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.