Erik Coleman – former starting safety for the New York Jets (a major National Football League team) has a personal history with substance abuse in the family – one that eventually led him to a life of fulfilled recovery and the ability to help others who are currently where he once was. In an interview with ABC News in 2007, Coleman discussed the trauma associated with a family member in active addiction. When Coleman was only 11 he and his family were evicted from their home. His mother struggled with substance abuse issues and her addiction made it impossible for her to pay the rent and bills on time. His father was a truck driver and had substance abuse issues as well. Erik shared that he often had to look after his siblings and play the role of parent at a young age. He moved around often, living with friends and family.

In 1999 Coleman’s mother pleaded guilty to charges related to her substance abuse problem. In a heartbreaking turn of events, Coleman showed his mother his acceptance letter to Washington State University on the same day she went to prison. Coleman completed four years at Washington State before being drafted by the NFL to go and play for the Jets in New York. Around the same time, his mother got clean. Erik’s tumultuous childhood didn’t stop him from reaching for his dreams of becoming a football great and securing a spot in the NFL.

Erik Coleman and Family Addiction

Because of his first-hand experience with active addiction and just how devastating it can be to individuals and the family unit, Erik Coleman has decided to use his celebrity status as a platform to promote change. We are extremely fortunate to call Coleman our Outreach Ambassador – someone who believes in our program of recovery and stands behind it. He has seen the way our comprehensive program can change lives for the better and prevent the drug-related devastation that he experienced within his own family. In 2018, he partnered with The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYS OASAS). The point of this partnership was to help educate youth about the serious nature of drug addiction and the dangers associated with teen and youth experimentation. The campaign is called “You Can Be the Difference,” and it is predominantly geared towards opioid awareness – due to the recent spike in overdose-related deaths among teens and young adults.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers the continuously skyrocketing rates of opioid abuse a national epidemic. As of Jan. 2019, there were over 130 daily opioid-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that opioid abuse costs the U.S. roughly $79 billion every year. The economic issues of drug abuse are vast, as are the individual consequences. Opioids like heroin, prescription painkillers and fentanyl ruin lives and tear families apart. This doesn’t need to be the case – there are treatment resources available in every state at every hour of the day. If you need help overcoming a substance abuse disorder (or if someone in your family needs help) there is always help available – at Princeton Detox & Recovery Center we believe that all it really takes to get and stay sober is a little bit of willingness and the personal decision to reach out and ask for help.

The Road to Recovery

Based on his own experiences with addiction, Coleman was excited to partner up with Princeton Detox & Recovery Center and the Guardian Recovery Network (GRN) and encourage others to seek the help they need and deserve when it comes to substance dependency.

“Seeing what addiction did to my own family really opened my eyes to the widespread devastation it can cause in the lives of children and young adults,” he said. “I connected with the Princeton Detox & Recovery Center and GRN to help individuals and their families going through drug and alcohol addiction. I speak to high school kids, families, even individuals going through or who are affected by drug addiction; try to help them with resources. If they’re going through struggles at home, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You have choices.”

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The trauma that Coleman experienced during his childhood did cause him problems during his professional career, and through this he learned the extensive and lasting impact that active addiction can have on the family. He was worried about his mother and his siblings, and he struggled with low self-esteem and personal “demons.” He used to think, “I’m in the NFL, how come I’m so insecure? How come I still feel this way?” He entered therapy and did a ton of personal work on his unresolved trauma, and eventually he felt better. This is another message that Coleman works to spread – there is absolutely no shame in needing and seeking professional help.

He also explained the issues he had staying away from drugs and alcohol while playing professional sports.

“What happens in the NFL when you get an injury? Most people pop a pill and get shots before games. You do whatever you have to do to get yourself on the field, so players will get dependent on these pills. At the end of the NFL season 100% of the players are hurt. Everyone is playing through something. It’s a violent game and as long as it is, people are going to lean on medication, marijuana, or alcohol to cope,” he explained. Then he touched on the importance of reaching out. “People tend to be ashamed to admit that they are not perfect and to ask for help. Ask for help!”


Princeton Detox & Recovery Center

We understand how far-reaching and consuming the effects of addiction are, and we’re here to help in any way we can. We offer family therapy as part of our comprehensive recovery plan so that the family unit can heal simultaneously. For more information, reach out today – we’re here for you as soon as ready to seek the help you deserve.

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    We understand how far-reaching and consuming the effects of addiction are and we’re here to help in any way we can. We offer family therapy as part of our comprehensive recovery plan so that the family unit can heal simultaneously and as a whole. For more information reach out today – we’re here for you as soon as you are ready to seek the help you deserve.