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14th May 2022

Waterloo Road star opens up about secret 20-year battle with heroin addiction

April Curtin

‘This could be a career-ending interview but I don’t care about that any more,’ he said

Waterloo Road star Richard Mylan has opened up about his two-decade-long battle with heroin addiction.

The Welsh actor, who played deputy headteacher Simon Lowsley in the iconic British school drama, revealed all about his drug use in a bid to reduce stigma.

Speaking to BBC, he said: “This could be a career-ending interview but I don’t care about that any more.

“What I care about is challenging our empathy response as a society.”

The 48-year-old father of two, who also starred in Grownups and The Bill, said he suffered from “crippling anxiety” back when he was young. So, he began taking illegal drugs at the start of his acting career during his time performing in theatre in London’s West End.

Looking back at his “one night of weakness” when he took heroin after a few drinks, he said: “It was the biggest mistake I ever made.”

The star said there was lots of alcohol and recreational drug use in the West End at the time which “cemented certain negative behaviours.” For large parts of his career, Mylan said he was battling a “cycle of abuse” that led him to his “absolute lowest” as he tried to get clean.

He said: “My personal relationships suffered, my work relationships suffered and it robbed me of my inner ambition. I managed to work, I managed around relationships and things to a degree but nothing ever lasted because, ultimately, it was chaos. It definitely took chunks of my life away from me.”

And while he thinks people can often have a preconceived idea of what a heroin addict looks like, Mylan said he is proof that some users are “functioning professional” people.

“People are complicated and need help, support and empathy,” he said, “Everybody will know somebody who is in a similar position to me.”

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A post shared by Richard Mylan (@mylanfoolz)

It was ten years ago that the actor decided to really fight his addiction, as it was only getting “dangerously worse”.

He said: “Ultimately, I’d had enough of that cycle of being dragged under and coming up for air then being dragged under again. You get so beaten down by that process. I was almost like washed up on a shoreline half dead, thinking I’ve had enough. I wanted to live and be happy.”

With the help of his now-wife Tammie, Mylan managed to get clean. And by coming clean with his secret, he hopes to challenge the public’s judgement of drug addicts.

He said: “We must challenge stigma because if we have any chance of fellow addicts recovering, we have to alleviate that because it keeps people down. Stigma has kept me from talking until now. Being in recovery doesn’t define you and each step forward is a step towards who you really are. My recovery felt a journey back to me.”

The actor now works with with south Wales-based substance misuse charity Adferiad to help other recovering addicts.

He said: “Addiction is robbing people of themselves. They can never be brought back unless they have the right level of service and support. So I’d say to addicts, don’t be scared about plugging in to support as they just want what’s best for you. That is the reason why I am a successful recovering addict.”

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