Ryan Leaf Talks to Teens About Addiction and Recovery

It takes courage to talk about your past and the mistakes you’ve made in life. But for Ryan Leaf, former NFL quarterback and football star, talking about those mistakes could save a person’s life, which is why he does it. In fact, because Leaf almost lost his own life to a long-time Vicodin addiction, he’s spreading the word about the dangers of substance use and the possibility of recovery.

Leaf, who is now part of the team at Transcend Recovery Community, works as Program Ambassador for a new initiative that helps to inspire students who are struggling, including teens at Corona del Mar High School. Leaf gave a talk at the high school on March 10th answering questions about his career with the NFL, falling into addiction, recovery, and what’s important to him now.

Students asked all sorts of questions of the recovering addict, including his feelings on the fact that Johnny Manziel, another NFL football player, was released by the Cleveland Browns for substance use.  It was another opportunity for Leaf to point out to the students the consequences of substance abuse as well as the denial of addiction. He shared with the students that he had reached out to Manziel but that may be all he can do. Sadly, Manziel may have to reach a bottom point before feeling ready enough to ask for help, Leaf commented to the teens in the room.

Everyone was eager to hear what Leaf had to say. And because of the strong interest in his life and experiences, Leaf was the perfect person to make these three points to the teens:

  • Substance use brings significant dangers and consequences that just aren’t worth the highs they offer (i.e., getting kicked out of the NFL or going to jail as Leaf did in 2002).
  • There is so much more to recovery than getting sober. As Leaf pointed out in his talk, it’s about learning more about yourself and becoming a lighthouse for others who have lost their way with substance use.
  • Teens and young adults need to be educated on the many risks of substance use, and by doing so, caregivers, parents, teachers, and role models can help prevent addiction and the despair that can come with it.

The talk Leaf gave at Corona del Mar High School was intriguing especially for the school’s football players. Leaf described how he used to long for Vicodin and how his high came from the competition of the sport. He described his unhealthy behaviors, his suicide attempt, and time in jail. He connected the dots between football, his addiction, and his recovery, making it clear that drugs can ruin anything, even when you have everything going for you.

With that, Leaf announced that he no longer has a longing to get high. Today, his high comes from being a part of Transcend‘s recovery community, preventing substance use in teens, and using the events in his own life to inspire young adults to reach their greatest potential.


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