From Addiction to the Mountains - Tom Sheridan
Solid Ground Outdoors was created with a drive to help people 'heal' themselves with the outdoors as stated in our ethos. As the company has grown many people have contacted and reached out to the brand relating to our ethos and sharing their own experiences.
The outdoors has helped countless people recover from the darker moments of their life and we have to decided to share one such story within this blog post.
Introducing Tom Sheridan, our newest brand ambassador and keen outdoorsman with a story he has kindly let us share; with hopes people can relate to and take heed on his words.
We have conducted an interview with Tom and here's what he has to say..
Tom - Hello! I'm 32 & I live in Chester the North West of England. I’m a Dad to Henry who is 6 years old, and I work as a Greenkeeper at at local golf club. I enjoy all aspects of the outdoors for many different reasons, but the main thing I enjoy is the mental escape I get when walking, trekking, running or cycling. I’m also a gambling addict in recovery and have suffered with my mental health over the last few years.
SGO - Have you always been a keen outdoorsman? If not, since when?
Tom - I have always been an active person from a very young age and always wanted to be outdoors playing sports like football, golf, fishing, walking or climbing trees. But I really found the love for the outdoors as I got older probably in my mid 20’s when I started climbing mountains & became absolutely obsessed with being up a big hill.
SGO - You have previously mentioned before that you had some trouble in your life, do you care to explain what happened?
Tom - So growing up i used to watch many of my friends playing fruit machines in pubs etc I could never understand why they’d put £10, £15, £20 in a fruit machine when when that would have bought you 5/10 pints; to me it was just a waste of money.
As the years went by, gambling on sport became a major part of most my peers weekend routine, wether it was football or horse racing, it wouldn’t necessarily be a lot of money; maybe a £5 accumulator here and there but to me, I still couldn’t see the point in it until I was around 25.
I played a lot of football up to then, not very well may I add, but I still played and suffered a bad injury at 25; It was basically the end of football for me although I did return to play for a season but it wasn’t the same. After having an operation to repair my cruciate ligament I had a lot of time off work with my fiancé at the time being pregnant with our son Henry.
I found myself having a lot of spare time and extra cash, including a months deposit for a house, all of a sudden I found this boredom being cured by gambling. I actually had started gambling a few months prior to this albeit with very small amounts but it wasn't too long until I was finding myself betting frequently and with larger amounts all on my phone. Before I knew it, I’d spent all my money including the deposit.
I had to come clean about it and swore I’d never do it again. My gambling had ceased for a whilst we moved house and our son Henry was born; everything in life was ok again and gambling was out my life as quick as it had came in.
When I moved house again, for some reason I found myself gambling. Starting with small amounts and gradually getting larger, I’d say at this point I first noticed that I had an addiction but turned a blind eye to it.
My mum had given me some money to buy a shed for the house and I gambled it away and therefore had to buy the shed again. I had to come clean and tell my mum what I had done. After that I 'stopped' gambling again. I eventually moved back home with my mum after my relationship ended, this is when I really did find myself with time and money.
My gambling and general attitude to life was spiralling out of control at this point I’m 28 years old and I’d run up massive amounts of debt and had entered many relationships that were destined to fail!
Through all this torment, one thing I had managed to focus on was to be the best dad I could possibly to Henry. At points I don’t know how but I did. Eventually I told my Mum and Nan everything and they 'helped me help myself' to go straight again. At this point I swore to never gamble again and was thankful for this second chance in life. I had a girlfriend and we moved in together, things were good. I’d stopped gambling and was enjoying life again.
As life goes sometimes, things started to go wrong. My relationship broke down due to many things, just after I lost my Nan, soon after I found myself back at home and back with 'free' time and even more money. This time without my Nan who had been my second parent most of my life.
Inevitably the gambling crept back in, and my life truly spiralled out of control for a year, my life was pretty much gambling, gambling, gambling.
I had 3 months off work, I was massively depressed suffering the most horrendous addiction and suicidal thoughts. I’d again ran up debts that my wages could no longer cover each month and I couldn't see a way out. I spoke to my mum and financially she couldn’t help me, I couldn’t see a life for myself.
