Sam’s Story

I have been a Personal Trainer since 2015, having previously been a listening volunteer for the Samaritans, I knew that I wanted to work with people to see just how amazing we can all be!

I am a lover of life and enjoy a challenge, pushing myself and others to reach various goals. I very much believe in whole body fitness and health -my mission is to inspire you to become the best version of yourself and make every day count.


Please tell us about your early years

I was born in Skelmersdale, a place in between Manchester and Liverpool, moved to a relatively rough part of Manchester when I was 3. I have one brother who is 18 months younger than me, My parents would foster children, through the years we had 22 young brothers and sisters

Our family didn’t have a lot of money but we always had what we needed. My parents enjoyed walking so we spent time visiting parks and scenic places.

We often visited our extended family that lived in London, Essex and Cardiff.

I was a very confident child but also seeked attention a little. As the oldest child I was usually the one ‘in charge’, deciding on games to play and creating plays and dances for us to do. My  parents divorced when I was about 15,  which improved my relationship with my dad, as up until that point I was the typical bratty teenager trying to avoid being around him!

The first time I got drunk I was around 15 and I’d stolen some of my mum’s rum. I remember running down the road to my friends feeling free and confident. They found it hilarious… I was so funny and entertaining, something that soon became my role in the group as alcohol was introduced regularly.


We would hang around ‘down the road’ as you do as a teenager, getting one of the older kids to buy cider, beer or alcopops. The leftovers were usually given to me so that I could be the drunk one entertaining the crowd. The same ‘friends’ were the ones that, as we got older, pretty much controlled my life. I was a very self-conscious, depressed teenager, I had been made to believe that I was the fat, ugly one of the group and would be nothing without them.

I would do anything for them and it almost drove me to suicide. Nights out were easier to cope with if I got pre-drunk as they would always end in some sort of drama – fights, boyfriends of friends getting beaten up, arrested or hospitalised and usually included many tears.

My life was unbearable and with all that going on within, I dropped out of college and was told by my ‘amazing’ pals that I was a failure – they once dropped me off at the Samaritans in Manchester while they went to the cinema because they were fed up of me being miserable all the time. When I wasn’t drinking I was incredibly self loathing and shy. When I was drinking I felt confident and ‘happy’ for a short while but then it would be pushed to extremes, until I threw up or passed out. My so called friends ruled my life and I didn’t see any way out.

Despite all this going on in my life,  I qualified as a holistic therapist and at 18 I moved away, escaping the clutches of the people I thought were responsible for my misery. But I couldn’t run away from who I had become – I was already a heavy drinker and it continued for years, wherever I moved to and whatever friends I made the old cycle would repeat itself.

I began to dread nights out and adopted the ‘get as drunk as possible’ technique often ending the night in tears, in arguments with genuine friends, or in one potentially dangerous incident, wading in a lake (don’t ask!).

After I left Manchester I didn’t visit often, which suited me well.

When I was going through some of my life changing issues I didn’t feel that I could confide in my parents and it took me a few years to accept the fact that families look different to every person! My dad had a major stroke as he wasn’t looking after himself very well. Up until then we got on well, but didn’t see each other very often. Me and my brother hadn’t been particularly close but looking after our dad brought us together that little bit more. These last few years we have both lived in London and are making the effort to see each other more. I always thought that we are like the opposite from each other but the more time I spend with him, the more mutual pride and respect we seem to have for each other!

What was school like for you?

Apparently on my first day of school I was so excited I hardly said goodbye to my mum! I have good memories of primary school. I was already a big reader and thrived on praise when I did well in class. I rarely got into trouble and it really played on my mind if I did, like it was the worst thing that could possibly happen! I had a mix of friends from different ‘groups’ and also enjoyed time to myself.

Once in High school things changed a little. I was ‘labelled’ one of the clever kids, for which I was bullied for. It was the sort of school where it was cool to not care about getting good grades. I made friends with some girls who were my ‘best friends’ for a while, however, because I was so desperate to fit in, I allowed them to control me into becoming as much of a clone of them as I could be, something I didn’t realise was happening at the time. I was not allowed to wear certain clothes, or to go to certain shops, or even talk to certain people. This carried on and got worse after school was over and I was controlled by these girls for 3 more years before I left Manchester.

What has been the biggest turning point in your life and why?

My single biggest turning point was 19th March 2009. The day I had the lightbulb moment that I can never drink again. I had been fighting for years against the fact that I had a problem and had been trying and failing to ‘be good’ or to cut down. The more I fought against it the worse my problem became. The turning point was my rock bottom and the only way to get out of it was up!

I had an assignment due, I was at work but already planning my first drink of the day… I had a ‘rule’ not to drink before midday but I already had decanted my first bottle of wine spread between two empty ribena bottles to have on my lunch break.

I left the office early to get more “studying” done, stopping on the way to stock up on alcohol, for some reason I bought 4 bottles, A dangerous move knowing that if it’s there I will drink it..

And of course I don’t remember quite what happened next but remember waking up and Jonny, my then partner telling me I needed to move out.

I saw the 4 empty bottles that he had discovered from my not-so-genius hiding place. I felt awful! And I had the hangover from hell!

