I recently read Lamar Odom’s memoir Darkness to Light. If you don’t know who he is I will simply tell you that he grew up in Queens, New York, played in the NBA for a few different teams, married a Kardashian sister, and was severely addicted to illicit drugs. And I still remember when his towering 6 foot 9 inch frame slammed a shot back into my face not once, but three times during a high school basketball camp that we both attended. He was an incredible person when I got to know him for a few days back during high school. And I believe he is still incredible, and thanks to his transparency we can all learn a little bit more about addiction and the affect it can have on the addict and all of those at his or her TABLE.
While we are only SIX days apart in age, we have lived completely different lives. He made it to the NBA, while for me it was simply a pipe dream. Thanks to his talent, and his height, he was able to turn his dream at 9 years old into a reality. And the truth is, my aspiration of becoming a physician and serving others also started at 9 years of age, and I guess I turned it into a reality as well.
Unlike me, Lamar grew up in New York. His mother passed while he was young. His father was never around. And Lamar was an untouchable athlete. But like many that make it to sport’s highest levels he truly lost sight of his priorities. I hadn’t created Exceptional Every Day yet, or else I think it could have helped…at least a little.
When it came to his children, their mother, his friends and himself he could not put all the pieces together. Lamar failed just like the rest of us, except it was on a grander scale because everyone was watching. The disease of addiction caught the man that had the amazing ability to defy defenders. The same man that the great coach and general manager Pat Riley, of Laker’s fame and of Miami Heat fame, once dubbed the next Magic Johnson. Addiction once again proved that it has no boundaries.
His speed and talent were not enough to evade such an evil opponent. He ended up missing out on many of the important things. He allowed his “free will” to be taken away. But he eventually found the light…the honesty that remained in the dark for so long. After hiding his addiction, he could no longer take the cocaine-induced nosebleeds or the perpetual loss of his cognition and ability to do his daily tasks. And when the Laker’s won the championship and his children were pulled out of school to attend the parade, Lamar failed them because he couldn’t keep it together for even one day.
And he even went so far as to roll all of his dice, play all of his cards, and leave it all on the table. The 3-day stretch at a special place that most of us would consider off limits. While not exactly in Las Vegas (a little ways out) the notion of “what happens in vegas stays in vegas” became national news.
It is shocking that he survived, but it makes sense at the same time. He is an EXAMPLE; one harrowing EXAMPLE of what can happen when one loses complete sight of himself, when one gets taken over by a most horrible disease.
It is worse than cancer. I can say that because I know what cancer feels like. I would take cancer over drug addiction any day because cancer doesn’t always take your mind and your priorities away, if anything, it usually causes you to refocus on the things that actually matter.
I pray for Lamar because even though he went through a $100,000 rehab program at some posh place in San Diego, and even though his NBA days are over, his addiction is not dead. Writing his memoir did not turn it off. It continues to gnaw at him. It continues to consume him. It continues to be him.
Are you or someone you know struggling with an addiction today? If so, know that you are not alone. It’s a Process, and it takes more than one day of being clean to fight it. I was fortunate to embed myself in the Betty Ford Center Program as a medical student, learning all I could about the destruction that it causes.
If you (or someone you know) need help, then please do yourself the biggest favor ever and reach out to a trained professional in your area. There are lots of folks standing by to help.
As I always say, we are in the game of life together, and the only way to play is on the same team. Thank you for reading today…