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Off Center: Addiction Recovery and Redemption in Professional Football

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Daniel Litwin:

Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of vital spark, a spark biomedical podcast. I'm your host, Daniel. Litwin the voice of B2B and folks. Thanks for joining us on another episode of the podcast. As we continue to explore major trends, themes, technologies, and important life changing stories in addiction treatment. As we explore today's journey of recovery and highlight one guest, who's been through a very unique and inspiring journey toward finding his path to recovery. I'd like to make sure that you've got all of the spark biomedical content. You need to feel fully caught up on what we've talked about in the past, and also access some of our supplemental resources. So make sure you're heading to our website, spark biomedical.com again, that spark biomedical.com for more information on our solutions, our services, also some research, but of course also episodes of the podcast and other articles, videos, blogs, and more, you can also subscribe to the podcast on apple podcasts and Spotify.

Daniel Litwin:

So just hit that subscribe button and you'll have a full catalog of previous conversations plus notifications. When we drop new episodes on today's episode of the podcast, we're gonna be sitting down with a man who went from NFL professional to business owner and esteemed author. Now that alone is already a pretty engaging journey, right? A path already full of inspiring, incredible, and moving stories to share with the world. But on this path, our guest today faced a major life altering and almost life ending detour, and that would be opioid addiction. So our conversation today is going to walk through the life and the journey of this NFL center to understand how our NFL center got off center, how he overcame addiction and what he learned from his Ernie to better understand what addiction, recovery and redemption looks like in the world of professional football and more generally professional sports. So I'd like to welcome our guest. Let's give a little round of applause to Mr. Randy Grimes. He's a former NFL center for the Tampa bay. BCCA, he's a 10 year veteran with the team and he's founder of pro a athletes in recovery, Randy. Great to have you on, man. How are you doing?

Randy Grimes:

Thank you. I'm doing great. Thanks for having me on what an honor.

Daniel Litwin:

Yeah, it's a real pleasure getting you on the show. Thank you again for joining us and taking the time to tell your story because it's not only incredibly unique and there's a lot that the world of a D treatment and recovery can learn from your journey and, and your story. But it's also a relatively common issue too. I mean, your story, I think can be felt and echoed in not only the lives of other professional athletes, but other professionals at large, who feel the pressures of their work, get to them and push them to the point where they get addicted to opioids and then struggle to find a path to recovery and a path to peace. So again, thank you so much for your story today because I think it's gonna be really insightful and help offer some great strategies and a core ethos of how we should approach addiction treatment. At large. First thing I wanna do though, is lighten things up a bit and talk about your career in the NFL. So you again, played center for the Buccaneers from 1983 to 1992, almost 10 full years. So how did the weight of the game, the spotlight of the big stage, the thrill of the plays, how did all of this shape your life and your day to day? What was it like to really be in the thick of it?

Randy Grimes:

Football just came easy for me. I'm from a small east Texas town, right there, pretty close to where you are, Tyler born and raised there and, you know, football wasn't religion, religion was religion, but it was a close sex, gotten everything kind of centered around Friday night lights and, you know, being between those bleachers. And I had a brother who played, who was a couple, couple years older than me. And he went off to Southern Arkansas and played. So he was a great tied in too, but football was, you know, the, the, the center of our, of our focus and, and our family. And, you know, it was just something that came easy for me. And I had the opportunity to go play anywhere in the Southwest conference that I wanted to. It's a big 12 now, but it used to be in the Southwest conference.

Randy Grimes:

And, you know, I chose to go to Baylor. I wanted to play for the great grant TAF. I wanted to be where my sister was. She was already in school there. So, and again, Daniel had a great career in college. Football came easy. You know, I met my wife on the very first day, my freshman year at Baylor. We got married after our junior year. Wow. And, you know, she was going to teach, I was going to coach. We were gonna live that all American dream, you know, but you know, the Scouts started coming around and look at the, when I was sophomore, when I was a junior, I started noticing that, you know, I, I can make a living out of playing a kid's game. And so I really kinda ramped up my game and doing all the extra work. And, and I realized that, you know, I could take this to the next level and make a living on it.

Randy Grimes:

And sure enough, you know, I had a great senior year at Baylor. Again, football came easy and I was drafted in the second round by the box. You know, I was the 45th player selected in the 83 draft. I was the second center taken behind Dave Remington and, you know, life was good. We packed up everything. We owned in a little hall in Waco, Texas, and, and took off out it 10 east to Tampa, Florida to start our, to start our lives together, our families and my career in pro football. And, you know, to me, it wasn't like really going to the next big stage. It was just about being around bigger, stronger, faster meaner athletes. Yep. You know, and, and yeah, that is a step up. But, you know, I was already around those kind of guys playing at the level Southwest conference football that we were playing at the time.

Randy Grimes:

And, you know, it was the one thing I remember learning though, when I got there was that football was no longer a game. It was now a job. You know, it was a way to feed my family. It was a way to make more money. It was a, it was a way to continue doing what I loved and, and getting paid for it. So there were, there was a lot of changes there, but most of 'em were, you know, up here, not as much physically. I mean, yeah. I had to get bigger. I had to get stronger. I had to get meaner. I had to get everything to keep up with the, with the level of the game at that point. But at that, that wasn't a problem.

Daniel Litwin:

Yeah. I mean that, that journey alone must have been really validating. I mean, being the second center chosen right in the top 50 people chosen during the draft, that's huge, you know, you were a desirable winning player, you had the drive and I love that. What drew you to that next step was also just getting deeper into the game and wanting to be around other players and other professionals who took it just as seriously as you wanted to take it. And that's, you know, that's an energy that's really infectious. Now on the flip side of that, obviously our conversation today is on addiction and the journey to recovery, I'm curious was opioid addiction, something that the professional sports world was already struggling with at this time. Was it on anyone's radar, as you were making your way through the pro sports world?

