Paul Merson thanks fans after Arsenal legend revealed his gambling addiction left him 'like a crack addict'

ARSENAL legend Paul Merson has thanked fans for their support after admitting that his gambling addiction left him feeling "like a crack addict".

The tearful ex-England star, now 50, notoriously lost £7 million on his booze, drugs and betting problems in the 1990s.

But he revealed he has been gripped by gambling again in a new ITV documentary due to be shown next week.

Dad-of-seven Merson broke down as he told producers: "I'm struggling with life at the moment, struggling badly.

"Life's fallen apart – gambling… I've just completely lost control again.

"I'm digging a hole – I can't get out of it.

"It's the worst addiction in the world."

Today, the Arsenal legend took to Twitter to thank people for their support after fans flocked to praise his bravery.

He said: "Thank you for the supportive tweets, means the world to me. Taking one day at a time but it's getting better for me.

"Addiction is the most lonely of places and I've had three of the worst types over three decades.

"Never be afraid to talk, you're never alone."

Merson, who placed his first bet aged 16 with his first Arsenal pay packet, told the programme he was still being given credit and bets by bookies DESPITE his well-known addiction problems.

Life's fallen apart – gambling… I've just completely lost control, I've completely, again.

He said he had wagered money on football, basketball, snooker, cricket – but never horse racing – and described his urge to bet as "relentless".

He added: "It's so tiring it's unbelievable.

"Mentally draining, just sitting there, thinking where am I going to get more money to do this?

"It's like…it's literally like a crack addict. It is like a crack addict.

"Exactly like that.

"But, with crack, you couldn't spend that kind of money on crack, it's impossible. Impossible."

The former England midfielder has also admitted he has gone back to Alcoholics Anonymous, as he battled his booze demons.

He told the Daily Star: "I am back at AA. I have been going for nine weeks and my life is better.

"I had a meltdown but it was for the good."

Merson once told how he blew £20,000 in a single weekend and saw his first marriage break down in 1996 because of his problems.

In the ITV show, called Harry's Heroes, he is one of 13 ex-England heroes trying to get fit again under ex-Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

Merson misses a training camp abroad because of his relapse and is filmed meeting ex-pro Drew Broughton, who has also battled addiction issues.

I'm digging a hole – I can't get out of it.

Merson told him: "If I'm being honest, I'm struggling at the moment, really am, with the gambling.

"I find it very difficult. I'm back to virtually where I was many years ago.

"Sort of like now I'm just sort of like constantly gambling all the time and I don't like myself. And it's scary.

"My life should be good.

"It should be good. It should be like, two lovely kids, a lovely wife and my life should be good.

"And it's literally going like that and I mean quickly and worryingly.

"And in the cab on the way here I broke down. I've had enough."

He added: "It's got to that stage now. There's got to be something wrong with me.

"I've been in treatment, I've done it a few times. I've been to Arizona.

"You know what, it was unbelievable at the time. It was unbelievable what they did.

"And that's what scares me that I still went back and done what I've done now."

Harry’s Heroes: The Full English on Monday 18 & Tuesday 19 March at 9pm on ITV.

GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and also offers face-to-face counselling.

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