"Embarrassed and Ashamed" Dozzell Opens Up on Mental Health Struggles
Friday, 22nd Nov 2019 13:04
Former Town star Jason Dozzell says he is “embarrassed and ashamed” at having been convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs and has opened up about his struggles with mental health.
Dozzell, still the youngest goalscorer in the top flight for his goal against Coventry at Portman Road in February 1984 aged 16 years and 57 days, was banned for 14 months and fined £440 plus £105 costs and a £32 victim surcharge, at Ipswich Magistrate’s Court earlier today.
The 51-year-old was stopped in Foxhall Road, Ipswich on June 5th with 800ug of benzoylecgonine, a compound found in cocaine, in his blood stream, 16 times above the ‘accidental exposure’ limit.
He also admitted driving not in accordance with his licence, which required that he must drive wearing glasses or contact lenses, and was fined a further £146. When stopped he told officers he was wearing only one lens.
“I’m embarrassed and ashamed,” Dozzell told TWTD. “But certain situations arose which had never arisen for me before which I’ve just struggled with.
“People take substances for different reasons, some to enjoy it, some to take things away from themselves. People do things for different reasons.
“An escape in my case? Along those lines. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it, that’s why I’m having counselling. I’m not proud of why I’m sitting here today, but I can’t ignore it.”
The incident happened after the break down of a relationship and he is currently living with son Andre, while he was also struggling to access pension pension funds locked up in an investment property in Cape Verde.
He added: “I’ve had six months or eight months of real challenges, which I’ve never had before. I didn’t know how to deal with them, I didn’t speak to anybody. I’m an old school footballer, too proud, I tried to deal with it all on my own.”
Dozzell says he deeply regrets having driven while under the influence of the drug: “Oh God yeah, suicidal about that. Not that something bad’s going to happen to me, just the people I deal with, I work with kids, I’m meant to be a role model and I’ve let them down.
“I’m absolutely devastated, it’s been hanging over me for six months where it should have taken six weeks. It’s been an absolute nightmare.
“In between that I had other challenges as well. They just all collided at once, hence I’m having counselling now, which is what I needed.”
The biggest regret is that he will no long be able to coach young players and has let them down.
“One hundred per cent, the kids looking at this and looking at me. I used Broke Hall School’s premises to coach young kids and they absolutely love me up there.
“I’ve let them down in a massive way and I’m not going to be returning for the foreseeable future. They’re going to be wondering where I am.
“I’ve had a lot of explaining to do this week, explaining to the school, explaining to the parents. It’s been one of the worst weeks of my life.
“My family have known about this for a long time, they’ve digested it and got on with it. I’ve apologised to everybody, Andre, all my kids, everybody.
“But that was six months ago. Now I’ve had to explain why I’ve stopped going to the school things like that, it’s been tough. One of the hardest weeks of my life.
“Never say never [about coaching again in the future], but for the foreseeable future, my living has taken a backseat. My income has gone, everything has gone because all my work is with the kids.
“Basically I’m going to have to start again in some other role. This is a big stage in my life right now, I can either sink or swim.”
He says a lunch with former team-mate Simon Milton a few weeks ago led to the realisation that all hasn’t been well with his mental health.
“Simon Milton took me out for lunch and it just all came out,” he recalled. “Once we’d finished the meal, he was on the phone to the PFA he was that concerned. And it’s just snowballed from there.
“I didn’t think I had problems. I’ve always dealt with my problems myself. But when one of your best mates goes, ‘This is bad, I’m ringing the PFA’, that got my attention.
“And thank God he did because potentially, something catastrophic was going to happen, something bad was going to happen, I could feel it. Something wasn’t right, I was starting to get anxiety attacks and all this.
“Now I’m addressing it, I’ve had a few sessions counselling through the PFA and I’m feeling a lot better for it.”
He says personal issues have got on top of him: “Certain things I can’t talk about, which are family related and I can’t go into. I’ve never felt like that before. Certain things have challenged me as a man and I just lost my confidence maybe and struggled with it by not talking. Now I’ve spoken to people about it, it was too much to take on.
