Utah Jazz broadcaster Alema Harrington sat down with BYU TV to discuss his opioid addiction recovery journey. Before starting his career as a broadcaster for the Utah Jazz, Alema struggled with an opioid addiction that almost took everything from him.
Today, Alema uses this experience to help others get the opioid treatment they need to get on the right track to recovery. No matter what addiction you may be facing, there’s a treatment for it.
“There’s a lot of things that happen on a basketball court or football field that I can relate to generally. But when I’m sitting across from somebody wanting to get better from a life of addiction, I know exactly what that feels like,” says Alema.
Opioid addiction is a widespread issue, but treatment for opioid addiction is something that can be especially prevalent in student athletes because sports injuries are something for which they’re commonly prescribed.
Common injuries include bruises, shin splits, muscle strains, torn ligaments, and broken bones. These injuries can keep athletes out of the game for months, and eagerness to return to the field as soon as possible can push the use of opioid pain-relieving medicine.
“Anybody that competes in college athletics will have bumps and bruises. In most cases, at least one or several surgeries along the way,” explains Alema. “I think for a lot of people, myself included, their introduction to this world of addiction happens because of an injury.”
Alema shares how his addiction started during his collegiate athletic career and his experience with opioids.
“I had an injury my freshman year at BYU, and as a freshman, I was dealing with all kinds of emotional turmoil and pain of being a, you know, this new kid on campus. Everybody’s all-state, you know, suddenly, you’re put in a position where you doubt yourself.
“You have anxiety, depression, all those things, but I had a physical injury. I’d never had a narcotic painkiller, and I still remember how I felt when those chemicals hit my bloodstream.
“The drugs were initially prescribed to treat my physical pain, but I found that it was the solution for my emotional, and even spiritual, pain.”
Unfortunately, many student-athletes fall victim to opioids for these same reasons. The pressure to perform can have a tremendous impact on mental health. Many athletes might choose to use opioids as a way to:
- Deal with physical pain
- Escape from stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems
- Replace the natural high that comes from exercising while recovering from an injury
- Soothe worries that may come with overthinking the future of their careers after a severe injury
Through his interview with BYU TV, we also get insight into Alema’s struggles and how he was able to begin overcoming his addiction.
“I first became aware of the problem for me, which was that this was addiction, far down the road after I had been using for a number of years. I thought I had a pain management problem. I didn’t think I had an addiction problem.
“But one of the moments that still comes back to me is in 2002, and I had lost my job, was losing my family, I had got kicked out of my house, I was living at my mom’s, my three kids were there to visit me, and I was trying to hold the bathroom door shut. And they were trying to get in because they knew something was wrong, but I was just trying to get another hit.
“I remember thinking like, ‘what are you doing?’ I mean, consciously, there’s a mirror right there that I’m looking at like, ‘what are you doing?’”
“This is how powerless I was over the drugs. People sometimes think, well, I have to hit rock bottom with some kind of addiction or habit that is destroying my life for me to make a change, and that’s not the case.
“We usually have two options: I can try harder or trust God more. That’s what I need; I need God. Addiction was the one thing that drove me to my knees, which is exactly where I needed to be.”
It’s a powerful thing to be able to help others get through addiction and find addiction recovery resources that can put them on the right path. Alema’s inspiring story is a reminder that no matter how lost you think you might be, there is always hope—it’s about finding what that hope means for you.
Religion, family, and personal well-being are just some of the motivators that can help someone find that hope for living a sober life. Everyone will approach this journey differently and have a different “why” when overcoming addiction.
“I’ve worked in the addiction recovery industry for a long time. Contrast that sports broadcasting with the work that I do with a client. A part of it that I would draw a similarity between the two is that it’s still live. I get to really connect with that person. And I tell my clients when I close out the group, thank you. And I mean that sincerely for what you have done for my recovery today. I’ve learned in recovery that it’s a process, and we’re going for progress, not perfection. The best that you can do is enough.”
Opioid Addiction Recovery for All at Ardu Recovery Center
No matter how hard it may seem to tackle your addiction, treatment for opioid addiction is the best place to start. If you’re ready to find hope again and overcome addiction, reach out to Ardu Recovery Center. Our Provo, Utah, facilities provide a range of services tailored to your needs because no one journey is the same. Call us at 801-872-8480 or fill out our online form and get started on your path to recovery.