Randy Grimes:

You know, it certainly wasn't on anybody's radar. Cause back then you did what you had to, to stay in a game. You know, I remember the first conversation I ever had with anybody with, with a real pro somebody that I'd been watching on TV for years was Leroy Selman. I had a locker right next to him, my rookie year. And the first thing I learned from Leroy's, what I said a minute ago is that football was no longer a game. It was now a job. But the second thing I learned from Lee, Roy was say, you do whatever you have to, to stay out on that field, because if you're not out there in your position, somebody else was going to be, and you do not wanna let that happen. And you also don't want to get a reputation of always being on the injury report, always waiting in line to see the doctor, always back in the training room, being worked on, you know, always missing practice.

Randy Grimes:

You don't want to get that reputation because that was a reputation you were never gonna get away from in what was sure to be a short NFL career. So, you know, I'm sure Leroy didn't mean taking handfuls of pain pills every day to practice through the injuries, practice through the, the, the, the little Knicks and pains and bruises that you have. Cause cuz Daniel, I played back in an era where we used to beat the heck out of each other all week long. You know, that was the mentality of coaching back then, if you don't practice hard, you're not gonna play hard. So we would beat the heck out of each other all week and hope, hope there was enough lift in the tank to play on Sunday. But because of that, because of that mentality, because of that coaching strategy, we had a lot of injuries that were sustained just in practice.

Randy Grimes:

And, and it always blew me away that coaches had that, that idea that, you know, if you don't practice hard, I could have play hard. At that point. We were all professionals. We were all good or we wouldn't have been there. And, but that was the way it was. That's the way, you know, bear Bryant. He was successful doing that, that junction boy mentality. And, and that's how coaches coach back then. So it was a different game back then, but you know, I was that guy, we willing to do whatever I had to, to stay out on the field. And that was taking handfuls of pain pills every day and handfuls of sleeping pills at night to get to sleep through the thro and pain. And you know, I justified it so easy. You know, I was getting it from team doctors. I was getting it from team trainers. I was getting pills from team S you know, we had an open drug safe and the middle of our training room. So if I didn't get it from an individual, I could just go get it myself. Wow. And that's, you know, I, I looked at it more like a necessary evil than what it really was, was a full blown addiction.

Daniel Litwin:

Right. Yeah. I, I was about to ask what the ecosystem was like, that was validating this trend, because like you just mentioned, there's a lot of layers, right? There's the player sort of internalizing this mentality themselves, but then there's also a whole structure of coaches sort of encouraging the mentality. Like you said, even team doctors. So walk us through that dynamic. Right. I mean, what was it like to over that as an individual player? Did you feel like most of the pressure was something you self-imposed or, you know, was this a sort of a conditioning response right? Over the years, it just became baked in, this is how you play the game. And there's a whole ecosystem supporting me in approaching my game this way. Right. What, walk us through what that dynamic was like.

Randy Grimes:

Well, I think it's more like a, it's a warrior mentality and it's kind of the way that we were raised as guys, as, as men, you know, by our fathers, because that's how they were raised. You know, where that old mentality, where big boys don't cry or you, you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you get back in the hall level or, or you suffer in silence. You know, you, you man up and you get through this. I think it's that warrior mentality that we bring to a lot of things that we do, not just our sports, but everything else. And, you know, there was a lot of pressure, not only then, but it still exists today. You know, from team team owners and head coaches on the team, medical staff to get players back out on the field, as quick as possible. There's a lot of pressure from, from management, you know, from general manage and even your position coach to get a guy back out on the field as quick as possible, but nobody puts more pressure on themselves to get back out there than the player themselves. Do you know? Because you don't want somebody else out there doing good in your position because that can only mean one thing you know, is that they're either gonna beat you out and you're gonna be second team or you're gonna get traded.

Daniel Litwin:

Yeah. I mean, it's a, it's a cutthroat industry, especially cuz you gotta be ready to perform every Sunday. Right. And that's, that's a good point. If you get known as the player, that's always having to sit out the game because they're injured, you know, it's kind of like, well, okay, thanks. But no thanks. Right. I'm just gonna find someone who can make it happen. So I, I can see how that can create so many pressures and a culture where you validate to yourself, this is just how it's gotta be. If like you said, I want to keep this job cuz it becomes not just a game more, but a job, your livelihood, your career, what feeds you? What feeds the family? What builds, you know, wealth for your family like that, all those pressures amount to a lot of having to feel like, okay, I guess I just gotta suck this up. Right. So that led to a culture, like you said, where you sort of justified opioids to make it through the game, as well as sleeping pills to make it through the pain at night. When did you first begin to notice that there was a potential addiction here? Right. And how did that begin to impact your life on and off the field?

Randy Grimes:

Well, of course I hit it from my family very well because I mean, it was, it was not unusual for me to come home from practice or from a game or anything else and just crash on the couch after practice it in 110 degree heat all day and beating the heck out of our teammates all day, it was not uncommon to do that. So that was not a red flag, but the last two years of my career progressed to the, that necessary evil that I was calling it, which was really a full blown addiction progressed to the point to where I was playing complete games and blackouts. You know, I was taking so many opiates, so many benzodiazepines before games that, you know, I was playing 60, 70, 80 offensive snaps at center and, and was the center. I was the captain of the offensive line. I was the guy getting everybody going in the right direction.

Randy Grimes:

I was calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, changing, blocking schemes, listening for the quarterback to call audible, having to be prepared, to do whatever at, on a split second. And I was doing all of this in a blackout because I would be home at night late, you know, 11, 12 o'clock at night after one o'clock football game that I'd played that afternoon, somewhere in the country or at home. And I would start are kind of coming around a little bit and I'd be all beat up and scratched up and bruised up and everything that you are dehydrated, everything that you are after an NFL football game. And I didn't remember any of it. And I knew then that, you know, this thing had, had gotten outta control, but you know, I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop. You know, I had my first seizure as a result of benzo withdrawal the year that I, my last year out on the beach, but nobody knew at the time what it was from.

Randy Grimes:

I'd had some, some shoulder surgery. So we, we kind of thought that that maybe had something to do with it, the surgery, but really it was from withdrawal, all of benzo. So I knew that things were getting out of control, but you know, Daniel in the, in the eight and a half years that this was going on, you know, not once did anybody ever come up to me and say, Randy, why are you slurring your words? Or Randy, why are you nodding off in meetings or Randy, why are you late to practice every or Randy, why are you the last to leave the building every night and pills are missing out the drug site. Nobody ever asked me those questions because I was always playing good.

Daniel Litwin:

Well, that, that feels like it highlights an important dynamic that we have to unpack there. It sounds like then the priority was on your game performance. Did you that you and other, you know, colleagues in the sport who were dealing with this challenge, did it usually not affect their gameplay in any way that would raise red flags? Or was it that just the red flags weren't being looked for? What was that dynamic? I

Randy Grimes:

Think that, you know, like I said, that dynamic of, you know, if I was playing good, if, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, you know, and look the other way. And you know, I don't know if you've ever seen the movie north Alice 40, but it was kind of that culture where you inject whatever you have to, you, you swallow whatever you have to and get out there and, and be that all pro to, to get that next big contract, to feed your family. You know, you do that because you know, the, the, the letters of the NFL stand for not for long. So you have to, you've gotta get it while you can. And, you know, I was that guy willing to do it. I wanted to be that best player. I'm wanted to be that next, all pro I wanted that next contract.

Daniel Litwin:

Let's talk about, I guess, an even wider angle, how some of the perceptions around addiction shaped your journey to finding help, right? As you were dealing with this. And when you really started to notice, this is a, you know, full blown addiction that has gotten out of hand is impacting my, my game, my personal life, et cetera. How did some of the perceptions or some of the stereotypical notions around addiction impact your ability to seek help to, you know, come to terms with it yourself and begin that recovery journey? What were some of those barriers?

Randy Grimes:

Well, guilt and shame. Yeah. You know, the fact that, you know, I can remember laying in the floor of a vacant house with no utilities. You know, my I'd had a very good friend die that went, that I played with in 10 Napa bay named Tom McKay played right next to me for many years that he was doing the exact same thing I was doing. That was self-medicating his injuries he got while he played with the bucks. And one morning he just didn't wake up. You know, my daughter wouldn't let me come around my first grandchild, cuz I wasn't fit to be around her first baby. My wife realized she was loving me to death and she could and sit by him and watch that anymore. And I, and I, we ID lost another house as a result of my addiction and I was laying in the floor of that vacant house and I can remember thinking, wow, you know, I'm a, I'm a, a college all American.

Randy Grimes:

I'm a, I'm a, I'm a pro bowl or I'm a former second pick with Anthony. Buckers, you know, I was in 1988 NFL man of the year. I've got a, I, I married my cheerleader dream wife from Baylor, you know, I've got two great kids and here I am laying in the floor of this vacant house with no money, no job, no car and really no house. And, and so I, I can remember laying in the floor and thinking, that's what it's come to. You know, all this years of abuse has brought me down to this point. And so there was a lot of guilt and shame there, there was a lot of, of denial that I needed help. You know, I always thought I could keep it under control. It was just a matter matter of, of, of getting, getting it under control. You know?

Randy Grimes:

So, and, and also, you know, back then there wasn't a lot of resources for former players. I mean, there was nobody talking about substance abuse back then or mental health issues, you know, back then this was 2009 or really that whole decade before 2009, there was nobody with having these kind of conversations like the guys are now. And so I didn't know who to talk to, who to call where to go. My wife didn't know who to talk to, who to call where to go and the, but I can, I can definitely remember that shame and that guilt. And the fact that I, I thought I was the only former NFL player out there that was struggling with this. And because of that, you know, it took me a long time to put my hand up and ask for help.

Daniel Litwin:

And I wanna bring the conversation back to, to, you know, what you mentioned earlier that your journey through sports was defined early. It was something you were good at, something that came easy. And there's a culture that, you know, I think gets define early that dominoes into potential issues like opioid addiction, youth sports builds habits, it builds mentality. And I would say that there's probably, you know, a, a general sense of you gotta do what you gotta do to grind through the, and yes, this is fun, but if you wanna win, you gotta buckle down and you gotta make it happen. And you know, there's good aspects to that sort of mentality, but there's clearly also negative side effects. And you mentioned it, you had a traditional path through youth collegiate sports, you played for Baylor, you know, I'm curious, looking back on those early days, what sort of lessons do you think we can apply to youth sports, high school, even college sports to avoid ingraining this mentality of toughing through the pain at the expense of long term wellbeing? Like how do we center that a little earlier into the sports culture to make change rather than feel like you gotta reprogram when you enter the pro sports world?

Randy Grimes:

Well, I think we should emphasize the fact that big boys do cry and that it's okay to not be okay. And we get that message out to everybody that it makes it easier for them to raise their hand. It makes it easier for them to fight through the stigma that's associated with addiction or mental health issues. I think we could do a better job at a younger age of do an assessments so we can identify, you know, any potential problems that somebody might have. I think we need to do a better job of educating, not only our, our coaching staffs out there, but also our teachers, our counselors. I think we need to do a better job of education throughout the, the whole industry team, the, the, the executive staffs. You know, I think everybody, I mean, this is a, a, this is a disease that affects every community and it affects every person in every community.

Randy Grimes:

You know, there's not a place that I don't go and speak and I ask people to raise their hands if they've been affect by addiction in any way. And every hand goes up and listen, this is so much more about, for me, it started off about pain and practicing through and playing through injuries. But Daniel, I gotta tell you, you know, when I left the game, when I retired in 1992, you know, if, if the, it became more, yeah, the injuries just kept getting worse and the addiction just kept getting worse. Cause I needed more and more pills, but it became so much, it, it became more about numbing up to the fact that I didn't have that uniform anymore, that I didn't have that identity anymore, that I didn't have that playbook to look at anymore. When I, when I was not Randy, Grims the football player anymore, then those opiates kind of took over that feeling. And two, and you know, I struggled with that for many years. Yeah. I still had the injuries and I had convinced myself that I needed to take pills every day, but it was more about numbing up the fact that I was not Randy Grimes, the football player anymore, and that loss of identity really, really stung for a long time.

Daniel Litwin:

And that's another curious dynamic, you know, the, the fact that personal identity is so tied to the sports world. And this is, you know, this is true of basically any career, but it, I think it's really acute in sports. You see it in professional wrestling to, you know, you devote yourself wholeheartedly to this sport. And then as you take on the injuries, the toll of the game, and then that career ends a lot of times it's left with a big question, mark, what's next. Right? And battling that while also battling an opioid addiction is this, you know, snake eating its own tail, right? It's a, it's a positive feedback loop. The lack of identity feeds the addiction. The addiction feeds the lack of identity, right? What do you think the larger professional football world should do to tackle that identity issue too? Cuz that's a tougher one and to come up with a solution for it, it's a little more, you know, high level, it's a little bit more about sort of the, the culture of the game. What are your thoughts there?

Randy Grimes:

Well, you know, I always thought I was prepared for it. You know, I always thought I was ready to have my last game, but until it really happens, you know, you, you don't don't know how you're gonna react a and this isn't just for athletes, you know, I'm talking about, this is for veterans. This is for first responders. This for this is for that, that executive, that retires and all of a sudden starts swiveling his thumb. And, and retirement's not what he thought it was. You know, this is, this is that family that has a broken home. And you know, we as Americans just don't transition. Well, we don't do good with, with, with change. And that the, the main thing though, that I work with athletes now with other than substance abuse and their mental health issues is that transitional trauma. That's what I call it, transitional trauma because we don't do good when we don't have that uniform anymore.

Randy Grimes:

So we could do a better job of preparing guys to leave the game. You know, we could start earlier, we could start finding out what guys are good at, what they want to do with the rest of their lives. You know, what interests them start using the off seasons, you know, back in the day. And this was way back before even I, I came in the league, but you know, they didn't make enough money in pro football work. So guys had to have a second job and, and they had to work during the off season. And you know, you don't hear about these struggles that current current players are having because back then those guys were already working in the outside world half of the year. And then all of a sudden the salaries got to be what they are in the NFL. Obviously guys didn't have to work in the off season.

Randy Grimes:

So they never developed a skill or a trade, or they never really found out what their passion is. And you know, that was even in my era, you know, we were, we were making enough during the season that we didn't have to work in the off season. We should have, we should have, we should have figured out what we wanted to do the rest of our lives and start haunting that craft even while we played. But that's, that's something that the N NFL could do better. That's something that the players association could take charge of and do better. And, and I think they are now, they're trying different things. They're, they're, they're having job fairs. You know, they're having trainings, they're having different seminars and stuff for guys that are actively plan and trying to find out what their interests are and where they want to go after football and preparing them for that now.

Daniel Litwin:

Yeah. And that's a major culture shift and it's also an infrastructure shift. You know, the, the sport world itself has to bake that into the process of taking on a pro athlete, but early building those blocks so that there is a path already laid after that last game, Hey, we've already set you up for success. And it just, I think, keeps people focused and it's gonna take really the whole industry to mobilize, to make that happen. So hopefully,

Randy Grimes:

Hopefully

Daniel Litwin:

We see the industry push in that direction. And it sounds like you're doing a lot on your own too. And, and through the work you're doing with other professional athletes to change that cultural narrative, which is really exciting stuff. And we're gonna get to that here in a little bit. I want to, I guess, move the conversation over to your addiction treatment journey now, right. Overcoming the addiction. If you had to look back on that time, I know it was very difficult. What would you say was the hardest part of overcoming your addiction? Is there one thing that stands out or how would you answer that?

Randy Grimes:

Well, I mean, obviously the hardest part was putting up my hand and asking for help, you know, and the second, the second thing was actually doing it. I remember pulling up to the treatment center and I was leaning against the door of the car that, that picked me up. And somebody opened that car door, not Daniel. I was so sick and, and broken inside that car. And I was leaning against the door and I remember somebody opening the door and I just kind of fell out. And I had a, I fell out on my all fours and I had about another 40 feet to get through the door. So I just crawled in, I crawled in on all fours and this was September 22nd, 2009, but you know what, that nobody helped me that crawl in that door. And I'm glad they didn't because, you know, crawling in the door that night was my greatest accomplishment.

Randy Grimes:

Because if I don't do that, you know, even over the birth of my children and my marriage and, and all the football accolades, if I don't crawl in the door that night, everything was for nothing. And I, I, I didn't want to be remembered like that. So that was my greatest accomplishment. And that was the hardest thing that I ever did. And listen, I think I'm a pretty tough guy. You know, I've been in a lot of battles and I've won most of those battles. You don't get to stay in the league for 10 years unless you're winning most of those. But that was the toughest thing that I ever did. And, and, and it, and it was about, you know, I had convinced myself or 20 plus years that I needed opiates, the rest of my life to battle this chronic pain. You know, I didn't see any other solution out of it.

Randy Grimes:

When in fact there was a lot of solutions out of it. You know, there was just something that I had to surrender to. You know, I came into treatment with a plan with a, I was gonna have a knee replaced while I was in sir in treatment. I was gonna have the other knee worked on while I was in treatment. I was gonna have some neck surgery while I was in treatment. I was gonna do all this under medical supervision under doctor's watch. And I did all those things, but just, just raising my hand, you know, like I talked about it earlier, that guilt and that shame, those were barriers for me and also fear of withdrawal, you know, that was huge. And then, and even me, you know, somebody that thought he was a tough guy, you know, that was a, that was a huge barrier for me was just that fear of withdrawal.

Daniel Litwin:

What clicked for you then during that journey in getting you to the point where you were determined enough to do whatever it takes to get yourself the help that you felt you needed, what clicked for you in that journey to help you along the path of recovery? Was it a breaking point? Was it, you know, an experience with a family member, a friend, you know, what were you

Randy Grimes:

Talking about before I came into treatment

Daniel Litwin:

Or a

Randy Grimes:

While I was,

Daniel Litwin:

Yeah, like what was at first, like before you came into treatment, what was that spark that vital spark, you know, I guess pun, pun intended that really reframed the issue for you. And suddenly it was, this is life or death for me, I have to do whatever it takes to get in that door and to begin the journey that I need for recovery. Right.

Randy Grimes:

Well, and I always say that the perfect storm was coming together in 2009. And, and it's kinda like what I talked about a minute ago. You know, my daughter wouldn't let me come around. My first grandchild, my wife was, she couldn't sit by and watch me kill myself anymore. I had a very good friend that died. These were all my bottoms. And, and also the fact that I'd had several seizures as a result of benzo withdrawal too. So there was some health could concerns. So it was all those things together that were happening in the spring or the yeah, spring and summer of 2009, that finally made me put up my hand and ask for help. And also there was a barrier of finding a place to go, you know, where was I gonna go? And whoever my wife, she was willing to make one more phone call for me, cuz she was so sick of living with this disease.

Randy Grimes:

And she was so tired of, of the I'm sorrys and tomorrow be better, blah, blah, blah. You know, all, all the excuses that I had. She was so sick of that. She was willing to make one more phone call and whoever she talked to that day at the legal office up in New York on parking avenue, knew somebody who knew somebody. And that's how I, I got to a treatment center in west Palm beach, but you know, it, it was that perfect storm coming together. And you know, every bottom that I hit had a trap door in it, I always went lower. You know, and I knew that if I didn't do something that I was gonna be the next Tom MCCA, you know, I was gonna be that guy who, who just didn't wake up one morning and I didn't want to be that person. And, and I wanted to save my family.

Daniel Litwin:

And those are motivators that are hard to ignore. You know, when everything that you love is challenged so hard. It, it become, you know, not only I'm doing this for myself, but I'm doing this for the people that I love and the people that are most important to me in my life. So I'm sure having that support structure was essential in your journey. What else during your journey for recovery really helped you along the path? So once you all were already at that treatment facility, you already were, you know, beginning to ease off of opioids. What clicked with you in that journey to help push you through, right. Were there any key moments in treatment that reshape your approach or helped give you the fire you needed?

Randy Grimes:

Yeah, actually there was a, an event that happened to me. It was exactly two weeks into the process. I was in treatment for 90 days and they were gonna take the, they were gonna take the detox portion of it real slow. So we were gonna detox for a month. But during that month we were gonna also have those surgeries that I talked about. And then I was gonna come back and detox from the hospital meds that they gave me for a a week. And then I was gonna go off and work on myself. But I remember exactly two weeks into that first month that I was there. It was at 8 45 in the morning on a Wednesday morning. I'll never forget it. I was sitting at a picnic table at, in the middle of the rehab campus and for some reason, and I don't know why I'm not a big writer or I wasn't then getting up and writing in a spiral notebook about everything that was going on around me, what was happening to me, how I was feeling all that stuff.

Randy Grimes:

It just made me feel better to sit down and write that stuff down in, in, in a notebook. And this particular morning, 8 45 on a Wednesdays, 15 minutes before the first group, I'll never forget it. And I was sitting at this picnic table and I was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn't get a grip on myself, you know, and I can't imagine one or 290 pound man in the middle of a rehab looks like sobbing uncontrollably, but that was me. And I, I remember just thinking, you know, first of all, for the first time in 20 plus years, I was having to deal with life on life term sober, you know, and I was having to think about all the huge wake of destruction that I left back in Houston, Texas with my family, with my kids, with my, with my reputation, with my finances, all because of the addiction.

Randy Grimes:

And I couldn't get over the, the obsession to throw pills down too at this point, even two weeks in through the detox. So I, all this was going on and I was sobbing uncontrollably and it was like, somebody came up behind me, Daniel and, and draped a warm quilt around my shoulders. And I say quilt, cause I remember feeling weight and warmth on my shoulders. And it was like at that very second that all this was going on. And, and I felt that weight and warmth, it was like not only was that obsession lifted off of me to throw pills down, but also I had this overwhelming sense of confidence that I could do this. And not only could I do this, but that I had to make it mean something, all of this happened like in a matter of seconds. And it was, it was like my burning Bush moment.

Randy Grimes:

My spiritual awakening happened at that picnic table that morning at 8 45. And, and the cool thing is about that is that I worked for that facility for a long time. And I got to pass that picnic table practically every day. And you know, for me that was holy ground. You know, that that's where it all came together right there at that picnic table. And that was all also kind of the birth of pro athletes in recovery. Right then, I mean, I didn't know what I wanted to do with it, but I knew that there was a lot of guys out there just like me, that I played with and against who were struggling, suffering inside silence, you know, and for the same reasons as me, pride, ego, guilt, shame, whatever it was not put up their hand and asked for help. And usually it was because they didn't think there was any resources available for 'em. So that was kinda, I didn't know that at the time, but I just knew I wanted to, to give away what, what I was getting.

Daniel Litwin:

I want to get your story on dealing with withdrawals too specifically. I think anyone listening, who's dealt with addiction and addiction treatment can go to bat for just how painful and debilitating work through the withdrawal process is. And in a lot of ways, a really awful withdrawal process without the right support structure can just lead to re-engaging that addiction. How challenging was it to face and overcome those withdrawals for you and why walk us through those experiences?

Randy Grimes:

Well, I mean, it, it was the fear of that that kept me from raising my hand too. You know, that, that was part of why this whole addiction went on as long as it did. Yeah, you're right. It is. It's very uncomfortable. It, it's very painful. It's very, it its mentally almost possible to do without some kind of medical supervision and, and it's a huge fear thing. You know, that fear keeps people from, from raising their hand and, and I don't care how you do it, whether you, you do it long term like I did, or, or you do any kinda rapid detox or something like that. I don't care how you do it. It there's fear involved with that and anxiety and that's what keeps a lot of people from seeking help, you know? And I'm sure there's a lot of things that we could do better in that area. You know, I work in the treatment industry now and I know that there's a lot of things that we could do better in the treatment industry. We just don't know what they are yet. You know, we're constantly trying to do better constantly trying to make this as painless as possible and as comfortable as possible. But you know, it's, we've got ways to go.

Daniel Litwin:

I, what was your, your detox and your withdrawal treatment method at the time and looking back on it, what were some things that you think worked well? What were some things that you think made the process difficult or could be improved?

Randy Grimes:

Well, of course back then, you know, you're talking about 13 years ago, it was just Suboxone and that's what they used to get me over the hump. And you know, obviously I was grateful for that, what it, whatever, whatever it took, but it took a lot of self will. It took a lot of other comfort meds, you know, that, but it also took a lot of counseling. It took a lot of encouraging. It took somebody pushing me every day. It took somebody to be accountable to every day going through that process. But you know, even with Suboxone and, and, and everything else, it wasn't the most comfortable experience. You know, you have to really want it. You gotta really be committed to following the program because there's gonna be uncomfortable days. You're gonna hit the wall some days you're gonna be out on that ledge some days.

Randy Grimes:

And you gotta be able to, to, to be talked off that or, or go seek the help that you need to, to, to, to get back in the right frame of mind and get refocused. You know, you know, for me, I think it was about, and, and I say this all the time is that that night that I crawled in that door at that treatment center, I finally had a gift of desperation. You know, I was desperate to stay alive. I was desperate to keep my family together and I was desperate to get my life back.

Daniel Litwin:

And, you know, I, I think you've said it really clearly there in your answer, that's why the support structure is so important because when times get tough in that addiction recovery journey, like you said, it takes a lot of self will, a lot of motivation and a lot of self-determination to make it happen. And when you're dealing with, you know, overcoming an addiction, finding that strength in all three of those areas can be tough. I'm sure. You know, and so I think both finding that motivation personally, which, you know, of course it takes that personal decision to make a change, but also having the team of professional doctors of treatment specialists, but then also your friends and your family there nearby. Like, I, I think we can really use that story at as a reminder of just how important it is to build that ecosystem of support cuz without it, you know, leaving you on your own to overcome this challenge probably would've been too much for just you to bear alone, you know? And so that's, that's critical.

I wanna do now is transition over to talking about, I guess, the wider world and what it can do to help support some of these changes and reframe its thinking around addiction and addiction treatment to best support folks like yourself and other professional athletes, or really anyone dealing with this crisis. So let's just start high level here. How do you think the public consciousness? Right. So just kind of people's attitudes in general should kind of reframe an approach to treating and even just talking about addiction, right? What could be improved there to make it easier and more straightforward for people to feel like they can seek the help they need?

Randy Grimes:

You know, I think it's already begun I've, you know, over the last five years or so, I've seen a movement where not only athlete eats, but celebrities and different people that are high profile have found it easier to come out and, and put their hand up and ask for help. You know, they've made it, they made it easier to say that it's okay to not be okay, you know, with Simone bowels and some of the different athletes that have come out lately with mental health issues. And, and that goes for substance abuse too. You know, I think we, as the culture are, are doing better, we're accepting it better, but there still is that stigma, you know, surrounding mental health and substance abuse that, that, that exists. And that stigma keeps people from asking for help. I know, I, I know that we won't arrest our out of this.

