Celebrity SAS star Kieron Dyer has revealed how Ant Middleton saved his life after his childhood sex abuse hell.
The former footballer said his appearance on the show taught him to overcome his past trauma and he reckons 10 minutes with the ex-soldier proved more useful than paid-for professional help he has had in the past.
In 2018 Kieron revealed he had been abused by his great-uncle Kenny, who has since died, when he was 12 years old.
He only managed to open up to those closest to him in his early 30s. But Kieron’s appearance on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins helped him finally come to terms with his experience and realise he’s no longer a victim.
The former England midfielder says: “I was sexually abused as a child and with regards to that, I could never let people in 100 per cent.
“All the way until I started to get help aged 35, for 23 years my mind was conditioned by the sexual abuse.
“I’ve had a lot of help to overcome that. The advice Ant and Billy (Billingham) gave me in 10 minutes was probably more than I’ve had in two or three hours of paying for proper help.
“They saved my life. They gave me methods that will help me go on to bigger and better things.
“I don’t see myself as a victim any more. Because if I see myself as a victim, the guy who sexually abused me wins.”
During his career, Kieron, 42, became one of the highest-earning players in the country, playing at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. But he also fought with Newcastle team-mate Lee Bowyer on the pitch and crashed his Ferrari.
“I always had a f***-you attitude to the world, to people,” says Kieron. “When I explained to my loved ones, they could understand my actions, the way my personality was. They could see why I’d be so stubborn and not talk to them for a day because I couldn’t show any weakness.”
Tough-talking Ant and his fellow directing staff member Billy spotted something was off with Kieron when he joined 11 other celebs facing the demanding challenges on Scotland’s Isle of Raasay.
He adds: “They noticed I can never get eye contact with people. I always had my head down.
“They were just saying things like, ‘You should be f***ing proud of yourself, you played for your country 33 times. Get your f***ing head up, look me in the eyes.’
“I could never be completely cured until Ant and Billy got their hands on me.”
Kieron is now the U23s manager at Ipswich Town and hopes the youngsters will be proud of his appearance on the show.
He adds: “One of the big reasons I did this show is I’m a coach to young players. We talk about mental toughness and pushing your body above and beyond.
“That show just helped me with the mental side of things, which I can relate down to the young pros.”
Joining Kieron on Celebrity SAS are TV presenters Ulrika Jonsson, Saira Khan and Ore Oduba, reality favourites Kerry Katona, Vicky Pattison, Wes Nelson and Jake Quickenden, singer Alexandra Burke, Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, paralympian Aled Davies and BMX champ Shanaze Reade.
They spent eight days being put through a condensed version of the SAS selection course by the team of former special forces hard men.
Ant filmed the series before he was axed by show chiefs in a row over controversial social media comments.
But many of the celebs found his no-nonsense, un-PC attitude “refreshing” – despite the constant barrage of swearing at them.
Dancing On Ice winner Jake – who was targeted for his gleaming veneers – says: “I found it very refreshing how he spoke to us because you don’t really get people telling you how it is.”
The reality star suffered double heartache after the devastating loss of both his dad and little brother to bone cancer in the space of four years.
Jake, 32, reveals: “I went in there thinking, ‘Nothing on this show could be as hard as what I’ve already had to go through burying my little brother.’
“So when I was laying in a puddle and Ant was calling me the C-word I thought, ‘P*** off mate, this is easy. I’ve buried my brother – get out of my face’.
“It was definitely counselling being on the show. I never got counselling after my dad and brother died, when I was at my lowest ever.
“But when he got me in the room, what he said to me made me realise I wasn’t weak and it’s fine being emotional and letting yourself go sometimes because we all go through s**t. It’s how you deal with it and luckily the show really helped with that.”
Kerry Katona, 40, who describes the aftercare as “amazing,” also found it a form of counselling.
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She says: “The show was therapy for me.
“It really opened my eyes up to who I am, and the worth of who I am and about not having to prove anything to anybody.
“It’s made me realise you never know what’s going to happen the next day and you can get through it.”
Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins airs weekly at 9pm from Sunday on Channel 4.