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Former Gladiators star steps out of his former Shadow to overcome drug addiction


For Port of Call founder, Martin Preston, the recent drug confessions of former Gladiators strongman, Shadow, throw up several positive messages to heed.

I was scanning the news recently and an article on the Birmingham Mail’s website caught my attention. It was about former Gladiators star, Jefferson King – better known to many of us as the bulging-eyed, pugil stick wielding Shadow – and how he apparently became a “drug-addict gravedigger” after he was axed from the hit ITV programme in 1994.

Addiction services

At the time, claims abounded that he had tested positive for steroids. However, the Mail alleges that the real reason was due to accusations of drug taking at a London nightclub. The subsequent fall out, they report in a frank interview with the 54-year-old, led to the breakdown of his marriage and eight years in and out of prison. He was apparently hooked on smoking crack-cocaine and heroin.

“I ended up in prison for shoplifting and drugs possession every year for eight years,” King told the Mail. “The drugs completely controlled me.”

Independence from addiction

King now hopes to resurrect his TV career with an appearance on I’m a Celebrity. But what sets his story apart from the usual run-of-the-mill, fall from grace tabloid tittle tattle is the former Gladiator’s route to recovery (reduced to a footnote in this particular article).

Four years ago, he enrolled on an educational programme, called Intuitive Recovery, that “promotes abstinence as achievable and easy to maintain.” The six-session course professes to give addicts the skills and tools to recognise and control addictive desires and take responsibility for their choices.

Our aspiration for all our learners is that you achieve true independence from addiction,” say Intuitive Thinking Skills, who deliver the training. “We recognise that you don’t want to spend a lifetime ‘in recovery’ but would rather have the tools to stand alone, happily embracing life. Furthermore, moving on and away from treatment is essential if you are to escape the lifestyle of endless support.

The cornerstone of their teaching is giving addicts the power to silence their inner ambivalent voice that has no intention of stopping, despite the best of intentions. It worked for King. He’s now been drug-free for six years, works as a personal trainer, and has even taught the Intuitive Recovery techniques to others.

“I used to inspire kids to go out there and get fit. I want that to be my legacy – not the drugs,” he said.

Grown-up discussion about addiction

I think that King’s story highlights several positive messages. The first is that we’ve come a long way since the mid-nineties, to a place where we can now have an open, grown-up discussion about addiction. One of the pillars of recovery is talking about our issues and learning from the experiences of others.

The second positive is that the media is highlighting local treatment options, like Intuitive Recovery, available today. When I sought help for my addictions a decade ago, there were limited treatment opportunities available to me and it wasn’t as easy to access as it perhaps should have been. For Jefferson, I imagine it was harder still. But happily things are different now.

When I set up Port of Call I wanted to make sure that people could locate and access rehab, and a whole host of other specialist addiction services, quickly and easily. We’ve subsequently helped countless of former addicts to achieve their goals and reclaim their lives.

Even the biggest and strongest of us aren’t invincible to the grip of addiction. But it needn’t be a gladiatorial battle to reach recovery if you seek support to make a change.

Make us your first Port of Call. If you, or a loved one, are dealing with addiction we can help you to access the right alcohol rehab or drug treatment centre at the right time. Take the first step today by speaking to one of our advisers for free on 08000029010.

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