“My brother was calling me and calling me. I answered the phone. He was in tears. He couldn’t really say it… ‘listen, I’ve found Dad in the bedroom’.”
This was how Charlie Adam learned of his father’s suicide in December 2012. There had been no warning signs, no red flags that tragedy loomed. No note was left behind and no closure granted to the mourning family.
Charlie Adam Snr was a former professional footballer, portrayed, his son says, “as this big, hard person”.
“Really, he had a soft heart. He was an emotional guy. He was devoted to family. It was just out of the blue,” the Stoke City and Scotland midfielder recounts.
“We always had a ritual where my dad would wrap the [Christmas] presents, but he’d lock the door. When my brother went in and found the door locked, he thought he was wrapping presents.”
On World Mental Health Day, Adam tells BBC Scotland’s Kenny Macintyre how football and grief collided, and how he hopes to use his own heartbreak to help others.
‘I only missed one game’
Adam was four months into a four-year contract at Stoke at the time of his father’s death. He “only missed one game” in the aftermath, confident that immersing himself in the rigors of professional football would help him handle the agony.
But football was not without its difficulties. He fell out of favour with then-Stoke boss Tony Pulis in the ensuing weeks and was told it was time for him to leave the club.
“That hit me hard,” Adam says. “I had a four-year contract and I’d played from the start of the season right up until that moment.
“But fortunately, I’d played for Liverpool in the Europa League [earlier that year] and you can’t play for three teams in one season, so there was no way I could go anywhere else.
“I never played until March. We were in a bit of a relegation battle, and I got thrown in to Queens Park Rangers away. I never expected it. That was us, I was in the team until the end of the season.”
‘I was trying to control the whole family’
The end of the season meant an abrupt roadblock on Adam’s escape route. Being away from the daily tasks and trials of his sport forced him to confront his grief.
“That summer was the most difficult – reality kicked in,” the former Rangers midfielder, now 32, recalls.
“I was going to see psychologists, people at the club were helping me, and they just put it into perspective – I was trying to control the whole family, but I was doing about five different jobs for one guy.
“Sometimes you need to sit back and look after yourself – you’re in an emotional state as well. It was a difficult time but when I got back into playing, a new manager [Mark Hughes] came in, and it was great.
“It’s always tough when the date comes round but I can talk about it now. I hope my experiences, because I’m in the public eye a little bit, can help other people.
“It was a tough time for the family, but we got together and we’re stronger now for it.”
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