At Cinnaminson High School on Monday, April 30, NFL Hall of Famer and former Philadelphia Eagle Cris Carter joined Ambrosia Treatment Center, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Students Teaching Options & Prevention club to put on an addiction prevention event for the community. During the program, Carter and Thomas Byrne, an outreach coordinator for Ambrosia Treatment Center, spoke about their battle with addiction, while STOP distributed facts about addiction and drugs in general.
The event was sponsored by the Cinnaminson Home & School Association and the Cinnaminson Municipal Alliance. GCADA’s alliance program allows the state to issue grants to counties to develop and plan evidenced-based and community-level prevention strategies.
As a Cinnaminson resident and a member of the Ambrosia family, Byrne decided to reach out to Kim Ross, a member of the Cinnaminson Municipal Alliance, and create an event to bring Ambrosia into the public eye.
“This wasn’t available in the 90s,” said Byrne. “I was that 14-year-old kid that tried the stuff and became an addict struggling for the next 15 years of my life. If we can prevent one kid from dying tonight then it’s a success.
“Also, if the parents are able to understand their children who are struggling with it, then they are going to be able to help them better than being a codependent that will continue to let them do what they’re doing because they’re scared of losing them,” Byrne continued. “Statistically, if you don’t put your foot down and make someone get help, they have a higher chance of dying if you keep them in your house than if you kick them out. It’s sad, but it’s the truth, and as a parent to hear it firsthand and have the awareness, it’s something that’s new and needed.”
Byrne’s addiction began with consuming alcohol when he was a child. The accomplishment that he felt from drinking alcohol and drinking to the point that he passed out, Byrne couldn’t wait to go to school and tell everyone what he did. As the short kid in the school, Byrne didn’t always feel like he belonged. At times, he felt like an outcast, however, drinking and fighting gave him the edge that gave him the feeling of being cool. Byrne’s drinking eventually led him to being arrested and then grounded for nine months. Then, on his first day back out, he witnessed his friend brutally murdered at a carnival.
Byrne’s parents decided to remove him from his Philadelphia neighborhood and send him to New Jersey. He began to get very resentful toward his new classmates and it eventually led him to a depressed state in which he welcomed drugs.
As Byrne’s drug addiction began to spiral out of control, he attempted to take his life, however, when that didn’t work, he went into his first stint in rehab. Byrne would go on to attempt another suicide attempt in the years following before going back to rehab and eventually finding a routine that would keep him from falling down the same path.
“I felt empty inside,” said Byrne. “Rock bottom is when the drugs and alcohol don’t work anymore, and I hit that point. I was broken, hopeless and lonely.”
For Carter, the story isn’t that much different. Despite becoming a professional athlete, Carter’s addiction stemmed from high school – graduation night to be exact. Carter would go on to attend Ohio State, yet while he put up numbers on the field, his addiction started to ramp up. However, Carter’s drug use did not become a problem until he got to Philadelphia. Now that he had money, he could get it at any time.
“Money doesn’t change you,” said Carter. “It makes you more of who you are.”
Despite becoming clean and stopping his drug use once he realized it was starting to affect him, Carter still failed five drug tests. It left Buddy Ryan, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, to make a decision on Carter’s future. To the public Ryan said all he does is catch touchdowns, and for that reason he released him. However, to Carter, Ryan had told him that it was because he could not trust and depend on him anymore.
“Buddy Ryan had gone to his wife and asked her what to do with me,” said Carter. “She told him not to cut me and that I was going to do great things. Buddy Ryan called me into his office the next day and told me what she said, but then he said that he couldn’t depend on me anymore.
“I had just bought a house in Cherry Hill. My wife was pregnant with my son. What was I going to do?” said Carter. “Thankfully, the Minnesota Vikings picked up my contract and their drug program change my life. My drug addiction never got to me trying to take my life because losing my job was enough for me.”
Byrne and Carter’s stories are not entirely different. Their addiction began when they were both young. It eventually became too big of a problem for them and they needed help. Speaking on behalf of the Ambrosia Treatment Center is their way of letting people know that it’s OK to get help. People dealing with the use of drugs or those worried about someone else can contact HopeTracker at www.HopeTracker.org or call (888) 391-3265 for free professional advice.