Around 3 a.m. on May 29, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was arrested for DUI.
By the time the morning news finished its cycle, people were making jokes and speculations about what happened: Were there women in the car? Did he just come back from an IHOP? Why didn’t Tiger’s caddie hail him an Uber?
At the same time, everyone (myself included) put the final nail in Tiger Wood’s career — the single greatest sports career of my generation. No one athlete had done more for their own sport or won more or dominated like Tiger — not Magic or Jordan, not Jeter or Bonds, not even Serena Williams or Mike Tyson, though Iron Mike and Tiger’s careers seem to have taken similar, tragic spirals.
Shortly after being released from jail the same night, Tiger provided the following statement to USA Today:
“I understand the severity of what I did, and I take full responsibility for my actions. I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.”
At first, a lot of people didn’t believe him.
On Monday evening, Tiger tweeted this regarding the aftermath of the incident:
“I’m currently receiving professional help to manage my medications and the ways that I deal with back pain and a sleep disorder. I want to thank everyone for the amazing outpouring of support and understanding especially the fans and players on tour.”
I really hope that last part is true because Eldrick Woods could be battling something stronger and more dominating than his golf game used to be: opioid addiction.
About a week before Tiger was arrested, I attended an event at my mosque sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Police. It focused on combating drug use and recognizing signs of addiction.
It was similar to events sponsored by our Army Substance Abuse Program (now the Substance Use Disorder Clinic). The county police brought display cases of paraphernalia. They provided names of the latest drugs being taken and showed videos of what people do when wacked out on one drug or another. They talked SPICE, bath salts, cocaine, bongs, pipes and opioids — words and topics seldom brought up in a mosque (or most places), but things that must be addressed.
In Anne Arundel County, opioid addiction — including addiction to pain medication — is the No. 1 issue facing law enforcement. According to Anne Arundel County Police, 16 overdoses were reported — with three of the cases proving fatal — between 8:42 a.m. on March 7 and 3:43 a.m. on March 8.
Sixteen in one day!
I was sure none of these incidents could have involved someone from the mosque or Fort Meade or even my neighborhood because those communities do not breed addicts.
Well I was wrong. The officer informed me that one of the incidents happened — maybe two blocks from my home in Glen Burnie.
That jarred me, but not as much as what the officer said next.
Apparently, the most at-risk population for opioid addiction is middle-aged men, and the No. 1 gateway to addiction is prescription pain medication.
It’s a wicked, efficient cycle:
- Older men get hurt and require surgery — many times for the first time in their lives.
- The pain is more than aspirin, or Motrin, can handle, so we get prescribed “the good stuff” like Vicodin or Oxy.
- Being older, the pain lasts longer, so you need to take more meds — plus, it makes you feel good (see Molly Percocet).
- When the prescription runs out, but you’re still hurting, you either find a new way to get your pills or you upgrade to something like heroin.
Now look back at Tiger’s tweet. Woods has been battling crippling back injuries since March 2014. The man who did everything he could to be the best golfer in the world has also been doing everything he could to get back on the course, including multiple surgeries.
He was prescribed pain medication, and like millions of people, he’s having difficulty getting away from their effects.
So Tiger decided to make the smart play by getting help because addiction doesn’t care if you are famous, homeless, atheist, God-fearing, a general or private.
What’s scary for me is, it doesn’t even care if you are a Muslim, public affairs officer, husband and father of three. I’m writing this column knowing that I could easily fall into the same trap as Woods and millions of others.
I can only pray and hope that if it does happen, I have the courage to get help.
Eid Mubarek everyone.
If you are dealing with addiction, call Fort Meade’s new Substance Use Disorder Clinic at 301-677-8149, or you can walk into the clinic located at 2473 Llewellyn Ave.
If you have comments on this or anything to do with sports, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @CTJibber.