I got in my car and drove towards work trying to plan what to do, I got a friend to accommodate me for that night, whilst still figuring out my next steps I opened my glove compartment and found that in my drunken haze I had  decanted half a bottle of wine into a plastic container and without  thinking I downed it… It was 8 o’clock in the morning… I had finally hit my rock bottom and I knew I had to do something about it.

I made my way to the Swindon alcohol and drugs service and poured my heart out to one of the guys there and from that day, I knew that I couldn’t drink again.  It was the simple answer that I had been dodging for years!

we made a plan for me to come to the group sessions. I stayed with my friend that night and the following day called my line manager requesting a meeting, when I went to see my manager at the time was open about what had been going on and I realized then that talking to her and opening up to her helped me.

Jonny allowed me back home and it took a while to build the trust back, understandably! The group sessions were invaluable, I understood how alcohol and drugs affect people in different ways and how we cope in different ways.

I feel like I should be saying that the struggle was really hard for me at this point, but after making the decision to never drink again there was a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I started telling work colleagues about my situation and found that by sharing what was going on solidified my commitment more and more. After a few weeks I stopped going to the group sessions and slowly started to see that I had gained control of my life again. I could finally start to see more clearly and appreciate what I actually had.

Four months later I took a trip to climb Snowdon. The friends that I should have been going with had dropped out so I was with a group of work colleagues I didn’t know very well, they are now some of my closest friends. Climbing that mountain represented a lot for me in my head, If I can climb the tallest mountain in Wales I can do ANYTHING!

Just a few months after I gave up the booze, my dad had a major stroke. It was touch and go as to whether he would pull through or not but after 10 months in hospital he was released to a nursing home. The stroke has affected his speech and his ability to use his legs and one arm. His lifestyle was one which I feel I would have been heading towards knowing this cemented my need to stay sober and not have my life cut short.

The next few months I became a ‘Do-er’ organising events and going through with them… climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell pike, walking the length of Hadirans Wall. My confidence was on the up and for the first time maybe ever I started to feel good about myself.

After being sober for a year and a half I joined the Swindon Samaritans as a listening volunteer. It is such an amazing organisation helping so many people talk through how they are feeling when there is nobody else they can talk to.

The last 9 years I’ve achieved and experienced so much; dropping 5 dress sizes, taking up running, saying YES to new experiences such as Glastonbury festival. Life has become about fun, friends, challenges and helping others find the best version of themselves. Within this period of growth, it became apparent that me and Johnny were no longer right for each other and so after 10 years together we split amicably and I moved in with some of my awesome friends. The same year I ran my first ever marathon, channelling my energy into a positive challenge.

Post marathon I needed something new to aim for and so ended up leaving Swindon, leaving my stable job, packing my bags and jetting off to India and South East Asia for a year

What have you discovered about yourself

I’ve re-discovered the confident child inside. I have discovered that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was. I’ve discovered the power of acceptance is so strong! I’ve discovered a lust for life that I did not have before and that I have a very practical and logical approach to most situations. At my rock bottom I almost lost everything that was dear to me. My partner, my lovely house in the countryside, my stable job, my health, my car… just 5 years later discovered that  none of these things were actually that important for my happiness – well, except for my health!! I took my healthy body and went travelling, where I discovered, in telling my story that I could inspire other people. Most importantly discovered that my friends make me so strong but that I can also be strong alone when I need to be. I realised that I can be and do great things in this world and so this is my purpose going forwards!

Tell us about your achievements and what’s next in your life

While I was drinking, I started an Open University Degree, which I stopped when the drinking stopped. When I returned from travelling, I picked it back up again, studying social sciences whilst also studying to become a personal trainer. This year I finally graduated 14 years after

my first module! This year also marked the 10 year anniversary of me giving up the booze, so of course I celebrated with a big fancy dress party, with the theme ‘be your own hero’! I feel like a 10 year celebration was the last milestone that I’ll recognise for now. After I made the decision it’s become ‘easy’. I’ve never been tempted to drink again and I don’t think I ever will be. My life has improved so much that it doesn’t even cross my mind as an option! (I wish the same could be said about chocolate!).

Two and a half years ago I started a wellness business, SMASH London, with one of my best friends, Ash. We discovered that our outlook on life and vision for inspiring people were very similar, so we sat down (on a beach in Valencia) and planned a trial of a class where we aimed to combine physical and mental health. We are now running a variety of classes which are slowly spreading around London, mental health workshops for businesses, mindful spin classes, birthday/stag and hen parties with a fitness twist and next year we aim to get a step closer to launching SMASH wellness retreats! For me, my immediate plans next in my life are to bring SMASH London to the masses! Get the message out there of strength in body AND mind!

Author profile
Sam Tank

I have been a Personal Trainer since 2015, having previously been a listening volunteer for the Samaritans, I knew that I wanted to work with people to see just how amazing we can all be! I am a lover of life and enjoy a challenge, pushing myself and others to reach various goals. I very much believe in whole body fitness and health -my mission is to inspire you to become the best version of yourself and make every day count.

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