Ryan Leaf, former NFL quarterback and football star, has been receiving plenty of attention from the media recently. What’s capturing the public’s attention is how similar his story is to another football player, Johnny Manziel.
Just two weeks ago, Manziel was involved in an incident with his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley. The police report indicated that Crowley alleged that Manziel assaulted her. When Leaf found out about the incident, it appeared to him to be another event in the downward spiral of substance use. And because of this, Leaf tried to contact Manziel in an effort to help.
On the Cowlishaw and Mosely show, an ESPN radio program, Leaf said that looking at Manziel’s life is like looking at his own. “It’s like holding up a mirror,” he said. Both NFL stars have a history of substance use. And because Manziel was recently let go from the NFL, it’s clear he’s headed in the wrong direction. Fortunately, unlike Leaf, Manziel is not going to prison. However, Manziel’s father told the Dallas Morning News, “I truly believe if they can’t get him help, he won’t live to see his 24th birthday.” Furthermore, Manziel’s agent ended their relationship and there’s a good chance that not only his professional life is in danger but his personal life is also in chaos.
Describing Manziel, Leaf said in the interview, “It was just an imploding chaotic version of what you don’t want to happen.” And he would know. Ryan Leaf has been to the bottom and back again. He was incarcerated twice.
About 10 years ago, Leaf was prescribed Vicodin to manage the pain from a wrist injury. He abused Vicodin for a couple of years but got clean in 2008. However, he subsequently struggled with two relapses. By 2011, Leaf was clean for 18 months, but the news of having a brain tumor combined with the pain of radiation spiraled Leaf into his Vicodin addiction again. This time, it took only four months to hit rock bottom.
In April of 2002, Leaf found himself in jail. Although it might not sound like it, it was a turning point in his life. He describes it as a moment of spirituality and humility. “I had to be humbled to that point of being on a jailhouse floor in a suicide scrub outfit,” described Leaf. Two months later, Leaf was sentenced to 7 years in prison. He was released in December 2014.
Today, Leaf is one of Transcend’s own. He devotes his time helping others who are struggling with addiction and is a vital part of Transcend Recovery Community. He’s giving back to his community and facilitating sobriety in others. It’s no wonder that he tried to reach out to Manziel. It probably felt like the natural thing to do.
In fact, Leaf models the life of a successful recovering addict – someone who knows what the addicted life is like and who doesn’t want to go back. Someone who knows the ins and outs of substance abuse but also knows the highs of sober living. Someone who has lived the pain of suicide attempts, prison, and life failures. Despite his tragedies, he seems pleased with his life – just as it is. And he’s willing to lend a hand when it appears like someone could use his help.
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