On June 22nd 2019, I walked into a local bookmakers and spent every single penny of my monthly wage. I’d paid no bills and provided no financial support for Henry. This was the first time in my life that I had done this. I had always paid what I had to pay and then spent the rest and I used credit to gamble, but I’d exhausted all the credit I could get, nobody would give me a penny!
On the 26th June 2019 I spent my last £60 pound I had to my name on gambling and I thought this is it, this is the end, I can’t go on, I either need to get some balls and get help or I’m done with life. I was a complete mess and mentally I was broken.
On the 3rd July 2019, I eventually decided I needed help, real, serious help. With the support of my Mum and girlfriend at the time, along with a close friend, I plucked up the courage to attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. I attended GA for 4 months without missing a session. It has changed my life.
Although, I’ve got a hell of a long way to go to get my life back on track but I’m certainly heading in the right direction. I’ve lost a lot through gambling, cars, vans, relationships, trust and friends. Although the biggest things to lose were the abilities to have self respect, the will to live, and to be a Dad, a son, brother and friend.
SGO - Explain in your own words what brought you outdoors, and what moment did you realise that this was aiding your recovery.
Tom - At 25 I suffered a bad injury playing football, I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) as I’ve previously mentioned; this was the initial on set of some of my mental health issues.
After that injury, fast pace sports with any quick change of direction were out the question so I started walking just around woods, rivers and canals in my local area. One day I decided to go and climb Snowdon (once I felt my knee would be up to it). It was total game changer for me. It was February snow, up to my knees and totally unprepared but the sense of achievement on returning to the car was like the buzz I had when I was playing football I loved it.
At points in my life when gambling and depression really had hold of me I didn’t know what to do. I had very little motivation to do anything apart from ruin my life even more, but what I found is that on the days I could get motivated, I got out into the mountains and it felt amazing. All I thought about was the mountain, the scenery and putting one foot in front of the other. Completely clearing my head. The majority of the time I’d have no phone signal so it would just be me and nature, these were the only times I felt I could cope with life and in my head I knew I had to do more of this but I needed to address my other issues first.
Now I’m almost a year into my recovery and can honestly say that the outdoors has played the biggest role in my mental and physical well being and my recovery. Everything I do is based around getting outdoors and it’s literally my medicine.
SGO - Since you started your recovery, what goals have you accomplished and what do you wish to accomplish?
Tom - Since being in recovery I’ve achieved a few goals. I’d previously done long distance trails in a day, such as Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail and the National 3 Peaks in 24 hours. I had also been to the Atlas Mountains and climbed Mt. Toubkal at the height of 4,167m.
I wanted to get higher I and I wanted to achieve something 'epic'. I booked a trip to Nepal (October 2019) to trek to EBC (Everest base camp) at the height of 5,364m. Whilst there, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to bag a 6,000m+ peak in the Himalayas, so I added on Island Peak to the trip.
I got to EBC but shortly after I became very ill and was helicoptered off the mountain to a hospital in Kathmandu, so unfortunately I didn’t get the 6000m+, but I did smash my previous height by reaching EBC.
I’ve also climbed my first volcano in Tenerife Mount Teide at the height of 3,718m (November 2019) and I travelled the NC 500 in Scotland whilst climbing big hills on my way round. My latest accomplishment since I’ve been in recovery was running my first ever half marathon distance 21.1km in May 2020.
Moving forward, I definitely want to keep pushing my body and mental game as much as I can, with my new love for running and long distance trails. I wish to travel around Europe and I still want that 6000m+ peak!
My main goal in the meantime is to keep my mind active, and body health whilst enjoying the natural outdoor landscape of the UK.
SGO - Finally, what words do you have for someone who has found themselves in a similar position to one you once were in?
Tom - I’d say you’re stronger than you think, but don't let this cloud your judgement. Ask for help, accept the help, and honestly get outdoors. Walk, run, anything, just get outside and look after your mental health it’s so important. I truly believe the outdoors has saved my life.
Back on track, Thank you for your story and inspiring others Tom.