Drink, Drugs and Football

In the mid-80s, I started going to football in London with my mates. Being the mid-80s and being a bunch of impressionable, fashion conscious 15 year-old lads about town, out for the latest thrill, the London football scene of the time was an incredibly attractive scene to get involved with; fashion, music, alcohol and violence. They were like magnets to lads like us. We got sucked more and more into it and would scour the fixture lists to see what games would be best to go and see; Tottenham, West Ham, Chelsea, Millwall, they were all within an hour’s journey of where we lived and easily reachable on the pocket money we were getting, topped up with paper round money.

That scene continued until Heysel in 1985 and went a bit quiet, a couple of years later, raving started. Drugs were on tap, what used to be a night out in the days of football and alcohol were now turning into whole weekends away in places we didn’t know, totally off our faces on hallucinogenic drugs from dubious sources. Ecstasy was the drug of choice. Anything we could get our hands on, in fact. And it was all cheap and we never knew when to stop. The more off our faces we could get, the happier we were.

The more the rave scene took off and moved from illegal gatherings in fields and warehouses to more organised nightclubs, some of my mates started dealing. They started with pills in the clubs then moved onto the more hardcore stuff like cocaine and anything else they could sell on at a large profit.

I preferred the hit of taking the drugs rather than the risks of dealing them. I started on pills and tabs of LSD and moved onto cocaine, ketamine, speed and glue. I lost jobs, friendships and also nearly my family. I was jobless but I was still getting money through dodgy methods and had bailiffs coming to the door, upsetting my law abiding family. I was getting into petty crime, having numerous court appearances for the most petty and stupid of crimes. My life was spiralling out of control and I was drifting from one job to another and not happy unless I was getting off my face either on drugs or alcohol.

I started a job in September 1992 at a market research company producing sales reports for companies to base their sales and marketing campaigns on. I was in the job for eight years and progressed from a data in-putter to a production supervisor. However, because of my habit for drugs and alcohol, I gave the company an excuse to make me redundant in the year 2000. The eight years and the hard work I had put in was wiped out because of my addictions.

The redundancy money I had, which was way over £10,000, only went one way. I ended up in a worse state, both physically, mentally and financially, and, after a couple of years, I ended up homeless, jobless and penniless. I blew the rent money on cocaine and lager and the lady I was living with ended up losing patience totally and she kicked me out.

I made a huge decision in my life, and that was to move from Surrey back to Wales, where my parents had just moved back to. I said to them that I would like to put all the bad influences in my life, the drugs, the alcohol and the people who influenced me to take these, behind me and to start afresh in a part of the world where I no longer knew anyone, despite growing up in Wales until I was 12. It was just the fresh start that I needed.

When I moved to Porthcawl and moved in with my parents, I started working in Insurance. It was hard laying my demons and addictions to rest at first and finding someone in the company who could get me cocaine wasn’t difficult but, thankfully, I was finding it less and less attractive and enjoyable and I started throwing myself into football at the weekends, getting a season ticket at Cardiff City, something I have held ever since my first one in the 2003/4 season. The lads I was going to football with were just normal lads. Although they liked a drink, they didn’t touch drugs so it was easy to stay away from that side of life. The alcohol intake of my life was under control as well.

After leaving the insurance company to start work in a newspaper, I stayed there for 13 years and did a whole variety of things within my job role there and enjoyed it massively. It helped me stay off the drugs as well and it put my life in perspective. I fell out with my family for years due to what I was doing due to being under the influence of drugs and alcohol and I have got my relationship with them back on track. I also fell out with a lot of friends I grew up with and whom I now have my friendships back.

My previous lifestyle has also, I feel, contributed towards some of my mental health issues I currently go through. I suffer badly from depression and have been diagnosed as epileptic in the past two years, something I believe that substance abuse is partially responsible for. At one point I even got so down about the direction my life was going, I took some sleeping pills and got a one-way ticket to Paris with the intention of ending my life. It was only the intervention of family and friends that I was pulled back from the brink.

After being made redundant from the newspaper after 13 years, I was out of work for one day before getting a new job in a printing company and then, three months later, in car finance and spending my large redundancy not on drugs and alcohol, as I did last time, but on sensible things and making sure my life didn’t spiral out of control, like it did with my previous large redundancy payment. My attitude towards people, from being the arrogant, self-centred person of previous years, I now take people’s feelings and opinions into consideration.

I know it’s not possible for everyone to put changes into place in their life in the way I have but small changes can help hugely in your mental well-being and, for me, what has happened to me has turned me into the person I am today, a 100% better, nicer and more considerate person. I’m sure, if I can do it, other people can also put some things in place in their lives to help themselves.

- Andy Williams