Randy Grimes:

We want legislate our way out of it, but we can educate our way out of it. And I think that we need to do a better job of not only educating our schools, but our communities because when communities get well, families get well. And when families get well, addicts get well. And I think it's just a trick down effect of education and we could do a better job of informing people of, of the resources and the hope that's out there. And, and let people know that, you know, you're, you're not alone. You're not struggling alone through this, you know, it's okay to not be okay. You don't have to suffer in silence

Daniel Litwin:

Earlier. You mentioned that, you know, in that moment of crawling in through the recovery center front doors, you were basically on your own, but that it was useful for you to be on your own there because it took your, you know, personal decision to make that change in your life. However, as we've also broken down, having the right ecosystem of support, or, you know, also the inverse, right, an ecosystem of enabling the addiction is so critical in either direction. Right? And so having that right structure surrounding you and your journey is essential. So what would you say is the best way for someone who cares about someone in their life who has an addiction, or is showing signs of addiction? What's the best way for that? Someone to support their friend, their loved one, their colleague in approaching this challenge and working through the struggle?

Randy Grimes:

Well, I would say the first thing is, you know, don't be scared of having that uncomfortable conversation with somebody. You know, you have to trust your gut and usually people know what's going on. You know, they, they can see the signs, they can see that the telltale behaviors that, that they deep down know that something's gonna on on. So go ahead and have that uncomfortable conversation because as we know, this is life and death, you know, you don't get a lot of second chances with, with this disease, whether it's mental health or addiction or both. And usually it is both. So, you know, that's part of the education of this disease. And, and, and even for parents have that uncomfortable conversation with your children, you of all people have that gut feeling that something's not up when grades are falling, when they're isolating, when they're not, when they're not interested in the, in the things that they used to be interested in. Yeah. You know, something's going on. So have that uncomfortable conversation there, hope and help out there. There's plenty of resources available now, more so than ever, you know, and, and there's also new and innovative ways to deal with this. Whether, whether it's with Sparrow, you know, or whether it's with some new form of therapy, that's going on out there there's hope and help for every thing out there. You've just gotta raise your hand and make that phone call

Daniel Litwin:

And to tack onto that, what are some of the warning signs or the red flags you think, you know, people close to someone struggling with addiction, what should they look out for to catch those signs of addiction early, especially, you know, let's say a, trying to find those red flags in a professional athlete, based on what you saw during your own journey and folks in your, in your sport. What are some of those key warning signs that loved ones and friends and colleagues should look out for?

Randy Grimes:

Well, and, and it, and it's a classic and, and not just athletes, this is everybody right. I mean, everybody affects everybody the same. You know, it's always isolation, it's always anger issues. It's always loss of interest in things that used to answer some of, you know, it's relationship issues. It's, it's, it's, it's, it's financial issues. You know, you can always, those are always tell, tell signs that something's going on, whether it's addiction, mental health or both. And you know, when you're close to somebody, you can tell when behavior's off, you know, especially leave, they're slurring their words or nodding off or, or sleeping all day or, or not sleeping at all. You know, all the different things that depending on what the drug of choice is, but there's so many telltale signs and it's just, you gotta trust your gut and you gotta be willing to have that uncomfortable conversation, whether it's with a, a business associate, whether it's with a spouse or whether it's with a child, you know, because like I said, this is life and death. You only, you don't get second chances a lot of times.

Daniel Litwin:

Very true, very true. And I think that's something to live by, regardless of the challenge, regardless of you know, where you are in your life and what brought you to dealing with an addiction and seeking recovery. Yeah. There aren't a lot of second chances. And so when you feel that motivation to make a change, you know, try to find people in your life that can support you through that journey. And I, I, I think, you know, you mentioned it several times in the interview, but your wife support your children, support your colleagues, support the support of the professionals really enabled you to take on the personal journey of tackling this too. So let that be reminder

Randy Grimes:

Audience. Yeah. Support support is different. When I say support, I mean it with healthy boundaries. Mm.

Daniel Litwin:

You know? Yes. I mean,

Randy Grimes:

You've gotta, you've gotta not only have healthy boundaries, but you've gotta be willing to stick to 'em because we, as addicts and alcoholics will test you on that. You know, we'll, we'll call you out on that. We'll see if you're really serious. You know, that's part of the manipulation, that's part of the disease, us trying to get what we want when we want it. And so it's about, you know, when I talk about educating people, that's what I'm talking about is educating families on boundaries and what's healthy and how to keep 'em and what works. And, you know, sometimes you kind of have to, you know, I hate to say it, but sometimes you kind of have to detach with love is what I call it, you know, and cuz that's what it takes to get our attention sometimes.

Daniel Litwin:

Now, how do you, I guess actually make that, that ethos, right? That mentality of detached with love of support with healthy boundaries. How does that come through in some of your work at pro athletes in recovery? Walk us through your methodology now at, at this organization that you founded?

Randy Grimes:

Well, obviously my, my experience and my journey as has been helpful, you know, it's, it's, you know, I often wondered why I was allowed to go through all that. You know, why I had to put my family through all that while I, why I had to lose so much. And, you know, I, I look back on it now, as God was just kind of preparing me for the work that I do now, you to be able to get in a door that maybe somebody else couldn't to be able to reach somebody that maybe somebody else couldn't, you know, to, to save a life. And, you know, I don't just work with athletes. I work with everybody, my wife doesn't just work with athlete families. She works with everybody's families. And because this is a addiction is something that, you know, it doesn't, it doesn't discriminate at all.

