FORMER England defender Steven Caulker has revealed the ‘pain’ his alcohol and gambling addiction caused, amid his bid to revive his career.
A promising rise through the ranks at Tottenham led to spells with Cardiff, QPR and Liverpool.
Steven Caulker says he is enjoying his time with Turkish club AlanyasporCredit: Getty Images – Getty
However Caulker, who earned one cap for the Three Lions in 2012, spent several months out of the game after leaving Dundee two years ago.
Problems with drinking, gambling and mental health issues led to the 28-year-old seeking therapy.
And he has opened up on the debilitating effects his addictions had on his career.
Caulker told the BBC: “For me, the internal pain that my addictions caused me, I can’t really describe it, to tell you the truth.
“It was a terrible situation and it’s one which I have to take care of on a daily basis.
“I have been in recovery for a long time now but, thankfully, through the 12-step programme I’ve managed to have a long stint of sobriety. I’ve come here and been able to really relax and just sort of find myself again.
“Looking back, the most frustrating thing was I was never able to fulfil my potential. I was out there on the pitch and playing at 50-60 per cent of my capability.
“Since coming here and being sober and clean, living how I always wanted to live, I feel like now I am able to give so much more.”
Caulker scored in his only England appearance, a 4-2 defeat to Sweden eight years agoCredit: Reuters
The centre-back appeared four times for Liverpool in a short-lived loan spellCredit: Reuters
Caulker joined Alanyaspor in early 2019, with the Turkish club offering ‘another chance’ to the centre-back.
Leading the Super Lig side qualify for this season’s Europa League, where they lost to Rosenborg in the play-offs, has helped Caulker rediscover his love for the game.
But he has warned that more must be done to prevent mental health issues among young sports stars.
He added: “For me, it’s an emotional illness. Is it helped by the pressure of football and the ruthlessness of the industry? Probably not.
“A 20-21-year-old playing for England and Tottenham, there was a lot of spotlight on me. There was a lot of negative press and it almost kind of spun me out into a cycle.
“When I look back to the days in active addiction, I would do the double [training] session, go out and gamble and drink, and still turn up to training the next day.
“It’s amazing what your body can actually deal with. For me, it’s a sign of just how strong this addiction could be that you will push your body to crazy limits in order to juggle everything.
“The pain for me was the internal pain, the emotional pain, that I caused everyone around me.
I was fortunate enough to get another chance. A lot of players never make it back.
“I felt like I let down a lot of people and it’s a terrible place to be – that’s why I honestly devote a lot of time now to helping others.
“I just think there’s so much to be done – not just in football but in the world – especially in these difficult times with coronavirus. I just feel like I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.
“I was fortunate enough to get another chance in Turkey. A lot of players you may or may not have heard of never make it back.”
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