From The Olympic Podium To The Depths Of Despair & Back again.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. ― Aristotle
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.

Forming A Relationship With Alcohol

I enjoyed my younger years, experiencing a very positive upbringing and didn’t come from an alcoholic background. What I was to discover later on in life was that I had terrible trouble communicating with strangers and suffered from anxiety, which in turn made me feel very uncomfortable. The moment I downed my first alcoholic drink which was quite young, I in turn found a solution to these difficulties. My uncomfortableness was replaced by a feeling of self-confidence and a warm feeling of acceptance; I finally fitted in with my peers and the world around me, exactly what I was searching for. From that moment on I never remember drinking socially, I drank until I dropped or could drink no more. I couldn’t wait to grow up and claim my seat in the local pub and drink like an adult.

Getting Into Boxing

While alcohol began to play an important role in my early years, so too did the sport of boxing. I was just eight years old when I caught the pugilistic bug when my eldest brother brought me over to Neilstown Boxing Club. I really took to the sport and just like the alcohol it was a great method of keeping the anxiety at bay. The stench of the old leather that’s found in all boxing gyms had me hooked and with it the start of a journey that would take me around the globe representing my country and community. Like everything in life there were ups and downs and I nearly ended my boxing career before it even started, when at just 13 I contemplated retirement after losing a trio of all-Ireland finals. Thankfully I overcame the disappointment and found my way back to the gym where I quickly became ever more determined to land that elusive Irish title. The perseverance was to pay off and a year later I clinched my first Irish championship, going on to win another 15 Irish titles, which included 10 Irish National Senior Titles.

Becoming An Olympian

By the time I was 26 I had won 8 senior titles but like so many high level athletes the dream of representing your country at the Olympic Games was a constant lure. I had already achieved a lot inside the ring but I kept asking myself the question “would being remembered as an 8 time senior champion be enough or do I want to be remembered as an Olympian” My answer to this question propelled me on to reach the 2008 Olympic Games which would go on to change my life in so many ways. It’s strange how sometimes the last person to be convinced is oneself and I didn’t need to prove my skill level to anyone but myself. I remember it so clearly, the 8th of April, 2008, I had just won my Olympic qualifying fight, I had secured my Olympian status. It was such a difficult road to qualification and I remember calling my Mother (My Rock) straight after my fight and telling her id done it, it was a special moment as my mother was always a major strength and support to me. I have always maintained that I won my Olympic medal in Athens but went to Beijing to collect it, meaning the Olympic qualification process in Europe was so difficult and to qualify was the hardest part. I had failed 4 years previous to qualify for the Olympic Games in Athens and just like when I was 13 years old the feeling of failure and uselessness again drove me close to retirement. During this time alcohol was again to become my solution to emotions I didn’t know how to deal with. I tried to drown out the feelings of failure and despair, I just couldn’t accept the fact that my Olympic dream was over, the possibility of trying for Beijing 4 years later didn’t enter my mind. Having achieved my goal of Olympic qualification, I arrived back in Ireland and thought a massive bender was the perfect reward for my hard work. As far as I was concerned I was only doing what any other 20 something year old was doing at the time, enjoying my weekends with the lads. But my drinking was progressing with weekends now beginning to end on a Tuesday instead of Sunday. Looking back now I just never wanted the party to end, but some 6 years later I would discover that I had become a binge-drinking alcoholic.
Olympic Torch Run in Ireland - Wednesday 6th June
Olympic Torch Run in Ireland - Wednesday 6th June

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 am proud of my Olympic Silver medal and proud to be an Olympian…but my greatest achievement is my sobriety
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 love the trust I have gained from staying sober, my brother William had his first child and I was a number of years sober and being given the responsibility of driving his child home was a special moment, when I was in active alcoholism I couldn’t manage to bring myself home never mind my niece. It is commonly stated that the way you know you’re getting well is when the people around you get well and are not spending their time worrying about you. Alcohol has put me through a lot of hardship but I have finally found within me the real Kenneth; I am a good person and try on a daily basis to do the right thing at any given time. I have found a way of living that gives me contentment and as one of my friend’s regularly states “recovery is a journey, so get on board and enjoy the ride”. I returned to education and pursued a career in addiction studies that proved to be an amazing journey of self-discovery. I have also just recently graduated with a BA (Hons) Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy and am pre-accredited with IACP. I have wrote and published my own autobiography “Kenny Egan My Story”. I have learned so much about myself from my journey to recovery. I now understand why I am the person I am.

I accepted defeat and came out the winner (Kenny Egan)
Yours Truly, Kenneth Egan

Public Speaking

Kenneth Egan speaking at Foroige
Kenneth Egan speaking at Foroige about determination & discipline. Available to speak on: Self-Help, Motivation, Alcoholism/Addiction, Mental Health, Psychotherapy, Health & Well-being.


Kenny Egan story from Olympics to alcoholism
Kenneth is a qualified psychotherapist and addiction counsellor. He offers these services from his clinic in his native Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
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