PAUL MERSON has revealed being a part of Harry’s Heroes saved his life and helped him overcome the “wreckage” left by his drinking and gambling problems.
The Arsenal great, now 52, has struggled with booze for decades – and even admitted it made him want to kill himself earlier this year in a heartbreaking interview.
Now Merson has revealed being part of Harry Redknapp’s team helped him come to terms with his disease.
The second series of Harry’s Heroes – called Euro Having a Laugh – kicks off on Monday, as Redknapp takes his squad of stars including David Seaman and Neil “Razor” Ruddock across Europe, culminating in a clash with old enemy Germany.
And Merson told The Mirror: “From last time, I’m 100 times better, my life’s changed around. Where I was last year compared to now, I can’t explain.
“The impact of being in the team, it saved my life.
“I was drinking at least 35 pints a week and gambling. But I’m sober and bet-free now.
“As soon as I addressed the drinking, I didn’t gamble. I’ve come to realise I’m powerless over alcohol. I’m an alcoholic.
“I have a disease – and it is a disease.”
I went into treatment twice and it never helped because people made me go in… this is the time I did it for me.
Merson continued: “My drinking and gambling left a lot of wreckage. As an alcoholic, recovering now, those things are hard for me.
“It’s quite sad really because you look now and think what a waste of a life, some of it.
“I went into treatment twice and it never helped because people made me go in, the club made me go in or the FA made me go in.
“This is the time I did it for me.”
And Harry’s Heroes boss Redknapp, 73, revealed Merson did “brilliantly” on their latest tour – as he refused to touch a drop of booze.
Redknapp said: “Not drinking must have been very difficult when you’re away with a group of boys who are all mates and all having a chat and sharing stories.
“And you sit there and never have a drink. He did brilliantly.”
NO WAY OUT
In January, opening up in his column with the Daily Star, Merson wrote: “On Monday I’ll have been sober for a year. But this time last year, I wanted to kill myself.
“I couldn’t go on any more. I just couldn’t see a way out. I had the tablets in my hand.
“I didn’t take enough to do anything but I had them there. With vodka. It was scary.
“It was only because of the kids really, and my wife, and a little bit of consciousness, that I didn’t.
“Fear probably as well. I was scared to do it. When you’re in that place, you don’t see how it’s ever going to pass.
“But I have the tools now. If I get into a real down situation, I know it will pass.
“I don’t want to kill myself any more. I don’t have those thoughts. I’m not carrying the world on my shoulders. Walking around with guilt.
“I’m not beating myself up, drinking and gambling all the time and asking why I’m doing this to myself.
“It’s only now I know. I have an illness. I have a mental illness. I’ve accepted that now. Before, I used to beat myself up all the time.”
In the first series of Harry’s Heroes, Merson left fans in tears as he emotionally admitted gambling made him feel like a “crack addict”.