FORMER Chelsea academy prospect Fraser Franks has opened up about his “traumatic experience” with alcoholism after being forced to retire from football.
The Hammersmith-born defender was released by the Blues in 2007 and went on to play for the likes of Wimbledon, Luton and Stevenage.
Then in 2019, while at Newport County, his professional career was brought to an abrupt end after he was diagnosed with a heart problem.
So, at the age of just 28, Franks was given no choice but to hang up his boots.
And in an interview with Sky Sports, he admits he used alcohol as a means of dealing with the heartbreak.
Franks said: “Retiring was a bit of a traumatic experience. From the age of nine, my world revolved around a match day and performing on the football pitch. It was a shock and I just didn’t know how to deal with it.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do going forward and my wife was just about to give birth for the first time.
“I was worried, I was anxious and I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t switch off that nagging, chatterbox voice in my head.
“I’d never drunk at home before, but one day, I realised I didn’t have training the next day, so I could have a couple of beers. And I got into that sort of pattern.
“When I had a couple of beers, I felt that voice switched off a little bit more. I thought if I had two or three beers that would make me sleep better, I wouldn’t worry as much, I wouldn’t be as anxious.
“It became a bit of a medication. Eventually those two or three beers ended up being six or seven, getting drunk, doing things I regret, being sneaky and taking me away from the person that I wanted to be, but it was all because I was trying to escape my feelings and I couldn’t.”
He continued: “I was just in a cycle of drinking, feeling ashamed, feeling terrible and drinking again.”
In a column for Alcohol Change UK, Franks describes the relationship he had with alcohol as a “crutch”.
He eventually broke down to his mum and wife, confessing he had been hiding the amount he was drinking.
And reflecting on that time, he feels he was probably in a “depressive state”.
But on August 1 this year, Franks will celebrate one year of sobriety.
He told Sky Sports: “I either had to continue pressing that self-destruct button and do what I was doing – which was going to damage me – or take charge and stop drinking alcohol.
“It took me a couple of goes. I would try it, last about two weeks and then give in. I got the help and support I needed; I spoke to the PFA and they appointed me a counsellor with Sporting Chance.
“I tried counselling when I first retired. I said I wanted a man who understood football and they gave me this guy who I didn’t get on with, so I thought counselling was not for me.
“Then I tried it again with the alcohol and they gave me a woman in her 60s that used to drink quite a lot and I thought she was brilliant.
“She just changed my perception on counselling and I had someone that I could unload to. She had some really good advice in those early stages of stopping drinking.”
Franks is now committed to educating people about the impacts of alcohol.
But he insists he wants people to make their own minds up about their level of consumption.
Contact the Samaritans
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.
They are available for free at anytime.
Or email https://www.samaritans.org/