New York Jets backup quarterback Erik Ainge, 24, suffers from bipolar disease and drug addiction. In an attempt to try and raise awareness of addiction and mental illness, Ainge is now sharing his story with the public.
According to ESPN.com, Ainge has been sober since July 17, the longest period of sobriety since he was 11.
"I had to get help before I died," Ainge wrote in his own words for ESPN.
Ainge is a professional athlete who lost control of his life at a young age. Ainge, the nephew of former basketball star and current Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, was using drugs before his teenage years even began. The problem escalated from marijuana and alcohol, to prescription medications and eventually to cocaine and heroin.
"I made a lot of poor life decisions," Ainge says.
In his 24 years of life he has been through multiple overdoses, drunk driving incidents, stints in rehab and relapses.
By his senior season at Tennessee, Ainge was fully addicted to painkillers as the Volunteers' starting quarterback before being drafted by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. Ainge wanted to live up to his family name, but his actions can best be described by the large tattoo on his back which he has no memory of getting: "Crazy White Boy."
When asked what he thought would have happened if he had not gone to rehab, Ainge responded that he would "either be dead or in prison. I was on a one-way street to hell basically. … I don't know exactly where I'd be, but it wouldn't be pretty."
Ainge is hopeful for the future. His detailed account of his addiction struggles, including how he dealt with being a professional player in the NFL, is worth the read.
"The reason I decided to speak so openly about this is because I want to bring awareness to mental health and the disease of addiction. Kids and athletes need to know it's OK to ask for help and to talk to somebody about what's going on in their lives. I was afraid to talk before, but through my NA program and God, I'm not afraid to ask for help or talk openly anymore."