Highlands & Islands

John Hartson expects to fight addiction until his 70s

John Hartson
Image caption John Hartson told BBC Alba of his passion for the Scottish Highlands

Former Celtic and Wales footballer John Hartson has said he expects to be going to meetings of Gamblers Anonymous until he is 70.

The 39-year-old from Swansea began tackling his addiction three years ago.

Hartson has told a BBC Alba documentary that a warning from his wife Sarah that she and their children would leave him was his wake up call.

He has also spoken of his recovery from testicular cancer, his love of the Highlands and climbing Ben Nevis.

In the programme called Big John to be shown next week, he talks frankly about his addiction which started when he was a young player at Luton Town.

Hartson said: "One morning Sarah got up quite early and said that she was leaving me if I carried on gambling.

"She could no longer sit back and watch me put myself through what I was putting myself through.

"She told me in no uncertain terms, 'I am going this afternoon and I am leaving you and I'm taking these girls with me'.

"That was just an incredible moment for me, a sad moment and a very serious moment in my life. That was rock bottom for me. I would just as well not be here because what am I without my family? I am nothing."

Hartson, who attends Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Swansea, said he has been inspired by other former addicts who have managed to avoid gambling for 20 years or more.

He said: "I'll be going to meetings until I'm 70 years of age, if I'm lucky enough to live till I'm 70 because what is two hours out of my week. It's nothing if it's keeping me clean."

'Chill out'

The Highlands have played an important role in his recovery from addiction and cancer surgery five years ago.

His wife's parents live in Fort William in Lochaber. Just months after having surgery, Hartson walked to the summit of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain.

He said: "The Highlands hold a special place in my heart in terms of my recovery and just me as a person.

"The children love coming up here, I love coming up here and we call this place The Cave because I can come here and just turn my phone off, switch off and just have a nice chill out time here.

"If I just want to relax and take myself away from the limelight this is a unique place for me. I love the Highlands."

Big John, which was produced by Avanti Media for BBC Alba, will be shown on 18 December at 21:00 with a repeat showing on 20 December at 23:00.

Related Topics

More on this story