For a group of men in north Glasgow, the football team that binds them is more than a sporting club, it’s a brotherhood.

Maryhill Milan was set up by Jamie Butler, 36, a former addict who took on his demons and won, and now devotes his life to helping others do the same.

After years of problem drinking and prison time, the father-of-four gave up alcohol, but it wasn’t long before he found other ways to check out.

Cannabis and cocaine turned into “heavier drugs” for Mr Butler, who is now a recovery worker for addiction charity, Addaction.

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The first time he went to prison, Mr Butler was 18. He served four years before having eight months added on for escaping Polmont Young Offenders Institution when he was drunk.

After losing his father in 2009, Mr Butler’s life spiralled out of control. The two were very close and worked together in the family building firm. 

“After he died there was a void in my life and I didn’t know how to cope with my feelings. That’s when I started going downhill and taking drugs and overdoses.

“I came from a good home, “ he said. “There was nothing up with my childhood. I just wanted to do what everybody else was doing."

When Mr Butler was hospitalised after a grand mal seizure that left him with no feeling in his legs, a friend in recovery persuaded him to attend Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Knowing that he stood to lose his wife and children, Mr Butler started attending daily meetings and continues to go at least three times a week.

He said: “People just need to fling themselves into this stuff, you can’t dip your toe in, you can’t do that.”

Initially the team, established in 2017 and managed by Mr Butler, was made up of people in recovery but soon admissions were open to all.

Mr Butler said: “What I found was that the boys who just wanted a game of football were realising what we had in recovery and started asking to come to meetings because they were struggling with drink or drugs.

“What my team brings is a purpose, it’s why you want to stay sober. It’s given me so much. That team is my family now.

“I feel absolutely blessed to have the life I’ve got today. I used to want money and fancy cars and big houses and always tried to look good on the outside but when you come into recovery, you realise you need to be good on the inside and the outside will take care of itself.”

For player Gerry Broadley, 33, who joined Maryhill Milan in January, the team has been a lifeline. Now into his eighth month sober, the greenkeeper trains and plays every week as well as attending twice-weekly AA meetings with his teammates.

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Three years ago, Mr Broadley’s “recreational” cocaine habit turned serious. He said: “I was getting more and more hooked. It started from taking it on a Saturday when I was in the pub to taking it on the Sunday when I was hungover, then taking it on Wednesday to get me through to the next weekend. My mind was telling me I needed it when I obviously didn’t.”

Going from a “happy-go-lucky type of guy” to someone with a short fuse who would isolate himself, in the last year of his addiction, Mr Broadley could feel the time bomb of his addiction ticking. 

“I knew that one day my world was going to crumble. It was just a matter of time before my wife found out, or my work found out and my world was going to end there.”

It was during a family holiday last June the dad-of-two orchestrated his cry for help, taking so much money out of a joint bank account, his wife couldn’t help but notice.

“My wife asked where the money was and that was my rock bottom. I knew I had to change or I was going to lose everything, my wife, my kids, everything,” he said.

After going it alone, Mr Broadley stayed clean for four months but relapsed without specialist support. Last September, after contacting Andy McLaren, a personal hero and former professional footballer who recovered from alcohol and drug addiction, he started attending regular meetings at help centre Chris’s House in Wishaw before joining Maryhill Milan.

He said: “I don’t think I would still be sober now without those boys and that team. If I’m 100 per cent honest, I don’t think I had it in me to do it myself.
Having just returned from his first sober family holiday Mr Broadley is confident that his recovery will stick and credits the men of Maryhill Milan for the turnaround.

“As soon as I met them, I started doing what they’re doing to stay sober and it’s worked. I know for a fact that if my head’s trying to do tricks on me one of them are going to answer the phone and help me. 

“I love that team. It’s not just a hobby, it’s part of my life.”