The journey to self-truth takes many forms; mine was a roller-coaster of sporting bliss, personal despair and finally a passage of self-discovery. Hello my name is Kenneth Egan and I am a recovering alcoholic. Admitting and accepting these words proved to be a life changing catalyst towards recovery and an even bigger stride towards a more peaceful and productive existence. Growing up in Clondalkin, a newly developed suburban development on the outskirts of Dublin in the 80s, this was the beginning of many relationships and friendships.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. ― Aristotle
From The Olympic Podium To The Depths Of Despair & Back again.
Of course there were massive celebrations when I returned and the session was ferocious and hard hitting, with no regard to the fact that I had just qualified for one of the biggest sporting events on the planet and would be relying on my physical strength and well-being to get me through. This bender went on for over a month before dragging myself back to the gym to try regain what I had just dismantled over that period.
I was very calculated in my drinking patterns and had my dates all worked out around the boxing calendar so I could have the best of both worlds, box and drink in equal measure, giving both 100%.
Well we all know what happened in Beijing and I returned with an Olympic silver medal, an amazing achievement but an achievement none the less that would but near kill me two short years later. It’s strange that for many with addiction issues success as much as failure can turn like a boomerang and all but cut you to ribbons.
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
– Carl Rogers
I had a beautiful girlfriend (Karen) when I departed for Beijing who I dearly loved but fame had changed the person I was; overnight I became a nasty, self-consumed piece of work, destroying this relationship in the process.
When you grow up seeking the approval of others, it’s quite a game changer when you become the centre point of a nations outpouring of praise. I loved the fame, people telling me I was a great guy, patting me on the back. I soaked it all up and was never short of a drinking buddy. But the reality of the next two years following my return from the Olympic Games was hell on earth, I cursed that medal and wished I had never set foot in Beijing.
Acceptance, Perspective & Moving Forward
Consumed with denial and resentment I blamed everyone and everything on my drinking, yet I didn’t want to stop, hanging on to the mentality that I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
I look back now with a sober perspective and think of the hurt I caused the many people close to me including Karen and her parents, also my own family who I love dearly, so many fell under the dark shadow of my drinking. My mother stated publicly that she “was waiting on the doorbell to ring late some night and the guards to tell her that I had been found dead on the side of the road”. To this day the hurt I caused my loved ones is still difficult to accept but thankfully as a result of getting and staying sober I have been given many opportunities to mend much of what I damaged. Thankfully 5 years later I also rekindled my relationship with Karen, she and her daughter Kelis welcomed me back and as I write this we are married and have a beautiful daughter Kate.
I have also returned to education and am pursuing a career in addiction studies which is proving to be an amazing journey of self-discovery. I have wrote and published my own autobiography in the past but what I have learned about myself from my journey to recovery has really opened my eyes to understand why I am the person I am.
As part of my study I carry out my college placement working in Cuan Mhuire, Athy where I have gained a wealth of experience. I feel I have some great life experiences to work in such an environment and this has enabled me to work with other addicts and try guide and support them on their journey towards recovery..
All of this wouldn’t be possible if I had not accepted that I am an alcoholic and my life had become unmanageable due to my relationship with alcohol. This is the first step of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12 step programme and AA for me has saved my life. I had no understanding of AA when I went to my first meeting all those years ago but I knew I was in the right place.
I remember going onto the Saturday night show with Brendan O Connor in the November of 2010 just three months sober. While Brendan planned for a regular “how are thing’s” chat, I decided minutes before going on stage that I was going to come clean and tell who ever would listen that I was an alcoholic. This for me was a huge stride forward in my recovery. Following the show I received some really nice letters regarding how my story encouraged people back into the rooms of AA and for me if I can help another person in any way I can I will. The smile on my mother’s face that night sitting in the audience told its own story, it’s all I ever wanted to do was make her proud. She claims that the Olympic medal was a special achievement but becoming sober was my biggest and I actually agree with her. To know my own child won’t have to see me drunk or under the influence makes me quite content. In no way am I against alcohol but I do believe there needs to be a lot more education around the dangers of underage drinking and the bottom line is alcohol is a drug and should be treated with respect.
I am proud of my Olympic Silver medal and proud to be an Olympian…but my greatest achievement is my sobriety
Yours Truly, Kenneth Egan
I accepted defeat and came out the winner (Kenny Egan)