The road to recovery has been long for Josh Gordon. Last week he was conditionally reinstated back into the NFL. To many, it was a surprising turnout as the breakout Cleveland Browns wide receiver has received numerous suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policies and hasn’t been eligible to play a full regular season since his rookie season.
Gordon’s issues with sobriety have long been documented. Recently he’s come clean about those problems, admitting that his star talent allowed him to take advantage of the system and never confront his troubles head-on.
While Gordon’s sobriety struggles were common knowledge, the scope of these issues were not. But in a recent GQ interview, Gordon admitted just how deep his problems with marijuana and other substances were.
How often was Gordon under some influence?
“Every game. Probably every game of my career,” he told GQ.
Gordon described his previous pregame ritual if he’d already been drug tested that week as taking “the biggest bong rip I could. And try to conceal all the smell off all my clothes. I’d be dressed up to go to the game. A bunch of guys smoke weed before the game. But we’re not talking about them.”
We would stay at the team hotel and then players are allowed to go back home, get what they need, and then go to the game. So I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol, and then go to the game. And then, I’d definitely be partying after every game, win or lose. Every game.
Gordon also went on to explain how his childhood, living through the tough upbringing he did, drove him to substance abuse.
“I didn’t want to feel anxiety, I didn’t want to feel fear. I didn’t plan on living to 18. Day-to-day life, what’s gonna happen next?” he said. “So you self-medicate with Xanax, with marijuana, codeine—to help numb those nerves so you can just function every day. That became the norm from middle school to high school. So by the time I got into my 20s, I was on an accelerated pace.”
While scientific research has suggested that marijuana can assist those suffering from substance addictions—be it cocaine or opioids or alcoholism—Gordon’s story demonstrates that it isn’t always the answer for everyone. Further testing on humans is required to test whether we develop physical addictions to marijuana, though some research suggests we don’t develop severe withdrawal symptoms because humans have natural cannabinoid receptors that continue to function long after quitting.
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Numerous NFL players have touted marijuana’s ability to as a holistic pain relief, but Gordon decided it wasn’t for him. He’s sober for good and he’s doing it for the right reasons.
“Only thing saving me at this point and time, and the difference between now and then, is that I’m doing it for myself,” he said. “And I want something more for myself. I’m trying to do it for myself.”