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Athletes who revived their career in 2016 Olympics after battling addiction – 2: Anthony Ervin

Addiction and sports often form a dangerous combination with the dependence on any drug or alcohol threatening to ruin the career of the addicted sportspersons. It might be difficult to fight an addiction, but with right treatment it is definitely possible. And, sportspersons’ fighting spirit is even more helpful in returning to a sober lifestyle.

There are many sports personalities who overcame the misery of addiction and went on to create history. American Olympian Anthony Ervin is one such sports icon who not only won over his problem, but also became the oldest swimmer ever to clinch gold at the Olympics. The 35-year-old won the 50m freestyle event at the recently concluded Rio de Janeiro Games.

Ervin thus reclaimed the coveted medal after a span of 16 years, when he had first won the 50m freestyle title in Sydney Olympics. Moreover, he was also a part of the American team that won 4×100m freestyle gold at the 2016 Games.

Decade of indulgence in alcohol

At the age of 22 Ervin had adopted a self-destructive path by trying to experiment with psychedelic drugs and getting hooked on cigarettes, resulting in bouts of depression and subsequent suicidal tendency. He had turned to addiction to escape the pressure that stocked up due to fame and recognition. The drug addiction and alcoholism problem that lasted for 10 years exhibited his state of loneliness.

Elucidating the mental state that he suffered from during the last decade, Ervin told The Times, “I felt very alone and isolated, a man atop a mountain who couldn’t receive help from other people. I felt like they didn’t understand. That loneliness became a dark well into which I plunged deeper and deeper until I no longer recognized who I thought I was and how I was seen by other people, the value that was being posited on me through a thing such as athletic prowess. It just seemed so pointless that that seemed to be what my existence was, so I just wanted to hit reset.”

Ervin’s unbridled and continuous drinking habit culminated into suicidal thoughts. He even took an overdose of tranquilizers, hoping that the drugged effect would free him from the mental agony he faced each day. Though the sedatives did not have the desired effect, the whole act did help him to look at his life with a renewed focus.

According to Ervin, “In one way, the suicide worked. A part of me that I didn’t want any more did die, and what was left was a state of being reborn. Before, I couldn’t move, I had become chained to the idea of who I was, shackled to the point of paralysis; and afterwards I was free.”

Athletes’ stint with addiction

Ervin is not the first sportsperson to get dependent on any substance and then come out clean. One wonders what coerces them to abuse substances even when they know about their adverse effects on their health and lives. While some are unable to handle the immense pressure and fame, there are others who take it as a self-medicating measure to overcome the struggles within. Many others take it as means to treat pain or stress that results from sports injury.

There are strict guidelines in place to ban or restrict sportspersons from participating in tournaments if caught using substances. Drug abuse ruins careers as well as lives of sportspersons, so it’s necessary to address it through preventive measures, motivational techniques and awareness. Though pharmacological interventions help, the understanding that addiction will only destroy plays a crucial role in relieving athletes of their addictive habit.

Journey to recovery

Initial habit of substance use results in dependence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly six Americans succumb to alcohol poisoning each day. As per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 16.3 million adults aged 18 years or above suffered from alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2014 alone.

If you or your loved one is in the grip of an addiction, the 24/7 Recovery Helpline can help you find one of the best drug rehab centers. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online to know about various drug abuse treatment centers that would aid in freeing one from the shackles of addiction.


Read the first article of the series: Athletes who revived their career in 2016 Olympics after battling addiction – 1: Michael Phelps

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