Luke Sutton looks back on the chance meeting of nearly nine years ago with his longtime Lancashire captain who may have saved his life.
“There is no doubt that this was a really big moment for me,” said the former Lancashire and Derbyshire wicket-keeper who bumped into Glen Chapple, above all, at Euston Station.
“I was there on business, but I just couldn’t get out of Euston’s old bar,” says Sutton.
Former Lancashire wicket-keeper Luke Sutton has spoken about his battle with depression
“I was so crippled with fear and I was really drunk. I knew I had to take a train back north, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t walk the prospect of walking to and getting on the train.
“And then I ran into Glen and his wife Kerry, who had always been great friends, and they helped me get on the train.
“Lancashire had been to Buckingham Palace as provincial champions I had forgotten, and I was with them on my way back. Someone said to me, “What would have happened if you hadn’t come across them?” And I just don’t know. It is a scary thought. ”
That meeting, in October 2011, came when the depression and alcohol problems that Sutton had largely masked during his 17 years as a provincial player turned upside down and threatened his own future.
“Looking back, it felt like everything had been built up to 2011,” he says from his home in Cheshire.
“It’s not like you’re at your worst from day one, but I describe it as an ever-shrinking circle. At first I didn’t even know it was there, but it moved and I went down.
The former cricketer had alcohol problems before getting help from friends and the Priory
“By the time it was 2011, I had gone back to Derbyshire for what was going to be my last year in the game and I was really struggling.
“My depression and anxiety were very bad, but I was captain of a club and a leader. I had to set up a front, but at night, when the doors were closed and I was alone, I knew the truth. I fought a silent battle.
“Moreover, my relationship with alcohol was very bad. I had no control over my drinking. I drank to escape, to forgetfulness and even self-destruction.
“It just felt as I went through the 2011 season that I was holding my fingertips and then I came at the end of the summer and I fell apart. The last 10 days before going to the Priory, I just couldn’t stop drinking. I couldn’t handle the reality of life. I woke up in a panic every day. Not about anything in particular, but just about life. My only way to deal with it was to drink through it. ‘
The full story is told in Sutton’s poignantly honest book Back from the Edge that charts his fall until the time when his friends, led by the Chapples and others like Jimmy Anderson and Mark Chilton, rescue him by enrolling him in treatment .
And his recovery so far, where, sober for more than eight years, he runs a successful talent management company that has seen him team up with Anderson, Matt Prior, James Taylor, Peter Moores and Olympic hockey gold medalist Sam Quek, among others.
Sutton said he held his fingertips in 2011, but disintegrated at the end of the summer
“It was definitely the beginning of my rebuilding of my life,” said Sutton, 43, of his 28 days in the Priory. “It gave me some tools and taught me what to do.
“When I left the Priory, the work really started, but it was not easy. I had a difficult marriage, upset many people and disappointed them. I had to go back and handle all that and I was also at the end of my career.
“What was the next step? I was lucky to already have my company, but I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. I had to learn to live this new life.
“Sometimes I felt like I was jumping over mountains. Some days I loved this new way of life and other days it was like walking in a syrup. The key was that I just kept trying to move forward. I had to keep going and over time it got better and looking back at that life compared to how I live now I just don’t recognize it. ‘
So much so that it is good for Sutton even in these difficult times. “Life is great and wonderful, and I say that at a time when my company is under enormous pressure,” he says.
“We are in a time when life is difficult for all of us, so I am not without my challenges, but I really love life. I love being a dad (to 11-year-old twins Albie and Amelie from his first marriage) and being the best partner I can be for my new partner, my fiancé Jo.
“I enjoy life, I see the color in it and I see the beauty in it. I live the best life I can. ‘
The full story is told in Sutton’s poignantly honest book Back from the Edge charting his fall
And he’s well qualified to talk about the unseen pressure on people in all walks of life.
“People’s mental health will be a real problem,” says Sutton. “They have to take care of themselves and, more importantly, of each other. I look back at my story and I know I didn’t save myself. Other people have helped me. We are faced with such insecurity and isolation that people have no structures and routines to aid mental well-being.
“Before we entered this time, I don’t remember the world ever eating dog again. There was a toxic environment when tolerance was at an all-time low and judgment was at a record high.
“Maybe this will make everyone realize how important it is to check in with our neighbor. How important it is to monitor our parents and appreciate people from the NHS who come from all over the world. I hope everyone keeps thinking about this. I don’t care who you are, we all need someone’s help. ‘
Thanks to the help of his friends, Luke Sutton has already come across. And tells an amazing story that fortunately has the happiest end.