What you deny or ignore, you delay. What you accept and face, you conquer.
Fans would be surprised to know how much of a drug culture exists behind the scenes in the pro football.
In the 1980s, it was out of control. Without much thought, I found myself regularly abusing alcohol and cocaine. Despite the partying, I was looking pretty good on the field and my lifestyle was still hidden from the public.
However, in the summer of 1990, cocaine caused me to fail my third drug test. Buddy Ryan, the coach of the Eagles at the time, had enough. I was released from the team after just three seasons. To make matters worse, word was starting to get out. I was becoming branded as a problem player before I even wanted to admit the problem to myself. For too many young athletes, this is where their story takes a terrible downward spiral.
If it wasn’t for the Minnesota Vikings, drugs and alcoholism would have ended my career too.
My new team invested so much in me. I owe everything to the Vikings. Though being dropped from the Eagles was a harsh wake-up call, getting and staying sober was hard. I struggled even with plenty of help and motivation to get my life together.
Ultimately, the Vikings got me to the right people — like the people at Ambrosia — who taught me how to live the rest of my life. I didn’t have to be a prisoner to the things that held me back before. I could finally tap into my athletic ability and give it 100 percent. My lifestyle completely changed to focus on my workouts and training.
Because of this life-changing shift, I was able to accomplish so many of the dreams that I had ever since I was a little boy.
Being in recovery allowed me to play in the Pro Bowl for eight consecutive seasons, retire with more than 1,000 career catches and, ultimately, make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I can say with absolute certainty that I would have never achieved any of this without my sobriety.
As proud as I am of my accomplishments as a wide receiver, I am even more proud to have been named NFL’s Man of the Year. I feel so passionate about preventing addiction and helping those already struggling. I work with a variety of charities to get underprivileged kids to understand the importance of staying in school and away from the party scene. For those already caught up in drugs and alcohol, there is hope. I know firsthand that everyone possesses the inner strength to escape the iron grip of addiction.
To save lives, we need to take the stigma out of addiction.
Through my active involvement in the recovery community, I see too many people not getting the help they need because of shame. As a society, we need to put to rest the idea that being an alcoholic or a drug addict is something to be embarrassed about. The reality is that addiction is a disease. It is all around us. Addiction is not a crime, and it is not a choice.
If my story can inspire even one person to seek help and turn their life around, then I need to keep telling it. I’m partnered with Ambrosia’s drug rehab Florida and drug rehab California Not just for pro players, but for over 10K people across the country and their families. There is hope. You just have to call.