just acting up'.

The soccer star has had a well publicised battle with alcoholism and he is now sober for several months.

In a new book, You Are Not Alone, he states that, at the time, his colleagues in the professional football world did not relate to his problem.

Paul tells his story along with other celebrities in the book who had a public struggle with addiction, including Ben Dunne, Mary Coughlan and Armagh footballer Oisin McConville.

Paul said: "When I was playing football, a lot of the other players thought I was being a prima donna when I was drinking and playing -- they didn't understand that I just couldn't stop myself and I wasn't 'just acting up'."


"Very few around me (including myself) understood the nature of alcohol addiction, and things were different back then too.

"Management were okay with what I was doing as long as I 'sort of' kept it all on an even keel (there isn't really such a thing)," he added.

"I was still playing well so I got away with a lot."

The former Ireland player has opened up even further about his personal fight in the book, which is published by The Rise Foundation -- the organisation which was established by singer Frances Black, who herself battled with alcohol.

The book takes the form of letters from those with eating disorders, alcohol, drug abuse or gambling problems.

It also features poignant stories from former addicts to their younger selves and letters to their family.

McConville writes: "When I wasn't training and signing jerseys I was hiding away in some dark corner of a bookies, alone with a docket like all other loners in such places." Eventually, he writes: "I sat in the back of my brother's car and I just broke down." After spending three months in treatment he finally got his life back on track. "Now I can enjoy life when I walk back over the white line," he states.

Retail mogul Ben Dunne said that he now knows that the origin of his problems emerged from when he was working in his family business Dunnes Stores.

"Nobody sets out to become an addict; it creeps up on you," he said. "I was sent into rehab in the US by a court order, and it was the best thing that happened to me.

"Through my own counselling, I realised my own stresses were related to working in the family business."

The businessman said that he reached a point where he knew his lifestyle needed a radical overhaul.

"If I wanted to kick cocaine, I had to change my work situation," Ben said. "And I did change it, and the lovely thing about it is that I have now developed normal sibling relationships with my brothers and sisters."

Irish singer Frances Black established The Rise Foundation in 2008, inspired by her own journey to recovery, and her work as a therapist.

The organisation's goal is to open a dedicated addiction, education and awareness centre on Rathlin Island.

Frances said that the key to recovery was openness -- with yourself and your family.

"Often it is all too easy to keep our problems bottled up, believing we are protecting ourselves or our loved ones by hiding away feelings of fear and shame," she said.

"We can convince ourselves that holding on by a bare thread is better than letting go and trusting that our fall will be safely broken."

Ben Dunne said that the process was long and painful but worth it.

"During my recovery, it took time for certain friends and family to trust in me again -- or believe in me," he said.

"I remember when I was going off on a business trip, someone I love asked me to promise to never take cocaine again. My answer, which I became okay with (and so did they), was, 'Listen, I can't even promise you I'll be here in a year. I could get run over by a bus tomorrow!'"

McGrath said that he was at a more stable and calm point in his life and had developed new hobbies and passions to help him the recovery process. "I have come a long way from the place I was. It is hard to believe but it's true. I am happy and delighted. I feel good," he said.

You Are Not Alone retails in bookstores now at €11.99. Further information is available at www.therisefoundation.ie