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The Power of Lived Experience: Transforming Trauma into a Force for Good

EPIC Risk Management’s head of delivery, Mark Potter, looks at parallels that can be drawn between Dele Alli’s struggle with addiction and the barriers that we look to break down through our lived experience delivery.

In a new interview with former England defender turned Sky TV presenter Gary Neville for ‘The Overlap’, Dele Alli, the Everton and England midfielder has bravely opened-up about his childhood trauma and addiction struggles, particularly with sleeping pills.

As both an avid Evertonian and also someone that has experienced addiction through a sporting lens, this interview really struck a chord with me. Dele’s willingness to share his story not only serves as a catalyst for his own recovery, but also aims to destigmatise these issues. This interview has quickly gained traction, dominating sports pages and trending on various platforms. It perfectly highlights the power of lived experience and its central role in EPIC Risk Management’s approach to educating about gambling harm.

Lived experience refers to the ability to utilise personal trauma and the journey of overcoming it as a force for good. His interview serves as a reminder that our own experiences can be harnessed to create a meaningful impact on others and provide the real-life context to educational learning materials that very few can. Indeed, the overwhelming reaction to Dele’s interview underscores the immense power that lived experience carries.

When harnessed correctly, it becomes a potent tool for raising awareness, fostering empathy, enabling learning, and driving positive change. Dele’s story resonates with people from all walks of life, as it humanises the challenges faced by individuals battling addiction and trauma. It serves as a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles and shows that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark things can sometimes seem or feel.

When we travel to speak with audiences all over the world, we find – almost without fail – that individuals are more willing to open up to us about comparisons they can draw between our facilitators’ lived experience stories and the journeys that they or someone close to them have been on, and they will often reach out to us for signposting to find a similar path towards recovery that our own team has been able to follow. It is not lost on me that people naturally feel more comfortable or at ease sharing their own struggles with those who themselves have been open and willing to share their own experiences with addictive behaviours or substances.

In terms of sport, it is heartening to see that leading clubs and leagues across the world are recognising the importance of educating their players and staff within their organisation on the potential dangers of hidden addiction and the negative impacts that this can bring, not only on the induvial, but also on their families, teammates, and the organisations that they represent. This helps me reflect on the privileged position that my colleagues and I find ourselves in, being able to share our experiences of how gambling harm had such a negative impact on our lives, mental health, and sporting performance to help act both as a cautionary tale to others and also to help drive positive change within sport.

The response from clubs like Everton, who have taken a welfare-first and human-first approach towards addiction, reflects positively on their commitment to supporting individuals like Dele Alli.

This approach aligns with EPIC Risk Management’s vision, as outlined in our Gambling Harm Prevention in Sport Review white paper, which was released in February 2023 and advocates for a culture of safer gambling, with a set of conclusions and recommendations that we advise and encourage to all sporting organisations for the benefit of the people within their care.

By prioritising the well-being of individuals and fostering a supportive environment, we can create a society and culture that is more understanding and compassionate towards those affected by addiction. This is made even more possible by finding those who have fought addiction and are willing to talk about it at the right time with the right audience.

Dele Alli’s powerful interview with Gary Neville has shed light on the transformative power of lived experience and he should be applauded for having the bravery to talk about it so frankly in a public forum. It serves as a reminder that our personal journeys, no matter how challenging, can be harnessed to inspire and support others.

There is so much strength in allowing yourself to be vulnerable, both for the benefit of yourself and as Dele has shown in this interview, for other people too. I have so much admiration for him.

Mark Potter

Head of Delivery

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