Arsenal legend Tony Adams has opened up on his 12-year battle with alcohol addiction, how it affected his Gunners career and how he turned his back on the Tuesday Club and turned his life around.
Adams, as well as being Mr Arsenal and a former captain for his club and country, is one of the country’s most high-profile champions of mental health following his own recovery from alcoholism.
The former centre-backs struggles began when he was just 17, when he got pissed every day and used alcohol to suppress his feelings during a spell on the sidelines with injury during his early Arsenal career.
Adams was captain of Arsenal from 1988-2002 and also captained England
His success on the pitch, winning two First Division titles, one FA Cup and League Cups between 1986 and 1993, was marred by his problems with alcohol off it, which led to several incidents at nightclubs and also a four-month stint behind bars for drink-driving in 1990.
Adams fought to become sober in 1996 and remarked that he had got his career back, going on to win two Premier League and FA Cup doubles in 1998 and 2002 under Arsene Wenger, who demanded players change their lifestyles when he was appointed as manager.
The former skipper joined Alan Brazil and old teammate Ray Parlour on Fridays talkSPORT Breakfast for a frank reflection on his recovery, and he explained just how low things got for him.
Im 24 years without a drink or a drug inside me, said Adams.
Its not part of my being today, its not a thing. Its been removed from me.
I still check in and go to regular AA meetings and keep it fresh, because we are human beings and we can forget. Weve got romantic recall they call it, when we think of only the good times.
There were plenty of those, me and Razor had some cracking times
Adams and Parlour were regular room mates during Arsenal’s away trips and club tours
But I dont need it today, I get the high out of life to be honest with you. Im clear of mind, got my dignity back, Ive got a loving heart and Im all right.
But I crossed the line and I couldnt get back, and honestly if I didnt have the consequences Id still be drinking. If I didnt have the prison, the lack of self-respect and dignity, the blackouts, the weeing myself, Id still be out there. Alcohol is an unbelievable drug.
Life at Arsenal pre-Wenger was very different. English football was famed for its drinking culture, and Arsenal had a culture of their own with their notorious Tuesday Club.
Adams who says being taken to the pub by senior players was normal in those days was one of the prominent members of the group set up by former boss George Graham for his players to socialise and bond off the pitch.
It centred on heavy drinking sessions and often resulted in some quite mad capers including when Ray Parlour was arrested during the Gunners tour of Hong Kong.
That was apparently Adams fault. You can read that story in full here.
Ray Parlour reveals how a night out and roommate Tony Adams got him in trouble at Arsenal
Adams turned his life around in 1996 and it also began a new era of his career with the Gunners under boss Arsene Wenger
Drinking was very much in the culture at that point, in the late 80s and early 90s, Adams explained.
All my mentors took me down the pub or took me to the bookies, thats what we did and I didnt need much dragging, lets just say that.
It was like a light switch turned on for me. It was like, this is my world, this is unbelievable this stuff. The way it surprised all my thoughts and feelings, it was like hallelujah!
My life off the pitch was a complete mess but I took that drink and I was king for a day, it was like wow, fantastic! But, like I said, I crossed the line and I couldnt get back.
A lot of people were drinking heavily, not alcoholically, but drinking very heavily, and with me it was kind of hidden, it meant I could hide a lot of it.
The human body at a young age can take a lot of abuse, and I certainly did that, but I still had a certain amount of talent.
A lot of other players were drinking a lot as well, so it was like a level playing field in a way.
Adams is a true club legend at Arsenal, where he spent his entire playing career and is now immortalised with a statue outside the Emirates Stadium
Its interesting, we won the league in 1991 and it took seven years for us to win it again. I sobered up in 1996 and we won the league again in 1998.
In that time we became a very good cup team. It had an affect on me where I could get up for the cup games, but week-in, week-out it was taking its toll. Playing on a Saturday and again on a Tuesday got really difficult at the end of my drinking.
As I said, drinking was part of the culture, but then foreign players came over with their different methods and it was kind of like shape up or were all out of the game.
We couldnt keep drinking to the levels we did.
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Listen to a clip of Tony Adams on the talkSPORT Breakfast above