Ray Lucas knows what it’s like to hit rock bottom. The studio analyst for
the show Jets
Nation on SportsNet New York
and former quarterback for the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Baltimore Ravens overcame his addiction to prescription painkillers and is now speaking publicly to help others
find recovery, given that it is a public health epidemic across the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, prescription
painkiller overdoses account for more than 15,500 deaths a year in the U.S. Drug
overdose death rates have more than tripled since 1990 in the U.S. and the increase
in opioid prescriptions in the past decade is being blamed for the surge in addictions
Lucas says he was on the verge of being one of those grim
“I tried to take 50 pills in one night so I wouldn’t wake up.
Another time I had planned that when my kids and wife went to church I would drive
off the George Washington Bridge. I hit the bottom,” he says.
Today, Lucas says he’s clean, sober, and surviving drug
addiction. And he wants others to know that there’s light at the end of the
The stigma of addiction doesn’t scare Lucas. “I’m speaking
openly about my addiction to painkillers because I received the gift of
sobriety. And if you receive a gift like that and keep it for yourself, you’re not
benefiting anyone. If I can save one person suffering in silence, then I’m
doing my job.”
Lucas’ addiction to painkillers stems from his time in the
NFL. The former QB says he’s had 14 surgeries including procedures on his back,
elbows, shoulders, and neck. And the pain associated with injuries sustained while playing (that ultimately cut his career short) and post-surgery fueled his
“I went from having one prescription for painkillers to, in
a short time, taking anywhere from 150 to 800 painkillers a month,” he says. “I
built up a tolerance and the more I took, the more my body needed to function. I
was out of control before I had a chance to understand where I was.”
That lack of control was isolating.
“I stopped shaving and taking showers. I shut myself off in a
room away from my wife and daughters. I was happy to be by myself,” he says. “I
couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I wanted to punch the guy I saw; I didn’t
understand who he was.”
Lucas says it’s tough to admit you have a problem and then to
ask someone for help. But the love and support of his family is what pulled him
from the brink of suicide and despair.
“My wife said either I go and get help or she would go with
the three kids. The reality of that hit me immediately because I wanted to be a
good dad and husband who wasn’t an addict.”
Lucas spent 42 days in a lock down facility detoxing and
getting his life back on track. And to stay on a sober path, Lucas says he
takes one day at a time instead of counting the number of days he’s been sober.
“Today I am clean and sober and that’s good enough for me. I stay in the moment
and stay aware of all of my surroundings; I don’t count days.”
He’s also become an advocate for addicts.
“Everyone needs to understand that drugs don’t care about
race, color, your job or background. Once the hooks of addiction are in you, it’s
what you do after to help yourself out,” he says.
When he completed rehab, Lucas says he wanted to know more
about addiction and learned that that the type of intense rehab he went through
might not work for everyone. “That’s why I partnered with turntohelp.com. That
site lets people who can’t go away for a month or so still seek help because anyone
can be saved and can come back from depths of suicide. No matter how bad are, you
have choices to reclaim life,” he says.
Lucas credits his wife and children with saving his life.
“That type of love and support is so important.”
And he urges loved ones of addicts to not give up.
“I am a functioning member of society and was probably off
grid for about two-and-a-half years. But having my family support me when I was struggling was
everything. Addicts like to suffer in silence and to stay in the blackness all
alone. But having people to look on and say ‘we’re here, you’re not alone’
And Lucas says he’s ‘here’ too.
“I want addicts to know I was once like you, suffering in silence.
I came out on the other end, and you can, too.”
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