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Football Books I Love: Recovering, by Richie Sadlier

I gave up drinking five months ago, finally realising I had a problem in my relationship with alcohol. There had been many warning signs along the way, all fairly obvious with retrospect, but one of the key points in my journey was reading Recovering, by Richie Sadlier. It’s a book I’d recommend to anyone, but one with a particular emotional significance to myself.

Towards the end of the book, Sadlier himself reflects, “Stories are worth sharing, memories are worth repeating, no matter how difficult or embarrassing they are to recall, because somebody might take something from what you might say. That’s part of my motivation for writing this book.” The drunken antics the Irishman recalls from his teenage years and early 20s are deliberately told to highlight this sense of embarrassment, but in many cases could have been stories from my own life. Sadlier acted as though he didn’t have a problem as many of his friends had similar wild tales from nights out at that age, but he was ignoring the deeper effects drink was having on him. Binges would mask and then later exacerbate his insecurities, with Sadlier describing a strong feeling of imposter syndrome during his time at Millwall as a young striker. Injuries held him back, ultimately forcing him to retire at the age of just 24, and Sadlier beat himself up over these perceived failures. When he did retire, he slipped further down the path of alcoholism, using it as a coping mechanism with the routine of training and playing no longer there to hold him back.

It wasn’t until much later on in life that Sadlier came to terms with his drinking problem. Trying to rebuild his life, Sadlier enrolled on a psychotherapy course which forced him into introspection. He desperately wanted to rule out the notion that he was an alcoholic, but continued binges made this impossible. Eventually, Sadlier gave in and accepted he needed help, seeing this as another failure in his life, a sign of weakness. When you read about where Sadlier is now, you realise he couldn’t have been more wrong at this point.

Richie Sadlier now works in career therapy, something he considered doing earlier on in his life but never acted upon: “I quickly talked myself out of it. I had never heard of any footballers who had become therapists.” Since giving up drinking, he has been able to see that he now has the career he was best suited to, even though it hasn’t been in football. Life is rewarding for Sadlier now, whereas it had been a struggle during his professional football days. Looking online, I can see Sadlier became a father for the first time earlier this year. I’m delighted for him.

When reading Recovering for the first time, it was Sadlier’s initial denial of his drinking problem that felt most relatable for me. Like Sadlier, I was capable of going for months at a time without drinking to convince myself that I was fine, before going off the rails with a horrendous binge in which I lost all control of myself. This would have consequences on my mental health for weeks down the line as I felt a sense of shame and inadequacy for falling victim to this trap again. And yet once I’d had a few weeks without drinking, I would go out and do it all again. The success Sadlier has had since giving up alcohol acted as an inspiration for me. I didn’t give up the drink immediately after reading the book – it took a ‘rock bottom’ moment in which I spent over £200 on a night out in a place where drinks were only £3 each – but it laid the foundations and showed me there was an alternative. Five months on, I feel much more at peace with myself. It hasn’t all been easy – I’m still adjusting and building up my confidence, having had a dependency on alcohol to enjoy social situations for the majority of my teens and early 20s – but my mental health is far better and my life more rewarding. I’ve been able to focus more on the things I genuinely enjoy, including my writing and playing football. I’ve even enjoyed much more my nights out sober than nights out when I used to drink! I’m still on a journey, but the first step on that journey came from reading Richie Sadlier’s excellent book.

There’s more to Recovering than just Sadlier’s relationship with alcohol, including a twist that shocks the reader towards the end, but I won’t go into too much detail in this review. Instead, you should read Recovering yourself. If it is half as rewarding for you as it was for me, it will be worth every second.

About Johnnie Lowery

Johnnie is a football writer. His first book, Six Added Minutes, was written while he was at university and published in November 2019. With strong reviews from the likes of Jeremy Vine and Jacqui Oatley, it is selling well online. His second book, Match Fit, explores mental health in football. It looks to raise mental health awareness and is inspired by Lowery’s own struggles as a teenager, when he did not understand why he was feeling down.


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