Paul James had done as much as a player or coach can do in Canadian soccer - hall of fame player; World Cup veteran; Former NCAA, university, club and Canadian under-20 coach; TV and newspaper analyst.
James’s soccer pedigree is long and distinguished, but away from the pitch, James lived a secret hell.
For more than a decade, the intense, meticulous coach was a crack cocaine addict who lived in fear that his secret might leak out. The 48-year-old James, after three trips to rehab, lifts the veil on his addiction in a self-published e-book called Cracked Open.
Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press reports on the rise, fall and rebirth of an outstanding coach, and an even better person.
“In spite of losing so much — including my soccer employment, my financial security, and, many times over, my dignity — I appreciate that I should take comfort from the fact in 2012, I am indeed fortunate to be alive,” writes James.
James showed The Canadian Press excerpts from the book, which is slated for release Monday. It is a white-knuckle journey through addiction that also holds a mirror up to Canadian soccer.
Canadian soccer officials, coaches and players will read the book with interest and — in some cases — foreboding. Many of today’s Canadian stars passed through James’ youth team and some did not behave well.
James hopes his harrowing past might help shed light on addiction — and ultimately help others see warning signs and seek/provide help.
“For me, drug addiction has proven to be a cruel disease with no simple remedy — not a moral failing or a weakness of mind, but a unique, personal, and devastating experience,” he writes.
His double life will come as a shock to many (I have known James for more than a decade, having covered him as a coach and worked with him both as an editor and fellow TV analyst, and never suspected).
“Everybody has said that to me. Anyone that I’ve opened up (to) has been stunned and shocked,” he said in an interview. “It’s not a badge of honour to wear but what it is, it’s to alert people and society in general that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.”
James has given a lot to the game, and his hopes in writing this book is to share his story with young players and coaches to learn from the mistakes that he had made. Cracked Open is available through www.pauljamescrackedopen.ca