Heroes are Eligible for Relapse, too
B. Lenz, Intervention Services
In our Country, sports are king and those involved are the people our kids look up to. But since addiction strikes equally, sometimes those heroes fall. Like the Indianapolis Coltâ€™s owner, Jim Irsay, who was recently arrested in the middle of one of his hometownâ€™s streets, in his car, just sitting there.
Well, just sitting there passed out, that is. Perhaps if he had just been stopped for weaving he might have gotten away with a ride home and a warning – given that heâ€™s a sports hero and allâ€¦ but as it was, he got arrested. Arrested not only for the obvious state of intoxication he was in, but also for all those prescription drugs found in his car. Drugs that did not match the pill bottles he had, meaning he must have gotten them on the street.
Really? One of our sports heroes?
Sadly, he suffers the same malady many of us do. It would be nice if there were something or some station in life that would keep us safe from developing an addiction to alcohol, drugs or both. But there isnâ€™t. Rich or poor, celebrity or peon, intelligent, artistic, talented or nondescript, the disease of addiction is still ruining the lives of both those addicted and of those who love them. Thereâ€™s no one formula, remedy, or behavior that can cure anyone who has it. Itâ€™s an equally opportunistic killer that has no cure – only maintenance to keep it from doing more damage. Of course, the biggest part of that maintenance is abstinence – complete abstinence from any and all mind altering substances. Once our psyches get a taste of escapism from lifeâ€™s problems in a chemical way, we always want to go there. If we switch substances, itâ€™s only a matter of time until we are overdoing that as well. Weâ€™ve lost the ability to use socially. All we know is more, more, more – even when it seems a ridiculous proposition!
The sad part for 52-year-old Irsay is that just last year he boasted 15 years of sobriety! You would think that by then one would have it down, but we know better. No one is safe.
Irsay developed an addiction to prescription painkillers the same way many do, physician-prescribed for a physical condition. Once he tipped into that, his mind remembered that wonderful escapism. Add some bad news, like his wife filing for divorce, and we have conditions fertile for another round of self-punishment. The addiction always wins if we arenâ€™t vigilant. Others may take or leave prescription medications, but for those of us who have crossed the line, that is a dubious option.
Iâ€™m not suggesting that one suffer intolerable pain out of fear of awakening an addiction, but there are measures we can take to keep it from blossoming into another nightmare, if we know what they are. Maybe the kind of nightmare Irsay found himself in earlier this month. He had to spend the night in jail, since he couldnâ€™t be released until he sobered up. The humiliation he must have felt while being dragged through the media probably was enough for him to get help again, but maybe not. I donâ€™t know if owners are subject to the same regulations as players, but I would guess heâ€™s paying for his indiscretion somehow.
Whatâ€™s nearly impossible for us and others to understand about addiction is that what we are addicted to, over time, becomes part of our bodyâ€™s survival needs. Not wants anymore – needs. Thatâ€™s why willpower is so ineffective when it comes to knocking it off or keeping control. Addiction resides in the survival part of our brains, where logic or willpower have no influence. To illustrate, I always suggest imagining a way to will away hunger. If you havenâ€™t eaten, you canâ€™t – at least not forever! The hungrier one gets, the more he will desperately try to get food. It is the same for addiction. Our bodies want their â€œfoodâ€ even though itâ€™s really toxic at the levels we consume. When that compulsion is awakened, we are in trouble, even before we know weâ€™re in trouble.
How will Irsay address his problem? Weâ€™ll find out soon enough, Iâ€™m sure. The media is merciless to public figures.
Maybe heâ€˜s detoxing in rehab. I always hope for everyone who has this disease to seek help. I doubt that Irsay would be the Coltâ€™s owner if he were in active addiction, so I do believe he was sober for the time he claimed. But itâ€™s also a significant lesson for me, and all of us addict/alcoholics, that we are vulnerable to relapse if we let our guard down and donâ€™t practice a program of recovery. We can relapse in flush times and in hard times. We can relapse over feeling too good or too miserable. For us, when the mind wants to scream to a stop and empty itself of those pesky thoughts and worries, we are in danger.
Irsay can truly prove himself a hero by doing the right thing and seeking treatment one more time. Then he can be a great example to all of us -showing how we pick ourselves back up and do the right thing once again. Relapse is a sad fact that happens for us, but it doesnâ€™t have to be the end of the line. Instead, how about a new start? How about as an example of kicking our egos to the side and choosing life once again. Choosing to do the embarrassing, but right thing, once again. If he can start again, so can any of us. We only have to face our families, friends and co-workers. Heâ€™s gotta face the inquiring minds of the nation!
Iâ€™m betting heâ€™s working on it as I write.