A former British soldier who said he changed from a “war hero to a drug addict” and thought he had “ruined” his future when he nearly lost his life overdosing on cocaine has now set up a successful global fitness business and wants to inspire others.
Sean Willers, a health and fitness coach who currently splits his time between Southampton, Hampshire, and Ibiza, Spain, said his addiction to alcohol and drugs developed during his upbringing.
He moved into a hostel when he was 15 years old, was homeless for a period of time, and then moved to Wolverhampton, West Midlands, which is where he found his “true fitness passion”.
Sean later joined the British army and served for four years in the RAF, touring Afghanistan, which he said was “eye-opening”, and afterwards he entered the world of DJing with his brother, Liam, 33.
The now 34-year-old said his addiction to drugs and alcohol intensified during his time as a DJ, but it was not until he accidentally overdosed in July 2021 and spent all of his money on alcohol and drugs in one night that he turned his life around.
“Apparently, the police had picked me up,” Sean explained.
“I’ve got this scar here on my head. I have no idea what happened, but apparently, I was being abusive.
“I checked my card at the end and I had basically spent all the money I had earned on drinks in some random location, ended up doing a load of cocaine, and it was just a train wreck.
“And I sat in the hospital, I was crying my eyes out to my dad, and I was like, ‘that’s it.’
“The funny thing is, in hindsight, if that had never happened, I would have continued to DJ, and inevitably, the drink and drug use would have always come back anyway. It was lucky that it happened.”
Sean was employed as a personal trainer at Fitness First in Wolverhampton before joining the army.
Given his dad’s military background in the Parachute Regiment, Sean said “the military was always something (he) wanted to do”.
He joined the British army at 22 years old and, following his training at RAF Honington, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, he served a six-month tour of Afghanistan on Operation Herrick as a Regiment Gunner in the No. 2 Squadron RAF Regiment.
During his time in the army, his alcohol addiction started to creep in, and he said this foreshadowed “what was to come”.
“I always knew that I wanted to do a tour of Afghanistan, because Afghanistan was operational at the time, and I wanted to serve the country… and then I wanted to go back into the fitness industry with that military background,” he said.
“I was really keen on fitness then, but nevertheless, I still was suffering with problems with alcohol. I was always a bad drunk.”
After four years serving his country, Sean got into DJing with his brother Liam in 2013, and the pair quickly began to attract interest from labels and influential figures within the house-music industry.
The Willers Brothers, as they were known, were signed up to a weekly residency at a London club, called Egg, playing there for four years.
Sean said they were the second-highest listed DJs to play at Egg and were quickly signed by the Watergate agency in Berlin, Germany.
After moving to live in Berlin, DJ gigs at high profile nightspots followed, such as Tresor, and the brothers threw themselves into the party lifestyle.
Sean described his DJing experiences as “amazing”, but with all the parties and the drug and alcohol use, things turned sour very quickly – and by March 2020, Sean was doing cocaine up to five times a week.
“In my drug use, I ended up getting kicked off of pretty much every agency that we’d been on; it was all just drug related, basically,” he said.
“I was causing nightmares, me and Liam were falling out, I couldn’t create any music.
“My drug use was getting so bad that I would just be going to the studio as an excuse to do drugs; all my money was going on drugs.
“I was overweight, I had awful sleep, anxiety, mental health issues, bad acid reflux problems, and I had just gone from the fittest I’d ever been, (in the) military, (a) war hero, to just some drug addict.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sean said he and his brother subsequently “lost all (their) work”, which, in hindsight, was “the best thing that happened”.
Sean worked night shifts at Amazon, packing boxes at a warehouse in Berlin, as that was the only English-speaking job he could find at the time.
Sean and Liam then decided to move back to England, but his life was turned upside down on the night he was rushed to hospital due to excessive cocaine consumption in July 2021.
He said it was “very scary”, particularly as he does not remember what happened, and he thought he had “ruined it all”.
Back in England, the brothers were signed to Constellate Talent, a DJ talent agency, but Sean’s heart was not in it.
He then found a job working as a PE teacher at a local school in Southampton, which he “absolutely loved”, but he soon realised his true passion was helping others with their fitness and health.
He said: “What I really wanted to do (was) help people in fitness because it’s what saved me… so I ended up quitting working at the school.”
Sean has since transformed his lifestyle – going sober, implementing intermittent fasting, moving his body, eating well, mending relationships with his family, and teaching others.
He said he now has a good relationship with his mother, Debbie, and his brother Liam has also transformed his life and is planning to run the London Marathon in April.
Sean set up a website for his business, Willers Fitness, and, being a qualified personal trainer, he began to offer online fitness coaching to clients, including those he met within the music industry.
He said there “isn’t a support line” for people in the industry, and many fall into alcohol and drugs misuse as they are “booked to play gigs and they’re (expected) to party”.
But Sean wants to help people commit to making fitness and wellbeing a dedicated part of their lifestyle, regardless of external pressures or their career.
“When I was in Berlin, I was broke, I had no money, I had a drug addiction, and this was, we’re talking, two years ago,” he said.
“Fitness saved me… but (I want people to realise) you don’t have to make these huge changes in your lifestyle; it isn’t as daunting as you believe.
“I want to help as many people in the music industry get back their health and look and feel as good as they possibly can, but at the same time, I want (to) help other people who aren’t maybe in the financial position (to pay for coaching).”
Willers Fitness has now gone global, boasting online clients across 14 different countries, including the USA, Malta, Uganda, the Netherlands and, as of June 2022, Sean went full-time to focus on growing his business.
Sean is now in talks to provide fitness coaching to wellness retreats in Ibiza, working with The Tribe travel agent, participating in retreats that will run from May onwards.
After gaining a reputation as a well-respected fitness coach, Sean was offered a role as health advisor to volunteers participating in charity trips to Uganda, as part of The Tribe Uganda.
And it was during his time volunteering in Uganda that he decided to set up The Willers Foundation, a charity which will give fitness and sports coaching to disadvantaged orphans, many of whom have disabilities.
Sean said he does not think he would be where he is today if he did not overdose that night, and seeing how he has impacted other people’s lives has encouraged him to keep going.
Looking back on his darker times to where he is now, he said: “Just by improving your health, the amount of other people worldwide that you can inspire is just incredible.”
To find out more about Sean’s business, visit: www.willersfitness.co.uk or you can follow him on Instagram at @willersfitness.