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Sharing the Message – Education in the Fight Against Addiction

Sports professionals help A Forever Recovery raise awareness about substance abuse.

While we continue in the fight against addiction, both inside and outside the halls of our rehabilitation center, A Forever Recovery realizes that the biggest tool we have in this battle is education. In a world where our children, teens, and young adults are constantly shown images and pop songs that glorify drug and alcohol abuse, it is natural for them to be curious and want to know more about it. As parents, teachers, and mentors, it is vital that we inform our youth about the real effects that drugs and alcohol have on a person’s life and the lives of those around them.

But, sometimes just sitting our kids down to talk with them isn’t enough. Sometimes, it is more effective to enlist the help of others, especially professional athletes, musicians, or other people that our youth look up to. A Forever Recovery often finds opportunities to reach out to find positive influences that share our vision of a healthier world and a brighter future. When kids hear the message of leading a substance-free lifestyle coming from those public figures that they hold so highly, it can have a much bigger impact.

Recently, AFR’s Jeff Breneman had the opportunity to sit and speak with a few figures from the world of professional sports – retired Toronto Raptor Jimmy King, sports journalist Rob Parker, and NFL free agent Joique Bell. AFR’s JJ Bush was able to chat with former NBA Rookie of the Year and 1990 #1 overall NBA Draft Pick Derrick Coleman. They spent their time together discussing the problems facing our society with drugs and alcohol, the factors that have led to those problems, and what we can do to fix them. These two athletes had a lot of things to share with us regarding their own personal perspectives on substance abuse.

Jimmy King, who played guard for the Toronto Raptors after his college basketball career with the University of Michigan Wolverines’ Fab Five, is now an administrator for Ecorse Public School District in Wayne County, MI, and the Head Basketball Coach at Ecorse High School. He works closely with youth every day, and he sees the real effects that peer pressure can have on younger kids. “It’s causing issues throughout the community,” he says. “You’ve got people who are not dealing with the real issues, they’re masking their feelings, and then passing those bad habits on to their peers and down to the younger children.”

King believes that parents and educators play a huge role in helping kids make good decisions and avoiding substance abuse. But we have to take it further than just talking about it. “We have to have an open discussion with law enforcement, with parents, and with administrators within the districts,” he says. “If we can all get on the same page, and not just talk about it but truly implement a plan, we can set up some kind of support so that people who don’t want to get caught up in that lifestyle can have a safe haven and can actually learn.”

NFL Alumnus Joique Bell, running back for the Lions from 2013-2016 as well as a member of the Buffalo Bills, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, and the Chicago Bears, also joined us. Also, a Detroit, MI native, Bell knows how hard economically depressed communities can struggle with crime rates and substance abuse. “It’s a national issue,” Bell says. “I think it comes from a variety of issues; depression, troubles, in reality, poverty, jobs. It comes to the point also of parents and what they are teaching their kids – the consequences of their actions and the things that these drugs can do – I think it starts at home.”

Bell was heavily influenced by his parents and the strong positive roles they had in his life, especially his father. He told us about how his father laid a strong foundation for him, and how it has also affected his role as a father to his own son, now aged 10. “I’ve never drank a sip of liquor or smoked a day in my life,” he says. “I will never forget, I was 8 years old and my father tells me ‘Son, I’ve never poisoned my body with those things’. And I said ‘Wow, I want to be like my dad’. So, when my son was 8, I did the same thing.” Like Jimmy King, Bell believes that the most effective way to fight addiction in today’s society is in the messages we give to our children, as parents, teachers, and role models.

Rob Parker is a sports analyst who has been featured on ESPN, in print, and on the radio, and is looking forward to an upcoming sports debate show on ESPN called “Undisputed”, which will also feature former NFL player Shannon Sharpe and longtime ESPN contributor Skip Bayliss. Parker has felt the effects of substance abuse personally through the struggles of a close relative. “I have a younger sister who had some issues,” he shared, “and I’ve seen a miraculous turnaround. It feels great to see her back to the person that I remember as a kid. To see her be able to bounce back tells me a lot – that it is possible, and if people are willing to get help, things can change. It’s not the end of the line. You can make a recovery.”

Derrick Coleman, who sat down with AFR’s JJ Bush, was the #1 overall draft pick for the NBA in 1990 and was named Rookie of the Year. After a 15-year career in the NBA, Coleman is now retired from professional basketball and works as a developer and entrepreneur in Detroit. He spoke about the role that pharmaceutical companies have in the state of substance abuse today.  “When we were growing up, it was always to sneak and take a drink,” Coleman remembers. “Now with the youth, you see them more taking pills – prescription medications. Being athletes, I can have a surgery and they are going to give me Oxycodone or whatever for the pain. And you can get addicted, easily.”

Like Bell and King, both Parker and Coleman believe that educating our youth and taking active and positive roles in their lives is vital to overcoming the addiction epidemic our society faces today. “I grew up in New York during some really bad times,” Parker says. “We had a baseball team of 11 boys, and if you stepped out of line, somebody’s parent would easily step in and tell you you’re out of line. I don’t know if we have that anymore.” Coleman pointed out that the modern family structure is damaged, and needs to be addressed to move forward in this fight. “When you’re talking about our kids,” he said, “our kids have so many social problems that they’re dealing with at home. So, you have to go back to the structure of the family. A lot of kids don’t have that, and that’s a huge problem in what we’re dealing with. To get kids exposed to what to do and what not to do, you have to start at an early age.

At A Forever Recovery, we are dedicated to being a truly effective force in the fight against drug abuse and alcoholism that faces our nation. Through teaming up with public figures like Jimmy King, Derrick Coleman, Rob Parker, and Joique Bell, we hope to share our message of substance-free living with more youth and to make a difference in their lives. As we strive for a safer and healthier world, we realize the importance of working together to stand up to the drug problem in our society, and to provide hope to people of all ages.

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