The 39-year-old ex-Celtic striker admitted that he hit rock bottom as he continued gambling while recovering from cancer. He has not placed a bet for three years now, but still attends Gamblers’ Anonymous meetings in his native Swansea and will carry on doing so until he is 70 to keep his addiction under control.
The former Welsh international makes the revelations about how he nearly lost his wife Sarah in a new BBC Alba documentary.
He said: “One morning Sarah got up quite early and said that she was leaving me if I carried on gambling. She could no longer sit back and watch me put myself through what I was putting myself through.
“She told me in no uncertain terms, ‘I am going this afternoon and I am leaving you and I’m taking these girls with me’.
“That was just an incredible moment for me, a sad moment and a very serious moment in my life.
“They say you have to hit rock bottom if you’re an addict, whether it’s drinking, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s any sort of addiction, and it was the same with myself with the gambling.
“That was rock bottom for me. I would just as well not be here because what am I without my family? I am nothing.”
Hartson has three children with his wife, five-year-old Lena, four-year-old Stephanie and Paige Faith, who was born in May this year.
His wife said: “I am as proud of him for recovering from being a gambling addict as I am of him recovering from cancer.”
The ex-Arsenal striker had life-saving surgery in Swansea five years ago after he was diagnosed in the summer of 2009 with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain.