One of the best stories in recent years has been authored by Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who has fought through addiction to become one of the best players in the NFL. He has missed time in recent weeks due to injury and COVID. On Wednesday, he explained that not playing has made it harder to remain sober.
“Because of my disease of addiction, that can have me thinking all kinds of crazy things,” Waller said, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “So I’ve got to make sure that I’m talking about those things when I have all that idle time. I’ve got my therapist. Stay going to [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings. Stayed in the playbook. Working on music. Just staying solid, keeping my head out of that idle time and just into things that I enjoy. And stay into the game of football as much as I can.”
But since he wasn’t in the game, potentially destructive thoughts tried to enter his brain.
“It’s tough, honestly, because I’m a human being at the end of the day and I’m still trying to shed my old thinking patterns,” Waller said. “So, when I’m not out there [playing], I can think these thoughts of, ‘The team is balling without me being in there. Am I useless?’ These irrational thoughts.
“I had to be willing to stay in the practices that I have that bring me back down from that place — ‘Woah, woah, woah, it’s not even that anymore.’ I’m not out there performing, per se, but I still have a role on this team. But sometimes my mind can tell me, ‘Ah, man, you ain’t really doing nothing. You out.’
“So it’s just staying locked in. I have to do that because my mind can take me to those places. And I don’t want to be there anymore.”
It’s great that he’s willing to be so candid about his struggles. It helps others who are experiencing similar things to realize that there’s a constant challenge. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Hard days and harder days.
Waller’s willingness to talk about his harder days could help make days a little easier for those who are looking for any inspiration they can find to help them fight their own battles.