Athletes in Treatment: How to Get Back in the Game

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Woman running in spring conceptRegardless of what level an athlete may be competing in, whether high school, collegiate or professional, there is a unifying theme among all: a love for sport. This might involve friendly or fierce competition, a commitment to training, an affinity with performance, and much more.

However, when an addiction to drugs or alcohol becomes part of the picture, an athlete’s hopes and dreams are often lost and destroyed. For some athletes, an addiction may be triggered by the intensity involved with their lifestyle, while for others, an addiction may be worsened by the environment in which they constantly surround themselves with. In the world of athletics, there may be a variety of triggers that athletes are faced with on a daily basis.

Dealing with the Myriad of Emotions in Addiction

Perhaps you are an athlete that has struggled with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. If you have found yourself in this scenario, you have likely experienced a myriad of emotions that come with these circumstances. Many athletes may prolong the time it takes to get the necessary help they need for treatment.

This may be for fear of leaving their sport, appearing as a “quitter”, or even due to shame or guilt that may be associated with the addiction. If an athlete has been able to sustain their career and lifestyle or even excel at their sport, this may make it even more difficult to surrender to help and treatment.

Becoming Dependent on a Substance for Performance

bicycle-384566_640Some athletes may become dependent on a substance to enhance their performance, and the vicious cycle between performance and substance abuse can become quite complex. If you have found yourself in this situation, it is crucial to consider what consequences may unfold – both in the long and short term.

Many athletes may be under the impression that if a substance is benefitting them in the short term, an addictive behavior or lifestyle may be justified. However, this becomes a dangerous mindset, particularly as dependency on a substance, whether prescription medications, illicit street drugs, steroids, or alcohol, can influence harsh consequences.

An athlete may find that their career begins to deteriorate over time with substance abuse or that their ability to perform becomes jeopardized. Some athletes may even find themselves amidst legal trouble or concerns due to substance abuse and addiction, further jeopardizing their ability to participate in athletics.

Getting Professional Help Today

No matter where you might find yourself in this spectrum of possibilities as an athlete dealing with substance abuse or an addiction, the bottom line is that you need professional help and treatment to overcome this struggle. Early intervention may help you recover quicker and prevent more detrimental consequences that may develop.

If you are worried about how leaving your sport may negatively affect your team, be sure to have a discussion with your coach about what you are struggling with. Taking the time to get the appropriate care and treatment you need will not only benefit you in the long-term but will likely enhance your abilities and potential as an athlete.

When you are no longer under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your body’s athletic abilities will not be hindered.

Treatment Is a Difficult, but Necessary Step

Family Father Son Playing Football Summer ConceptGoing through treatment as an athlete may be difficult. It will certainly be hard to take a temporary break from the sport you love, but remember that this is an important step towards healing and recovery. When the time is right and when you are medically stable, you can begin to make the transition to competing at the level that you once were in your athletics.

This might happen with the close guidance of an athletic trainer in treatment and counselor who has experience in sports medicine. Some treatment programs may even be tailored to meet the unique needs of athletes, and this may be something important to consider in your sport. Remember that taking the step towards treatment will only enable you to succeed in your athletic goals and aspirations.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you an athlete who has struggled with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? If so, what encouraged you to get the help and treatment you needed to recover? Were you eventually able to return to your sport after recovery?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 7th, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.