Former footballer Paul Merson breaks down in tears live on Tuesday’s Good Morning Britain as he discussed his gambling addiction.
The 53-year-old joined presenters Richard Madeley and Susanna Reid in the studio to talk about his new book called ‘Hooked.’
At one point, Susanna read out a passage from the book which was a note that Paul had written during lockdown after relapsing.
Part of the 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. Please God help me.”
With the camera cutting back to Paul, he was seen choking up and wiping away tears as he remembered and told of writing the note.
The ex-Arsenal and England player lost £7 million during the 1990’s and admitted: “I’d be driving to work and I wanted to kill myself.”
Referring to his recent relapse, Paul continued: “It’s just sad, in lockdown it was scary. I’d saved enough deposit to get a house and get us out of rented accommodation.
“Watching the news was blowing my mind and addiction talks to you, ‘you’re not getting out of this’.
“I lost everything and it was sad, what I wrote in the book was from my heart,” Paul added.
The father-of-eight, his latest child coming during the 2019/20 season, hoped that by appearing on GMB, he could help others that are going through the same problem, days after Peter Shilton appeared on This Morning with his book on gambling, also calling to see the betting sponsors axed from kits just like we’ve seen with alcohol brands.
“If someone sits at home and understands they’re not a bad person, they’re ill. It’s easy to think you’re a bad person,” Merse said.
Paul went on to confirm that he has “a thing called game ban” on his phone to ensure he can’t gamble on his mobile.
‘I need to pay everyone back and get my wife and kids a house, please god help me.’
Paul Merson emotionally describes how he relapsed during lockdown & began gambling again.
Paul is now doing better and he encourages anyone struggling with addiction to speak out. pic.twitter.com/Jon3p0RlxN
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) September 14, 2021
After being questioned by Susanna how he is coping day-to-day now, he said: “Its trying to live in the moment, live in the day. We only get given today.
“So try not to worry about what happened a year ago or three years ago. But it is hard, I’m not gonna lie.”
The 53-year-old also opened up about his struggles to the Daily Mail, recalling times of doing cocaine while at Arsenal to the day his first wife Lorraine went into labour with first child but he chose to spend the day in the bookies.
“I didn’t stop until, eventually, I’d lost everything I’d ever had – close to £7 million, including houses, cars, marriages, my entire pension and my self-respect,” Merson wrote.
Merson spoke of the crippling anxiety he suffered as a child as one of the reasons his addictive personality made it so easy to go “all in” on drinks, drugs and gambling.
In 1989, while Merson was featuring regularly for a title-winning Gunners side, his drinking had become “really serious”, making his relationship with fiancee Lorraine “volatile”.
He explained how his wedding night in 1990 was spent in a “foul mood” after he was “consumed with overwhelming self-hatred” because of the fact he’d lost thousands while betting on Costa Rica vs Scotland in the World Cup.
“If I back Scotland to beat Costa Rica, this wedding will cost me nothing – Costa Rica won 1-0. I ended the night skint, drunk, and consumed with overwhelming self-hatred. After that, everything started to snowball.”
Merson would go on to try cocaine for the first time in February 1994 – ten months later he had spent “way, way more than £2,000” on the drug, and revealed that he was “snorting until I was driven to the brink of madness”.
“I had bookies chasing me, dealers chasing me. I settled one cocaine debt by handing over my Arsenal blazer and reporting it stolen. Paranoia took over. I was convinced someone was hunting me down.”
After coming clean for three years, Merson relapsed during his time playing for Middlesbrough, where he shared a house with Paul Gascoigne.
Merse revealed how he would place tens of thousands of pounds on single bets, aiming to win the money back with bigger ones when he lost.
“Everything I won in my football career came while I was at the height of my addiction,” he wrote.
“I could never live in the moment and enjoy the team’s achievements. I only thought about what it all meant for drinking and gambling.”
Are you a problem gambler?
Try this questionnaire:
- Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?
- Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?
- Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?
- Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
- Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?
- Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?
- Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?
- Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?
- Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?
