I lost count of how many times I told myself that I was going to stop excuses for my drug abuse, which should tell you how much time I spent making excuses. The one I liked to use most was that it was my parents’ fault that I had a pill problem. I would obsessively trace the timeline of my painkiller dependency and always wound up at the same point of origin, which was my parents pushing me to play basketball well beyond my physical capability. It’s very easy to blame them for pushing me so hard to the point that I got hurt and started taking painkillers; but it’s not at all accurate or fair.
When I was in middle school, I showed a decent basketball aptitude. I wasn’t the next Lebron James or anything; but I could hold my own and might have even gotten the opportunity to play professionally. My parents nurtured my talents as soon as they realized what I could do, getting more and more aggressive as the stakes got higher: first high school, then varsity, then college, etc. I was practicing constantly and one season, I landed right on my back getting blocked and falling about eight feet from the net. I spent the next three weeks in a wheelchair and got oxycodone for the pain.
Long story short, I kept taking the pills past when I was supposed to and came back to basketball too early. It wasn’t long my performance on the court plummeted and everything else in my life started to unravel. I hated the fact that once basketball stopped working, everything else in my life did, too. It was like if I wasn’t playing, and playing well, I wasn’t worth anything. This just made me more stressed out and depressed and alienated me from my parents for almost a year. It killed me that I was in all this pain and was sacrificing so much of myself and the only thing anyone ever seemed to notice was when I lost.
Soon I began to buy pills from another guy on the team who got busted and blamed me for everything. I got expelled from school and started taking more pills just out sheer boredom and depression. I also started drinking a lot more than I ever had. Eventually my parents saw what my “gift” had done to me and I think it really got to them. They put me in drug rehab in Florida where I wouldn’t have to think about basketball or my grades or anything beyond my immediate future.
In treatment I learned to separate myself from basketball and that even though I could play better than a lot of people, I didn’t have to let it define me. I went back to college after a year and stayed as far away from the courts as possible. Regardless of what I told myself when I abusing oxy, it was me who started taking the pills; it was me who KEPT taking the pills; and it was me who STOPPED taking the pills.
Franklin Lakes, NJ