Steelers QB Roethlisberger Speaks out on Past Addictions
Ben Roethlisberger has been making headlines in recent days after speaking out and admitting he has struggled with alcohol and porn addictions over the years. (USA Today) He was using his platform to speak on his Christian faith, and in doing so acknowledged the battles that he has faced behind the scenes. What immediately stood out to me was that this is a person who is widely considered to be a top 3 NFL quarterback of his era. NFL Rookie of the Year, Pro-Bowler, 2-time Super Bowl Champion, youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, the list goes on. He is also a likely future first-ballot Hall of Famer and a beloved icon in the city of Pittsburgh. He is what many would call an American Hero and the epitome of success at his profession. Yet, he himself also acknowledges he is a flawed human being who has made his mistakes, one of them being his problems with addiction.
This speaks to me on the stigmas that are attached to addicts and alcoholics. Junkies, drunks, criminals. The types of people who are perceived to go nowhere in life, the ones who throw away their potential, drive, and ambition while burning bridges in a path of destruction. Here we have one of the most accomplished players in the NFL talking about going through the very same struggles so many people who do not have his pedigree or platform go through. I also think it speaks to our perspective as a society on addiction. If one of the most celebrated players in one of the most popular sports leagues in the world can be battling addiction, what does that say about addiction itself?
I have no knowledge of Roethlisberger’s situation other than what he addressed publicly. I do not know the specifics on how he overcame it or what kind of help he got along the way. I would guess, given that he decided to speak publicly about it, that it was not an easy road and something that he worked hard to overcome. Regardless of how Mr. Roethlisberger handled his problems with addiction, the point I am trying to make is that addiction affects a far wider range of our society than I believe is perceived by most, and sometimes the signs are not always transparent to the unsuspecting eye.
Part of the reason for this may very well be the way we view addicts and alcoholics. Aside from the criminal justice system, which is another topic altogether, treating addiction as an incurable disease while being attached with stigmas, such as all addicts being no-good junkies or alcoholics being violent drunks, probably does very little to encourage people to come out and get help with their addictions, nor does it forward positive thinking that addiction can be overcome with the proper help and attention. This is not meant to glorify the pain of addiction, as it is a very real problem for countless addicts and their families and should be treated as a very real threat to our prosperity as a society.
That said, embracing addicts and their struggles is the only way any of this will ever truly get solved. By embracing I do not mean to suggest we condone the behaviors that are driven by drug and alcohol dependency. My point is that we embrace addicts by finding them solutions rather than condemning them as people. I highly doubt Ben Roethlisberger will be booed out of the stadium when he takes the field again because he admitted to having battled addiction. Much more likely is that he will be respected and even cheered for having the courage to speak out on the topic. There are so many more, from all walks of life, who are still struggling that could use the same sort of encouragement. If you or anyone you know is seeking help, please reach out.
This content was originally published here.