Former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas is a recovering addict, and today he cherishes the chance to open his eyes each morning. According to CBS Local New York, Lucas once thought dying seemed a lot easier than living.
Ray Lucas said, "I live day by day and one day at a time. I still have a lot of pain that I deal with, but I relish in the fact that sometimes you've got to walk through heaven to get to hell." To him, heaven is being the husband he knew he wasn't, as well as being a father to his three daughters. Lucas said, "I'm living a dream, now and it's a far cry from where I was before."
Thirty-nine-year-old Lucas struggled with an addiction to prescription painkillers. He shares his story, as a cautionary tale, letting people know they can get their lives back.
Several years ago, Lucas was a popular quarterback, who had played for the Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, and Ravens during his seven-year NFL career. In retirement, he became an Emmy award-winning studio analyst.
But, he held a dark secret that was destroying his life. After suffering neck injuries playing football, he became addicted to prescription painkillers. He was popping about 800 pills a month. He said, "When I was going through the throes of addiction, I would pass by mirrors and didn't know who I was looking at. It was pretty tough to look at yourself in the mirror, especially when you wanted to punch the guy you were looking at."
He became depressed, harboring suicidal thoughts. He told HBO's "Real Sports" he tried to end it all by planning to drive his car off the George Washington Bridge. He said, "That's the public version, but there were many other times where I tried to do it myself by taking 50 pills a night and praying that I wouldn't wake up because life wasn't worth living. I wasn't living. I was killing myself from the inside."
Ray Lucas also said, "I don't think the NFL is turning out addicts. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that when you have prolonged use of a certain narcotic, your tolerance level goes way through the roof, and when you need medication, it's going to take 10 times more pills than a normal human being needs."
He claimed, "For two years, I was in a black hole. I was in an abyss. It was like being in a hole and people reaching out their hands and you're trying to reach them, but you're an inch away and you can't grab it. Every day, that hole gets deeper and deeper and that arm you're looking to grab gets farther and farther away where you just don't care about life anymore."
Lucas grew distant from his family in his addiction, but they never gave up hope. He said, "I was blessed." The first step of Lucas's recovery was when he sought out Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments (PAST). The New Jersey medical group performed neck surgery on him in 2010, and a few months later he headed to rehab in West Palm Beach, where he chronicled the experience on Facebook while gaining thousands of supportive fans.
Lucas recalls "During the first five days of detox, I wished I had driven off the George Washington Bridge. That was hell that I can't even put into words, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy." He finally returned home and to his television job. He still has bad days, but refuses to give into the temptation to use. He added, "This disease is cunning. I'd be lying to you if I told you that if I have a bad day my mind doesn't wander and say, 'Hey, listen, man. You can take two. You'll be OK.' "
He stops those thoughts by swimming, or getting a massage. He also talks to his wife and kids when he needs support. He is happy with his life, these days.
Image courtesy of Rick Stewart/Allsport.