Score 0 for each time you answer “never”
Score 1 for each time you answer “sometimes”
Score 2 for each time you answer “most of the time”
Score 3 for each time you answer “almost always”
If your total score is 8 or higher, you may be a problem gambler.
Help for problem gamblers
There’s evidence that gambling can be successfully treated in the same way as other addictions. Cognitive behavioural therapy usually has the best results.
Treatment and support groups are available for people who want to stop gambling:
GamCare GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK.
It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and also offers face-to-face counselling.
The National Centre for Behavioural Addictions includes the National Problem Gambling Clinic, (including the Young Persons’ Problem Gambling Clinic) and the National Centre for Gaming Disorders.
If you live in England or Wales, are aged 16 or over and have complex problems related to gambling, you can refer yourself to the National Problem Gambling Clinic. See if you meet the criteria for this service.
If you live in England or Wales, are aged 13 or over and have complex problems related to gaming, you can refer yourself to the National Centre for Gaming Disorders.
Gordon Moody Association The Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses for men and women who have problems with gambling – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01384 241292 to find out more.
It also runs the Gambling Therapy website, which offers online support to problem gamblers and their friends and family.
Gamblers Anonymous UK Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also GamAnon support groups for friends and family.
Respect to Paul Merson LG x
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) September 14, 2021
Viewers reacted as Paul Merson breaks down in tears live on Good Morning Britain…
@93_price: Paul Merson gets a lot of stick online but he’s brave for talking about this. And he will help someone somewhere. #gmb
@wonky_donky: this is an incredible, honest, perfectly explained story of how addiction works, and the awful cycles it creates. it’s an important watch for tackling the stigmatisation around it, but also so those around an addict understand what s/he’s going through. They’re not bad people.
@JamesGr90508074: Watching Paul Merson on @GMB. Addiction can hit anyone at anytime.. what a brave guy for going on telly just opening up like that. Keep going fella you got this!!
@JennySunshine18: Comes across as such a bloody nice, genuine guy, powerful stuff, well done, stay safe
@jp_lfc81: That’s was powerful stuff from @PaulMerse. Gambling has to be worst addiction there is. There is no limit to the amount of damage you can do in any given time.
@jasonrhd: Takes a lot of courage to come out and say this. Respect.
@J_onathon: @PaulMerse You’re a top lad in highlighting this awful addiction, keep battling! 💪
@philpot_martin: The irony… they will cut to Andy Peter’s gambling draw in the break!!!
@Getting_Carried: i had a problem with bandits (fruit machines) I was saying i won when i hit a £70 jackpot having sunk 100s into it. This false sense of “someone’s got to win” gets fixed in your head. I’ve not touched one in 3 years now. Best decision i ever made. Theirs one big winner. The owner
@greendoorg: Merse, always loved you, footballer and personality, but today you became even more, you highlighted personal problems that many are going through….. thank you legend..
@Shirleychilton6: Wow this man had me in tears hope he continues to stay level he has done fantastic well done on talking about this hope it helps lots of people ❤️
@PlayersTrombone: I feel for him and I know what it’s like, but not long ago he was on an advert for SkyBet going “BOOOOST!” and helping them advertise their service like it’s a great laugh.
@anne50923454: What a wonderful brave man am sure him being so honest will help someone make me shed a tear 😪
@oyenry: I’m surprised Paul Merson sits on Soccer Saturday with Jeff Stelling, what with him advertising Sky Bet gambling app any chance he gets. I also wouldn’t expect an understanding friend to do such a thing. “When the fun stops, stop.” Is also the most patronising slogan out there.
@jwzail: This is an underlying pandemic in this country that will never be fully addressed whilst the government are still in bed with the gambling companies
@BMRT59246329: Well done @PaulMerse great interview. For anyone who is trying to understand a family member or friend with a gambling addiction but can’t, try and find this full interview and watch it. A very lonely place even when your standing in a crowd of 20 mates, you’re not really
@GaryHart6: Having fought a gambling addiction for many years, this interview rang so many truths for me. Stay strong @PaulMerse
@Atticus_75: Paul Merson was one of my favourite players when I was younger and his struggles are well documented. I hope he is finding support and praise him for speaking movingly the morning. #PaulMerson