Freddie Flintoff on Beating Depression

If you don’t follow cricket, you probably won’t recognize the name Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff. Cricket fans certainly know him. He played for England’s national team from 1998 to 2009, including a 2006-07 stint as captain. He’s 37 now, possibly retired (though he did play in Australia during the 2014-15 season). He also recently won the Australian edition of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here. Here’s Flintoff (the one not wearing hat or helmet) taking a wicket in the 2009 Ashes series:

flintoff-bowling-ashes

In a recent appearance on BBC radio show Desert Island Discs, Flintoff talked about his experience with depression. During the program he shared one lifestyle change that has worked for him: he quit drinking.

Flintoff said he stopped the all-night drinking bouts after making a documentary about depression in sport in 2012.

“It’s not so much the drinking, it’s actually the reasons why you are drinking,” he explained. “When you are drinking because you are trying to get away from something I think that is when you have got to look at everything.

“One of the reasons I probably stopped drinking is that I am prone to suffer from depression. Drinking doesn’t help one bit. I don’t touch it now.”

The Guardian article notes that this revelation will surprise some fans who recall Flintoff’s “image as a fun-loving, heavy drinker [which] was sealed by his animated victory celebrations”.

This advice is near and dear to my heart. I also quit drinking in my mid 30s in response to depression, and it’s one of the smartest things I’ve done. So let me second that: Drinking doesn’t help one bit. I don’t touch it now.

Previous post at Smash Depression: Quitting Alcohol Can Help With Depression.

Many people suffering from depression use alcohol to self-medicate. It can help ease anxiety in the short run. The problem is that alcohol is a depressant drug, which just exacerbates depression and sabotages your efforts to fight back.

Quitting can be difficult if being a “fun-loving heavy drinker” is a big part of your self-image. You may worry that life will be less fun without alcohol, that you’ll be giving up one of the few reliable sources of pleasure and stress relief in life. My advice: don’t worry, give it a shot, you probably won’t miss it.

Interesting fact: Desert Island Discs has been running continuously on BBC radio since 1942. More than 3000 episodes have aired. Roy Plomley was host for the first 43 years, and Kirsty Young has filled that role since 2006. You can download the Freddie Flintoff episode in podcast mp3 form, along with hundreds of past episodes with guests ranging from Liberace to Malcolm Gladwell.

Photo credit: Andy from England.

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