I played in the NFL for 10 years, was awarded NFL Man of the Year, and made it to the Pro Bowl. At 6’4” and 275 pounds of muscle, I can be a pretty tough guy.

As a center, my job was to stop the biggest, hairiest, and scariest guys from reaching my quarterback. But I wasn’t tough enough to beat my addiction to benzos and opiates on my own. Drugs brought me to my knees, robbed me of my family, and cost me multiple homes. But for the grace of God and recovery, my addiction would have claimed my life.

When I speak about recovery across the country, people want to know what it takes to beat an addiction. I tell them, “You have to become a warrior.”

Here’s what a warrior for recovery does differently:

  1. A warrior for recovery takes on the desperation of a drowning man.

When I was 8 years old, I fell off a paddleboat and got trapped underneath. I screamed, but the water muted my voice to all ears but my own. Eventually, I got free and shot above the surface to gasp for big gulps of air. When you’re drowning, you don’t care how cool you look. You either breathe, or you die.

That’s how I entered recovery. I fell out of the passenger side of the car that brought me to treatment, and I crawled the next 40 feet on my face through the door.

Desperation takes you to a new, unpleasant reality: if I could have done it on my own, I would have.

I needed help, and I didn’t care that television cameras were rolling. I was not about to quit living and give up on myself. The warrior in me was going to stand up to my addiction…even if it meant I had to crawl at first.

  1. A warrior for recovery follows the playbook of a winning team.

From when I started playing football until my last game, a coach would hand me a playbook and tell me to memorize the plays. Standing up to my addiction required a new playbook, one that taught me how to think, act, and live without drugs calling the shots.

Winning a football game takes talented, committed players. But the difference between the most successful players and those who never set foot on a pro field isn’t just about raw skill. The lasting players follow the playbook given to them by the coaches who are experts at the game and the opposition.

Today, I am part of a winning team at Transformations Treatment Center. And that team creates customized playbooks for every person who walks through their door.

  1. A warrior for recovery surrounds himself with the best coaches.

In football, I learned something from each coach. Some motivated me with encouragement; others inspired me by chewing me out. I ate up everything my coaches threw at me, when I trusted that the coach cared about making me a better player and helping the team win more games.

Want to be a better football player? Surround yourself with those who know more and play better than you do. Want to be a warrior against your addiction? Stay in the company of those who know more and have deeper recovery than you do. I found coaches, mentors, and ultimately sponsors who had what I needed.

  1. A warrior for recovery stays accountable to his community.

 In football, I wasn’t just accountable to my coaches. My teammates also held me accountable. Why? They wanted me to play well, so we could ALL win. The fans held me accountable. I worked to make them proud. And my father, my hero—the man who served as my first and favorite coach—held me accountable and gave me a play-by-play review of my performance until the day he died.

Lost in addiction, I played the part of a coward, often sneaking around in dark places to get my fix. But a warrior let’s actions speak more loudly than words and is willing to be held accountable. Warriors don’t hide; they live out loud and readily accept feedback—even criticism—if it helps them heal and grow.

  1. A warrior for recovery stays humble and serves others.

After I left treatment, I still had a lot to learn. So I returned to the treatment center  I graduated from, and I walked the grounds picking up cigarette butts. They didn’t pay me or ask me to do it. I WANTED to be there. I wanted to give back.

By staying nearby and picking up those butts (and by the way, I never smoked!), I still had the opportunity to benefit from the playbook they taught me. I was still in the company of strong coaches and mentors. I had a village of people looking me in the eyes and holding me accountable.

As another added bonus, when I got busy picking up butts, guess what I wasn’t thinking about? That’s right. I wasn’t thinking about using drugs. Instead, my heart turned from taking to giving, from using to serving.

How will you be a warrior for your own recovery?