Swansea-born Waterloo Road star Richard Mylan has revealed a 20-year battle with heroin addiction.
Speaking to the BBC in what “could be a career-ending interview”, the former Waterloo Road and The Bill star, who has been in recovery for 10 years, said he was one of “many working professional junkies”.
He decided to share his story to try to reduce the stigma around drug addiction. He said, “What I care about is challenging our empathy response as a society. There are so many people out there who would never come forward because the stigma is so great.”
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The father of two said he suffered from “crippling anxiety” and began using illegal drugs early in his acting career during his time in theater in London. The 48-year-old said: “It was the biggest mistake I ever made. I was in the West End from a young age and there was a lot of alcohol and recreational drugs and that cemented certain negative behaviors.”
The Welsh actor has played many roles on TV, including deputy director Simon Lowsley in the BBC school drama Waterloo Road and opposite Sheridan Smith in BBC Three Series Grownups. But alongside a large part of his acting career, Richard was also struggling with a “cycle of abuse” that took him to his “absolute lowest” as he spiraled between taking drugs and getting clean.
“My personal relationships suffered, my work relationships suffered and it robbed me of my inner ambition,” he told the BBC. “I got to work, I managed relationships and stuff to some extent, but nothing ever lasted because ultimately it was chaos. It definitely took pieces of my life away from me.”
His decision to seek help with his addiction came 10 years ago when it got “dangerously worse” and he finally told his now-wife Tammie. “Ultimately, I’ve had enough of this cycle of being dragged down and up for breath and then being dragged down again. You get so down by that process,” he said.
“I was almost like lying on a beach half dead, thinking I’d had enough. I wanted to live and be happy.”
Tammie gave him her “unconditional support” and said, “Whatever it is, let’s get through it together.” Richard is proof that some users are “working professionals” people who maintain a career, he said. “Remember that I am who people thought I am, but I am also that … a recovering heroin addict,” he said. “We must challenge stigma because if we have any chance for other addicts to recover, we have to alleviate that because it keeps people down. Stigma has kept me from speaking up until now. Being in recovery doesn’t define you and every step forward is a step toward who you really are.” My recovery felt like a journey back to me.
“People are complicated and they need help, support and empathy. Everyone will meet someone who is in a similar position to mine.”
Richard now wants to help other recovering addicts and works with Adferiad, a charity in South Wales.
“Addiction can never take you from where you need to go,” Richard said. “Only the right medication from your GP to combat your depression, anxiety or bipolarity can help. Addiction is robbing people of themselves. They can never be brought back unless they have the right level of service and support .
“So I would say to addicts, don’t be afraid to connect with support, they only want the best for you. That’s why I’m a successful recovering addict.”
Adferiad Associate Director Steve Campbell said: “Opioid use across Wales remains a serious problem. To combat this it is vital that people seek support and get the help they need. to opioid use and that can be a barrier to people seeking help.”
He added: “We know that being on treatment is a protective factor against many of the risks associated with opioid use, so we strive to end the stigmatization of people and urge those who need help to seek support.”