Ex-Celtic striker John Hartson and psychotherapist Tony Marini have announced their plans to launch a series of recovery workshops designed to support people struggling with gambling addictions.

Speaking yesterday at a launch event to raise awareness for their new project, John spoke openly about his own experience of a 20-year battle with addiction, common misconceptions surrounding the issue and the importance of better education from an early age.

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He said: “During the pandemic, the number of people who would reach out to me for help went up to the hundreds.

“People would come up to me on the street, or message me on social media, looking for advice on how to deal with their own addictions.

“It’s impossible for me to speak to every person individually which is why Tony and decided to start a series of workshops related to gambling addiction and the mental health issues that it can create.

“We hope that my personal story of addiction along with Tony’s expertise in treating people within a hospital setting will help people with their own recovery.”

Although he has been ‘clean’ for the past ten years, John recognises that there are now more opportunities than ever to gamble, made worse by the high-pressure environments of lockdown.

Addiction rates in the UK rose by a staggering 32% during the covid-19 pandemic, meaning that these new recovery workshops could well be a vital lifeline for many more people than we realise.

Glasgow Times: Pictured: John Hartson speaks at the JH recovery workshop launch eventPictured: John Hartson speaks at the JH recovery workshop launch event

John said: “It’s no secret that online gambling became a major problem during the pandemic, especially because race tracks and bookkeepers were closed.

“You could be sitting at home watching the television while placing a bet these days.

“It’s a bit of a silent addiction. It’s very seedy and conniving because of all of the lies you tell.

“It can be very hard to know for sure if someone has a problem with gambling.

"If they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you would probably be able to notice it as soon as they walk in to a room, but if someone has just lost £10,000 on a bet you might not even know.

“It can happen to anyone, whether it’s people with high paying jobs or on the breadline, in million pound houses or in council flats.

“Any addiction can get to you.”

The JH recovery workshops will be are specially designed to provide unjudgemental and practical support for anyone dealing with addiction.

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Both John and Tony will share their stories, help people to recognise their problems and provide an avenue for those struggling with gambling to seek help and gain recovery.

It’s been a long journey for John but he now believes that he is in a strong enough position to use his experience to help others change their lives.

He said: “It makes me feel good when people come to me now because 10 years ago when I was at my worst, I didn’t know that I could reach out to anyone.

“In the end, the stress I put myself under and the debt that I had accumulated nearly cost me my life.

“I will always be a recovering gambling addict, but I remind myself of how far I’ve come and I know that I don’t want to go down that road again.

“It takes a lot of hard work, consistency and a good mindset to get out of that cycle.”

Glasgow Times: Pictured: John Hartson and Tony Marini at yesterday's conferencePictured: John Hartson and Tony Marini at yesterday's conference

Tony Marini, who played a major part in John’s recovery process while working at Castle Craig hospital, hopes that organisations large and small will consider hosting their workshops to help anyone who is dealing with addiction to feel less alone.

He said: “We all know at least one person in our lives who has struggled with addiction of some sort.

“Drugs and alcohol can have serious effects on your brain, so can gambling because of the adrenaline and dopamine cravings.

“What we’re really trying to do is give people who have struggled with the same issues as we have a better education.

“We want to put the message out there and say that this is help available.”

John Hartson was speaking at the launch event of his Gambling Recovery Workshop. The Workshop aims to provide professional guidance to tackle addiction and provide a pathway to recovery.

For more information click here.