“The driving incident is one incident, the other things that I can’t talk about were affecting me more, which in time everyone will come to realise. I can’t go into them, they’re too close to home.”
He says the counselling is already helping him: “He’s already told me I’ve had depression and anxiety, he clocked that straight away from what I was telling him, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, really feeling on edge all the time.
“He’s already told me that’s what I had. I’d never had it before and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
“I’m not making that an excuse, I knew right from wrong when I got in that car. But there are certain factors which I’ve had to deal with which were foreign to me because I’ve never had them before.
“I didn’t know how to cope. Like I said, I’m an old school footballer, too proud to ask for help. There was no one to talk to in our day, there was no one to go to. You just felt weak if you went to somebody with a problem. That was just the way it was.
“And that’s always been the case with me. I didn’t want to show weakness to anybody. Even on the field of play I wouldn’t show weakness to an opponent. If he kicks me, he kicks me, but I wouldn’t show that he’s kicked me, that’s just the way I am.
“Milts had been asking me for a long time if I was alright and I was thinking, ‘What’s he on about?’ but he saw something to say that.”
Dozzell, who also played for Tottenham, the England U21s, Colchester and Northampton among others, says he now feels he is in a position where he can start to rebuild his life and move forward again.
“Definitely,” he said. “One hundred per cent I’ll keep going to the counselling, I’ve already seen a change in me in the last two weeks.
“I want to talk. You’ve never seen me like this, I want to talk. Milts took me to Milsoms and I didn’t stop talking for an hour and a half, that’s not like me. It’s normally Milts doing all the talking. Something wasn’t right, I’m now getting everything out.
“I’m ready to talk, get this out, let people know that I’ve been struggling and can move on from it. I’ve not been OK.”
He says he doesn’t have a drug problem: “I don’t depend on drugs, not at all. People take drugs for different reasons. Mine was definitely not to have a good time.
“You have to understand the day to day living of an individual. People are going to assume, I get that, I’ve no problem with people judging me on that, I’m used to that.
“But the people who know me, know. I will get judged, which is fair enough, I haven’t got a problem with that, but the people that know me know the whole story.”
He added: “My life was complicated from the start, it’s always been complicated but this period has been more complicated that it’s ever been. I can deal with complicated but this was bad.
“Mental health issues could have turned into [something more serious]. I didn’t think so but Simon did. Now I do, but I didn’t at the time.
“I’ve always dealt with problems but this was too much. I didn’t see it. I didn’t go to lunch with Simon to tell him anything. I hadn’t seen him for a while and it just came out. Everything came out.”
He says he worries how he might have coped with the court case and the surrounding publicity had he not spoken to Milton and begun to address his mental health.
“If I hadn’t and I’d gone into that court case and then they’d written stuff about me, it could have been bad,” he reflected.
The former midfielder has received support from the club - where he was coaching in the academy until his arrest - with general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill among thos giving a character reference in court as was Milton - as well as friends, family and the PFA, who are also assisting with financial advice.
“Ipswich are onside, everybody is onside,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of support, which I wouldn’t have done because that’s not me. I’m a member of the PFA but I never thought of ringing them for help.
“After this counselling, I’m not getting any younger, I want calm in my life. My life’s been complicated from the start, it’s always up and down, I’ve always had to deal with this and that.
“This was too much. It’s a wake-up call because potentially it could have been really big trouble.
“How I’m feeling now, I feel calm, I feel content. It’s been one of the biggest weeks of my life explaining to the school and the kids.”
Does he worry about the inevitable headlines which lie in store once his conviction becomes public knowledge? “I’ve been judged all my life, I don’t care what people think, I’m a believer that you can’t judge people until you walk in their shoes.
“But people do judge and we live in that world where we assume. We can’t change that. I certainly don’t judge, I would never judge people, that’s just the way I am.
“I will get judged and what I’ve done is not great, let’s not hide from the fact, it’s something bad I’ve done.
“If there’s a message there it’s, listen don’t do drugs because that’s not your friend that’s your enemy. Basically that.
“And people who have mental health issues, you need to talk. Those could be two messages I’m sending out to people.”
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