HOLLADAY — Former Weber State lineman Derek Johnson sat in the parking lot of the hospital where he’d just become a father and decided that his struggle with pain would end that night.
“I probably had three or four rock bottoms,” said the former nose guard, who became addicted to prescription pain medication as a college football player. “Every time you relapse, it gets a little bit worse. ...I relapse after my daughter was born, and I was in the parking lot where she was born, and I was sitting in my car. I’d been living on the streets, doing drugs, and just in the worst state I’d ever been in. I don’t know why, but I decided, I’d die or I’d get caught by police.”
Johnson shared his story with the media Wednesday as his former coach Ron McBride and McBride's foundation have joined the fight against the opioid addiction. McBride said he sees some of his former players struggling with addiction, but that it was also listening to educators that convinced him to make the fight his own.
“We kind of fell into it,” said McBride, whose foundation has supported a number of educational related causes, including rebuilding libraries and offering grants to teachers and schools for reading programs. “The more you talk to education people, talk to principals, talk to teachers, and then deal with some of the parents, well, you see this is part of our (responsibility).”
He said meeting parents who’d lost children and teachers who were struggling with how to help their students, convinced him, and then his foundation board, to support education efforts with his annual golf tournament.
At the press conference, Jesse Boone, president of the Ron McBride Foundation, said they are partnering with public school leaders, medical professionals, law enforcement, first responders and addiction recovery teams, as well as addicts and their families, in launching a campaign they hope will bring education, awareness and resources to those on the front lines of the fight.
Boone said the foundation is partnering with Jordan, Ogden and Salt Lake Districts in offering training to teachers and administrators at a national conference later this month.
“It is our expectation that they will return to build new curricular models, strategies, and address the underlying issues related to children and youth making informed decisions regarding their health.”
Johnson said substance abuse education has to be much more detailed if it is to be effective.
“When I was in school it was the ‘Just say no’ kind of approach,” he said. “The truth is, kids are going to be offered drugs. They’re going to take them, and they’re going to make mistakes.”
The shame and stigma surrounding addiction not only leads to a lack of understanding about what drugs can do to a person’s body, mind and life, but also keeps people from seeking help or life-saving information.
Johnson said eight surgeries kept him using prescription pain medication, and then physical pain became entangled in emotional struggles.
“Nobody talked about it,” he said of his first trip to rehab in 2010. “There is so much guilt and shame around it, to identify yourself as a drug addict, there was such a big stigma, it was embarrassing, and you just wanted to hide from it.”3 comments on this story
That night, one of Johnson’s lowest points, he said he ended up being arrested. He believes it likely saved his life, despite several stints in rehab and a desperate desire to leave addiction in his past.
McBride and the foundation hope to raise awareness at the Love You Man golf tournament on June 22, and they will have extensive resources and people participating in the event that will also raise money to pay for the educators training.
For more information or to support the tournament and its efforts, visit https://theronmcbridefoundation.org/2018-love-you-man-tournament/.