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Lawyer Went to Drug Hell and Back

Lancashire Evening Post - Published Date: 5th February 2009

AT 37, Blackpool lawyer Steve Pope, addict-turned-life coach, had it all. He was the champion of the criminal underclass by day and mingled with celebrities by night.Back home his wife and two kids waited for dad to give them so much as a second glance, spare them a little time from a 24/7 work hard, play hard lifestyle. Sure, he had the trappings of success, a £1m house on the Fylde, a law firm, private plane, top-of-the-range Alfa Romeo, £80k a year salary, and the small town fame which came from having his own local radio show.

As a top lawyer, he worked with top footballers and people with links to leading gangland criminals, and had offices in Blackburn, St Annes, Fleetwood and London. But it wasn't enough for Steve, driven by the need to succeed. He took 14 days' holiday in 15 years to build up his legal practice, he recalls. The need to turn off fast, relax from the hectic courtroom pace, saw him turn first to booze, and then later, after his family left, to cocaine. He moved in the right circles to make the contacts. Soap celebrities, premier league footballers, the "A" list of addicts associated with a high-flying lawyer going places.

He was introduced to cocaine by a soap star, who has long since confessed and conquered, his habit. Within a matter of weeks Steve had fast tracked up the super league of hard drugs, requiring bigger, more frequent, hits, at the cost of all he once held dear. As an addict, he was spending £8,000 a month on crack cocaine, the need to feed his habit out-scoring his duty to feed his family. He begged and borrowed, as his old bank manager at Hambleton can testify. And it wasn't long before his family life went into meltdown, his wife moving out, taking the kids with her.

His celebrity lifestyle and professional reputation went up in smoke, and he went bankrupt. And then the drugs really took over. "I'd get a benefit cheque and blow it all." By then Steve had found love with another addict. "Not a good idea, two addicts living together. But until then I'd wake up in beds and not recognise the woman alongside me, let alone the wallpaper above. I'd lost it and myself." We've heard similar stories before, of course, George Best arguably being one of the best known, Paul Gascoigne's family spilling the beans in more recent weeks. Steve knew Bestie, and Gazza too, and cherishes that sense of the vulnerability of both.

" Hate the illness, not the addict," he advises all families and friends today. Indeed, today, he works with the families and friends of addicts, as well as addicts themselves".

So, let's fast forward 15 years. Steve is now 52, looking every inch the reformed rocker of the resort's courtrooms of yesteryear. He's as driven as ever, breaking off from our interview to take calls from folk, big name sports stars as well as locals, calling to book counselling sessions, life coaching, or help in overcoming addictive behaviour. Having already studied law and psychology to specialise in criminal law, he set about acquiring the qualifications required to become a psychotherapist and has just set up in practice at The Old Bank, Hambleton (opposite the Shovels, which isn't so handy for recovering alcoholics). He's learned a bit more about balance, fielding a call from the new love of his life, Adele, with whom he's lived for more than five years, and hopes to marry, and who's more than a tad put out by the fact he reversed into her car last night.

Then there's the kids to catch up with, too, by a former partner, another woman loved and lost. But the son and daughter they had together are big believers in dad, and big achievers in their own right. His daughter Meghan, 11, signed for Blackpool Girls Football team, his son Alex playing for the Under 9s. Steve's weekends are now full of sport, turning out to watch Blackpool, for whom his father Gordon Pope, now 82, played back in the 1940s, having previously played for Bolton Wanderers.

" Football's in the blood," he says. But he reckons he inherited his addictive personality from his mum who had a drink problem, although she "died sober".

" My son, who's only nine, says I now spend more time on the white touch line than I ever did snorting white lines."
Nine, and already savvy to the risks of cocaine. Which brings us to another labour of love for Steve, mentoring junior football teams, up-and-coming stars of tomorrow, working in clubs on life coaching tips on the hazards to avoid, and how to handle fame if, or when, it comes.

" It's all about grounding yourself in what matters – it's the kind of thing which could have saved Bestie had he got that kind of help early."

Not that it's ever too late. Steve points to high profile celebrity survivors such as Davina McCall (heroin the drug of her choice), Eric Clapton, Barry Humphries and Roy Keane. Steve's a survivor, too, of course. The offices prove it. The Old Bank used to be the Nat West where he got knocked back by the manager time and again.

" The times I've sat in here hoping for a loan, living on borrowed time," he recalls.

It's no longer a bank but it still offers a gilt (and occasionally guilt) edged investment of another kind – in people.
Steve took over the manager's office at The Old Bank this month in his role as psychotherapist, counsellor and life coach.
The decision to go it alone stemmed from his work for some years at The Priory, Preston, the posh people's rehabilitation and recovery centre. The Priory worked its magic on him after Alex's and Meghan's mum moved on.

" The kids saved me, really. I had a seven-year-old stepson, Jack, my own son Alex was just seven months old and Meghan 18 months. I knew I had to get clean for their sake. Unlike my first marriage, where the kids went with her, these were left with me. And they could have ended up in care."

Instead, they feel cared for, cherished, by a dad who's there to eat with them, take them out, watch their football matches, cheer them on ... Adele at his side. And that, as Steve puts it, "is how it should be."

His name and qualifications are now on a gold plaque outside the door of his new practice. It is, he concludes, the only "polished" thing about him. "The Priory's like the Harrods of addiction. We're more the Lidl..."


Turnaround for Town's new sports psychologist

Garstang Courier - Published Date: 06 May 2009 By Richard Hunt

FORMER Fleetwood solicitor Steve Pope has returned to the town where he enjoyed a high profile legal career for almost 20 years.And after his life fell apart when he descended into drug addiction, he now has a new career aimed at helping sports men and women. Steve has just been appointed as a qualified sports therapist at Fleetwood Town and wants to expand his services further still into the community by offering free motivational talks to local sports teams and schools.

Steve, now aged 52 and living in Stalmine, made a name for himself representing many of Fleetwood’s legal aid clients, and he was one of the busiest lawyers on the Fylde coast throughout the 1980s up to the mid 90s.
But he burned out after a work-hard, play-hard approach to life spiralled out of control and he became hooked on crack cocaine.

Following some very dark days for the father-of-two, including the break-up of his marriage, Steve pulled his life together.
After attending rehab at the famous Priory he realised the importance of counselling and it gave him the idea for a new career opportunity, and a stint at Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers followed.

He said: “Sports psychology is a way to help motivate people in sport, dealing with any underlying problems that hold them back, getting them to be properly mentally prepared to be at their best.

“ All the big Premiership clubs have their sports therapists.That’s why Fleetwood Town stand out as a progressive club – no other club in their league is doing this kind of thing but chairman Andy Pilley and manager Micky Mellon are both very forward-thinking.”

Steve and his associates are based at Green Meadow Lane, Hambleton, and apart from sports therapy they offer help in depression, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders and addiction.

Apart from offering free services to schools and sport teams, he and his associates at Hambleton are offering a free hour’s service for any kind of counselling.

To find out more phone Steve on 07920 115 305.

© Steve Pope Associates 2009
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