Former Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson told TMZ Sports that he “cannot be more grateful” that he was busted twice within a month for DUI.
“I was arrested and spent almost 24 hours in a holding cell and had nothing but time to think about the path my life was heading down. That night I had a vision of my future and knew I had to do something to better it.”
Henderson wrote the following for TMZ.
Never in a million years would I have thought the worst experience in my life would turn out to be the best things that ever happen to me. A new person was birthed through the cycle of acknowledging a problem, addressing it, seeking help, and moving forward.
Traditional quotes and a number of calculated theories, state “The hardest battles are given to the strongest soldiers”, this quote justifies what I have personal experienced for the last year. In today’s society the “pretense” of struggle, hardship, addiction, problems, commitment and normality are all looked upon as less than. When in reality tough experiences, are the ones that shape who we are in life, they allow us to see potential, hardships, develops character and most importantly the opportunity to come back time and time again, after each and every failure more profound, more disciplined and most importantly with a “Life experience” you can nurture and grow from.
When I was arrested for a DUI twice within a month span followed by being released by the Minnesota Vikings, I immediately felt panic, my mind ran to feelings of abandonment and neglect. I was fearful of my mistake and that my weak moment would not only taint my family’s legacy but my own brand that I work so hard and persistent to make sure is pure and respectful. I prayed I would be forgiven, I asked for clarity, a new heart, mind and soul. And followed by my answered prayers I was given an opportunity to seek help, and embrace that I not only a professional athlete but a Father and Husband, had done something that would represent ugliness, judgment and desertion. But I could either sink or swim, and overcome this circumstance and learn from my mistake and emerge back into the world stronger and vast then ever.
Individuals with adversity must hit their rock bottom before they decide to make a change. For me that was January 1, 2014 when my life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. As I look back on it I cannot be more grateful.
I was arrested and spent almost 24 hrs in a holding cell and had nothing but time to think about the path my life was heading down. Coach fraizer would often tell us “show me your vision and I can show you your future.” That night I had a vision of my future and knew I had to do something to better it. It was at that moment I realized I could not do it on my own and made the decision to seek the help I needed. I was released January 2nd at around 2pm. By 4pm I was packed up and headed to Hazelden in Center City.
When I arrived I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going, but I knew I was in the right place. I was assigned to the Cronin unit and for once I finally felt like I fit in. I found myself surrounded by a group of men whom knew my struggles before I said a word. Not only because they read about it in the papers but also because they were battling similar demons. After a little skepticism I dove into treatment headfirst. I removed my many masks and allowed myself to be myself. Over time my addiction had me convinced that I needed it for people to accept me. My brief period in Hazelden proved otherwise. Sober Erin’s light shines 100 times greater than “using” Erin ever could. The dark cloud hanging over my head was not the shadow of anyone or anything else. Rather my addiction hiding my brightness from the world and my endless abilities that followed.
I had a teammate visit me while I was in treatment. He brought with him the perfect words for me at the time. My teammate told me that God had been beating on the door to my heart and was waiting for me to let him in. It hit home for me because I’ve always felt I had a relationship with God but nowhere near as close as I needed. My teammate then told me that I had always been in God’s favor. My first reaction was if I am in his favor then how could he let terrible things happen to me. But as I thought about my life for a second I immediately able to see that he was right. I was able to look at my life from a completely different perspective. I realized what I had instead of looking at what I had yet to obtain. I’ve been blessed with a beautiful and loving wife, an awesome son that blows my mind on a daily basis. He blessed me with the tools to have a career in the NFL that far exceeded the expectations of most.
I had become so caught up in others idea of success that I wouldn’t let me be proud of what I had accomplished. I managed to make myself unhappy and forgot to enjoy the journey. With my faith restored and a new outlook, I feel equipped to take on any more of life’s challenges thrown my way. With the choices I have made I no longer have much control over what happens with my professional football career; I do believe god has a plan for me and it will include furthering my legacy on the field. Football is my god given talent, and that is something that will thrive through triumph. However the most important thing to me right now is maintaining my sobriety. If I continue down the path I have started on I know I will leave a legacy off the field that my family and I can be proud of for years to come.
USA TODAY Sports also caught up with Henderson and was able to speak with him.
“There would be times where I would come to practice hung over,” Henderson, 27, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “Never just fresh off of drinking coming into practice, but I might have had a rough night the night before and I’d be in front of the huddle calling plays, and everybody would know that I had been out drinking the night before.
“Of course, that affects the ability to go out there and perform and be the best that you can be. But I’d been doing it for so long and it’s something that I had gotten used to.”
Henderson admits he didn’t know how to help himself.
“I just didn’t know what else to do,” Henderson said. “I didn’t seek the professional help I needed to help me with my mental issues. I thought my athletic gifts would take care of things.”
Sounds like Henderson has learned a lot.
“I’ve learned that substance abuse is often a byproduct of different things,” Henderson said. “For me, it was my way of numbing things and not having to worry about a lot of things. That’s pretty much what I did.
“When I look back on it, I realize that’s not living. That’s not life. You’re supposed to feel certain things. You’re supposed to have emotions. Life is not meant to just be coasted through. But one of the things they tell us a lot in rehab is there’s nothing that a drink won’t make worse.”
Henderson says his life has gotten better since he’s gotten help.
“I can already start to feel my life feeling better, being able to enjoy stuff,” said Henderson, who is married with a son who turns 3 on Sunday. “When I’m spending time with my son, really feeling like I’m present. It’s not a shell of myself that’s playing with him.”
Henderson would like to see how effective he can be playing more clear-headed.
“That’s one of the things I’m most curious about — what happens when I can remove a lot of my off-field issues and just play with a clear mind and actually enjoy the game like I used to?” Henderson said.
“I like to call myself a recovering alcoholic. I understand it’s an ongoing battle. It’s a lifelong thing. Anybody that’s dealt with me, anybody in the Vikings organization, know that the things that transpired aren’t me. That was a different person that had taken over my body, pretty much.
“For me, it’s nothing different than when I came out here to the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. Once I get onto a team and get onto a roster, I trust myself and believe myself. It’s just a matter of somebody going out on a limb and trusting me.”