Randy Grimes:

I, you know, I always say park avenue to park bench. It affects everybody from every walk of life, every religion, every, every background. And I think the fact that it's taught me to meet people where they're at because in their not only in their lives, but in their, in their addiction as well. And, you know, we're all in different stages of our lives. We all have different consequences as a result of our substance abuse. Then we all have we're, we're at different stages in our addiction too. And I've just got to the point to where I, I try to meet everybody where they're at,

Daniel Litwin:

Which I, I love that ethos span. That's so encouraging to hear that you're building an environment of support of care and also thoughtfulness for the era that we're in, right. Of being open, been about your emotional and physical vulnerabilities and making the most of those changes to be as supportive as possible. It it's exciting stuff, man. So what I wanna do now is wrap up the conversation and thank you again for all your time on the podcast today. But I wanna wrap up by talking about your new book. So you recently launched your book off center. You spent some time at the super bowl promoting the book, you know, as well as your pro-athletes in recovery, nonprofit org, but what inspired you to write the book and what message are you hoping to communicate through through your, your novel?

Randy Grimes:

Well, it was important for me and my family to document our story and, and the really cool thing about this book is that, well, first of all, it's a three year labor of love. You know, I poured my heart out. My family poured their heart out into 204 pages. And, you know, hopefully if it reaches one person it's accomplished its goal. But you know, when I started writing this, I really wanted it to be a tool, to be a healing process for the Grimes family. You know, because everybody in my family had a platform in, in it. Everybody had a, everybody contribute, did in some way to it that that suffered through my addiction with me. And so it was a real healing experience for us as a family to go through this. So I'm really proud of that. And it's already served its purpose, whether it's Hells a copy or not, but, you know, we wrote it.

Randy Grimes:

We, we put it out at February the eighth while out in Los Angeles at the super bowl. And the response has been unbelievable. The reviews have been great. The sales have been great. You know, when you, when you go into a project like this, you never know if anybody's even gonna be interested, you know, or how am I gonna drag the words out of myself and can I remember everything, but when you have a family project like this, believe me, everybody remembers everything. And with the exception of me, so it was great having everybody involved with it. And I'm just really proud of the way it turned out. And me and my wife have done we've hundreds of interventions all over the country since in the last 12 and a half years. And instead of me just telling my story, Hey, I'm Randy Grimes. I was born in Tyler, Texas, and then boom, I got sober in west Palm beach, Florida.

Randy Grimes:

Instead of just doing that whole timeline, we told our story through the eyes of an that's going on. And the reason we did that is cause we wanted all the characters of that intervention to be the different characters that we deal with all the time. I mean, there's that classic enabler out there. There's that classic codependent, there's that classic person with the stigma that thinks it's just a moral failing and not a disease. There's that, there's that person who, who, the angry person, you know, the person that's been affected by it. The most that that's angry, there's everything in this book and there's something for everybody. So I'm really proud of it. It's doing great. And I encourage everybody to read it because like I said, there's something for everybody.

Daniel Litwin:

Well, I'm excited to give it a read myself, man, where can our listeners get a copy of

Randy Grimes:

The book? Let me say this also. And coach DKA wrote the forward for it. I've got some great endorsements in there from coach TA, coach Jackie, Cheryl, some great Eric. Hipple my buddy, a quarterback at the Detroit lines, but the, but coach dicka wrote the forward for it. Coach Dick has always been a huge supporter of mine and not only mine, but all former athletes. And I'm just really proud of what all he had to say in there too.

Daniel Litwin:

I love that man. Flex on him a little bit. That's great. That's that's exciting stuff. You got those names associated with the whole book. Well, again, yeah, I'm, I'm excited to give it a read myself. Where can our listeners get a copy of the book and give it a read for themselves?

Randy Grimes:

Yeah, you can go to off center the book.com and that'll take you to a link where, where, or you can just go to amazon.com and look up all center. And, and also you can go to my website, which is pro athletes in recovery.org or Randy grim speaks.com. Or you can find me at my treatment center here in Tampa, florida@whitesandstreatment.com,

Daniel Litwin:

Amazing stuff, Randy, thank you so much for your time on the show today. Your journey is one of a kind it's incredible, you know, it's a difficult one, but the fact that you took what you've learned and are now helping other people who might be in your position, who might be in that same culture and mentality of just tough through the game, you gotta do what you gotta do for the job, for the team and helping destigmatize some of the notions around not only addiction, but also addiction treatment. I mean, you're, you're making a real change. So I just gotta give you that round of applause. Thank you so much for what you're doing for your industry and, and your, your, and your colleagues. I mean, you're, you're really helping save lives here and helping empower people to find that path to recovery. So thank you again to our guest. We've been chatting with Randy Grimes, former NFL center for the Tampa bay Buccaneers and founder of pro athletes in recovery. Check out his new book off center. And Randy, thanks again, man. I'm I sure we'll be in touch and I'm looking forward to hearing how the rest of your journey towards supporting addiction recovery goes

Randy Grimes:

Well, thank you. Thank you for this opportunity. I enjoyed it and thank you to spark biomedical too.

Daniel Litwin:

Absolutely, man, we'll be in touch. Thank you again. Thank

Randy Grimes:

You.

Daniel Litwin:

And thank you everyone for tuning into another episode of vital spark, a biomedical podcast. If you like what you heard and saw today, and you want some previous episodes, make sure that you're heading to our website, spark biomedical.com. Again, that's spark bio.com and make sure you're subscribing to the podcast on apple podcast and Spotify. I'm your host, Daniel. Litwin the voice of B2B and we'll catch you on the next episode, a vital spark.

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