I can be a very cynical person, and I've certainly been known for a snide remark or two concerning the behavior and NFL future of one Cleveland Browns quarterback, Johnny Manziel. I joked a few months back that his starting debut was eerily reminiscent of my first time attempting to surf; only a little more clumsy and less courageous (I had a better debut than Johnny Football). His was atrocious. Beyond that, the headlines this kid continued to make while out partying, being in the wrong places and doing the wrong things, time and time again, continued to make him tabloid fodder. I admit, I was part of the loud chorus of sports fans criticizing his every move.
But, all joking aside, the ESPN story that indicates Johnny has checked himself into a treatment facility (rehab) for substance abuse was, predictably, met with a wide array of internet chuckling and mockery. This is, however, the point where the laughter stops and the love and support begins for me.
And it really got me to thinking..
Most people truly don't understand the sickness of addiction or alcoholism. It is nearly impossible to accurately convey the lethal efficiency of various street substances in neutralizing severe pain; be it of the chronic physical, emotional or psychological variety. I understand it, because I've been there. I gave a significant amount of a year and a half away to the most wretched people on Earth (down on Bonnie Brae, between Wilshire and 6th). It was a long, long time ago. The pain was immense and the medicine was a balm for my tortured inner soul. Unfortunately, a lesson we reluctantly absorb as we age, is that pain and need hit the heart with electrical speed, but wisdom and grace come on slowly; after rock bottom failure, after learning new behaviors and coping mechanisms, beginning to repeating healthy patterns and a building and using a tremendous support network. It took all of these things to help me see clearly and learn to rebuild the things inside me that led me into those alleyways and apartment complexes so many years ago. It took a bunch of other sick people, like me, sitting around in the basement of a church, taking real inventory of their lives, challenging, supporting, listening to and championing one other.
I understand that Johnny Football has been a cartoonish spectacle and a monumental f*ckup. And I also understand that people don't like to hear excuses for bad behavior. They look at his talent and money and offer their anger and disgust in response. You see, for someone like you, it will never be rational. But what I'm telling you is, please, just consider yourself lucky to be free of this sickness.
And yes, I'm not denying some of what you're saying. I do realize how difficult it must be to manufacture sympathy for these celebrity trainwrecks, intent on self-destruction. hell, they don't even have to be famous. I'm sure, for most of you, it's not easy to look at some drunk, stumbling, cocky idiot and see them as a truly sick and powerless person. And for those of us (who hasn't) who have had to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict or alcoholic who will lie to you face, cheat on you or worse, it can be hard to want to forgive them, let along go out of your way to offer them help. I simply urge you to make an effort at understanding what this disease is for some of us. Try having greater compassion for the pain they've likely endured.
What Johnny Manziel did, by checking into this facility, was to take the first step in becoming a man. He made what very well could be the first great adult decision of his life. People can be cynical all they wish, but it takes tremendous courage to confront your disease/demons/sickness. It takes an even greater act for courage to ask for help and one even greater than that to learn to surrender your ego to something greater than your own selfish hungers and motivations.
Best of luck to you, Mr. Manziel. Go be everything you were meant to be. Heal Your Soul and Maximize Your Potential -- One Day At A Time, Brother.