Erik Ainge's tweet on ESPN's story
I just want to say thanks for all the nice comments I have gotten about my article and that tennessee doctors didnt drive me to drugs I did!
Former University of Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, now a backup quarterback with the NFL's New York Jets, opened up about his ongoing battle with drug and alcohol addiction in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com, which published Ainge's testimonial Tuesday.
Though he admitted to being a drug user since the age of 12, Ainge wrote that he became hooked on painkillers and was an "addict" during his senior season with the Vols. He ran through the prescriptions so quickly, Ainge wrote, that the team doctor had no other choice but to stop giving them to him.
"I was hooked on them, and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab," Ainge wrote. "I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street.
"I wasn't the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people. It wasn't, like, super sketchy or anything. We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us."
A UT athletic department spokesman said the university would not comment on Ainge's testimonial. Shortly after the story was posted on ESPNNewYork.com, Ainge used Twitter to thank supporters and attempt to divert scrutiny away from the effectiveness of UT's drug testing policies.
"I just want to say thanks for all the nice comments I have gotten about my article and that Tennessee doctors didn't drive me to drugs I did!" Ainge said on his Twitter page.
Ainge, a native of Portland, Ore., was a four-year starter with the Vols from 2004-2007 and threw for 8,700 yards and 72 touchdowns.
Ainge was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL draft but has yet to play in a regular-season game. He said his addiction to drugs, which included heroin, only got worse when he moved away from Knoxville. Through most of his rookie year of professional football, Ainge was downing 25 Percocets at a time, he wrote.
"I moved up to New York with a bunch of money, and it was where everything started falling apart," he wrote.
Ainge said he lied to friends and "destroyed relationships" because of his drug habit.
Ainge also wrote that while in the midst of a "two-week bender" last summer he "had some trouble with the law" while he was in Tennessee visiting friends.
"It never got reported because the cops were Tennessee fans, and they saw how bad a shape I was in," Ainge wrote. "It was so bad that I don't even want to talk about it. I was cuffed, but instead of busting me, the cops called somebody in town that knew me."
Ainge wrote that he has been clean since July 17, 2010. During a stretch where he bounced between rehabilitation facilities and a halfway house, Ainge was prescribed medication for bipolar disorder for the first time in his life, he wrote.
Ainge wrote that he goes through therapy sessions on a daily basis and attends Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five nights a week. He previously was a part of four recovery groups, but can no longer afford them because his insurance from the NFL was cut off because of the league's current lockout.
Ainge, who was slated on the reserve/did not report list this past season, signed a four-year contract for $1.9 million when he was drafted. It's uncertain whether he will remain with the Jets when the lockout ends.
"I'm showing people that love me that I am changing for the better through my actions, and I'm starting to make amends to those people I've wronged," he wrote.
"Kids and athletes need to know it's OK to ask for help and to talk to somebody about what's going on in their lives. I was afraid to talk before, but through my NA program and God, I'm not afraid to ask for help or talk openly anymore."