Reports are flying in this morning that Patriots star wide-receiver Josh Gordon was leaving the team with a possible indefinite suspension looming for what has been assumed to be another failed drug test.
It comes as shocking news to many Patriots fans and has them even more concerned than they already were about their chances of making a deep playoff run again this January.
But for many New Englanders it shouldn’t come as a surprise, this story has been in the headlines many times over, just phrased in a different way.
New England has been ravaged with a fierce opiate epidemic for the better part of the past decade. Thousands have lost their lives, families have been torn apart. Even if your family hasn’t been directly affected, you could count on both hands and feet the amount of families or friends you know that were.
In 2017, 1,977 people died from opiate overdoses in just Massachusetts alone, slightly down from the 2016 total of 2,155. It’s an issue that has garnered a massive public health response and Massachusetts more than many other states has stopped ignoring the issue and has started putting more effective response measures in place. Still though, in the eyes of many it never seems to get better.
I provide you these grim details not to depress or scare you but in hopes you pause and think before judging one Josh Gordon.
Many will shame and ridicule him in the coming days for his poor decisions, wondering how in the world he could throw away a successful career in the NFL once again, just to get high. So many will think first about the effect this will have on our favorite football team before stopping to think why someone like Josh Gordon, a supremely talented athlete, could continue to throw his life away.
The reason Josh Gordon continues to fall back into drug use is the same exact reason the local kid from a wealthy New England town continues to fall back into the depths of heroin abuse.
They are both addicts. And addiction doesn’t discriminate.
If fame, money, and athletic prowess were enough to deter people from drug or alcohol addiction we certainly wouldn’t hear about the many celebrities that end up in rehab every year. I mean they even had a show on VH1 at one point named “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Just because Josh Gordon was able to hold it together for a period of time this season, it doesn’t exclude him from the constant mental battles that occur in the mind of an addict. Many addicts can hold their lives together for a period, only to have it crumble around them if they aren’t taking the steps necessary to combat their addictions.
This has been a lifelong battle for Josh Gordon. He reports abusing drugs and alcohol as young as 12 years old. He openly stated that he used to drink alcohol prior to games in College and the NFL. Using some sort of substance was the only way he could feel “normal.” A sentiment that many a drug addict or alcoholic can relate to.
Yes, it’s a shame that Josh Gordon won’t be with the Patriots for an upcoming playoff run, but I think today’s news is a shame for another major reason.
When Gordon was traded to New England in September, I was excited and skeptical at the same time. But the more I thought about it, the more it struck me that maybe this 27-year-old famous athlete could stay sober and be successful with the Patriots. And while doing so not only make an impact on the field but make a bigger impact in the New England community as a pillar of hope for others struggling with addiction. Many people love and adore Tom Brady, but can you really relate to his life of supermodels, sports cars and avocado ice cream? Certainly not. But in Josh Gordon, a life filled with addiction and the trials and tribulations that come along with it, that is a story many in New England can relate to.
It’s a shame that never came to fruition for Josh Gordon, hopeful hypotheticals involving addicts hardly ever do. But it doesn’t mean we need to bash Josh Gordon for these recent developments, if anything it has taught us another tough lesson in the seemingly never-ending battle with addiction. It’s an issue we face not just in New England but everywhere in this country.
Very rare is the story of the addict or alcoholic that gets sober on the first try, for many like Gordon it’s the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th time or more before it finally takes hold, if ever.
So again, I ask, before you judge Josh Gordon take a moment to delve into your own lives and the friends and families that have been ravaged by drug addiction or alcoholism. For many of them it wasn’t publicized on ESPN each and every time they slipped up or relapsed. And just because it wasn’t, doesn’t mean their struggles are any more or less than what Gordon may be going through.
Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter whether your catching touchdown passes from Tom Brady or you’re on the streets of Mass Ave in the throughs of heroin addiction. As so many of us already know, it can happen to any of us, please always remember that.