The Euro 2020 football tournament is in full swing and many are likely to spend their time drinking with friends.

However, this can be a stressful and troubling time for anyone struggling with drink problems.

A former semi-professional footballer has opened up about his struggles with alcohol addiction, urging anyone who thinks they have a drinking problem to reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mark, who does not wish to be fully identified, said he had a lot of promise as a football player in his younger days.

The Darwen man was top of his class and played at a non-league level for a variety of teams in the East Lancashire area, including Darwen and Clitheroe.

Football was also in his blood as his father was a professional footballer for Accrington Stanley Football Club.

However, Mark said a combination of bad mental health, distractions and an alcohol addiction prevented his football career from flourishing further.

Mark said: “Before I started drinking my mentality wasn’t great but put a drink on top of that and bad sporting performances would kick in.

“Dad had the mentality to avoid distractions. Once I started drinking and it became a normal part of my life, my football career had gone really.”

Mark didn’t think his drinking was a problem during the “early days”. He said heavy drinking was a normal part of football culture in the late 80s - “especially in British culture”.

As time went on, Mark’s heavy drinking became more of an issue. The amount he drank didn’t increase but his mental health and attitude towards drinking did.

He didn’t necessarily drink all the time- but when he did he “drank to oblivion”.

He said: “I would find it difficult to turn up to work and had plenty of days off.

“It would also impact my football career. I didn’t always drink the day before a game but when it did happen on occasion, I just wouldn’t turn up.

“I was embarrassed that I didn’t have the ability to control it and understandably the coaches got sick of it.”

Eventually, Mark began to isolate himself and feel “ashamed” about his drinking habits.

Mark’s turning point and wake up call came after he woke up in hospital after “blacking out”.

He said:  “All of a sudden, I was being wheelchaired out of a hospital, covered in cuts and bruises, and didn’t know how I had got there.

“I had also missed out on an exam at college.”

When he walked into college the next day, he was pulled aside by a woman who told him that he might have a drinking problem.

She introduced him to Alcoholics Anonymous, where he admitted that in the first meeting he was “full of fear and dread”.

However, thanks to the organisation, which Mark described more as a “fellowship”, he hasn’t touched a drink in more than 22 years.

Lancashire Telegraph: An example of an Alcoholic's Anonymous meetingAn example of an Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting

He explained: “Everything’s improved since I stopped drinking.

“The groups I attend have given me the knowledge of how to gain control over alcohol.

“Mum has a spark in her eye when I see her. My work history has improved and I don’t have days off now.

“I’m a useful member of society now. I’m involved in cricket now and coach it on Wednesday nights.”

A true testament of his recovery came when his dad took his own life; during the difficult time Mark said it “didn’t even cross his mind once” to reach for alcohol as a means of escaping the difficult situation.

Currently, Mark works as a Young Person’s Liason Officer  for AA.

He mainly works with under 30s who have problems with alcohol addiction.

He explained: “Lot of young people have drinking problems- we want people of all ages and backgrounds to have a voice in Alcoholic’s Anonymous.

“We want to get them involved and give them some responsibly.”

Mark acknowledges that throughout the Euro 2020 tournament, some people might struggle with their current alcohol addiction- and some people might even realise that they have a problem with drinking for the first time.

To that Mark encourages anyone to “reach out for help” with the AA.

He added: “I don’t think there is as much stigma about alcohol addiction as there was when I was young.

“The groups and friendships we make outside of meetings has been successful for me and thousands of people around the world.”

How to reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous

If you think you have a drinking problem there are many ways to reach out for help with Alcoholic Anonymous (AA).

The organisation is solely concerned with personal recovered and the continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the Fellowship for help.

As the title suggests, members can choose their own level of anonymity and what is said in meetings is kept confidential. No sign up or commitment to AA is ever required.

Call or email

If you need help with a drinking problem either phone the local help line on 0161 839 2881 between 11am to 10pm 365 days a year or contact them by email:

If any organisation would like free literature, posters, videos or information sessions on AA, please contact the East Lancashire Intergroup via email

Online chat

If you need immediate help and want to speak to someone instantly, they also have a chat function on their website which you can use to speak to an AA volunteer.

If this function doesn’t work or you are disconnected, feel free to call: 0800 9177 650.