What it means to hit rock bottom

Ike Whitaker was once a scholarship athlete playing quarterback for Virginia Tech. Though he showed promise very early in his career, he was eventually kicked off the team for violation of rules. Eventually, the news came out that he had a problem with alcohol. Articles appeared in the press containing feel-good interviews with Ike in which said all the right things about how he was working to get sober, and later Ike was even reinstated on the football team. However, just a short time later, he was once again dismissed, and rumors flowed about his relapse. That was over a year ago.

Ike just made his first public statement since then.

Okay. I’ve been sober now for five months. I hit rock bottom in the fall. I was still in Blacksburg, but I had nothing going on in my life. I wasn’t part of the football team, I wasn’t in class, I didn’t have a job...I was nothing. My life was bad. My life was corrupt. I was drinking every day. I had no money. So, I’m very ashamed to admit this, but it’s part of my recovery to be completely honest with myself and everyone, so, I would steal food where I could find it to have something to eat. There were stretches that I really don’t remember. My alcoholism had completely taken over. I had to drink to function. That’s how bad it was. Much of it is a blur.

I remember that I was ready to end my life. I was a burden to myself and everyone around me. I just felt dark inside. I knew I had to stop drinking, but I couldn’t. So, I decided to just end it. That’s how tough this addiction is. That’s how depressed and sick the alcohol can make you.

I wanted to go and see Coach (John) Ballein one last time because he had been good to me through my toughest times. He never beat around the bush, he was honest with me and hard on me, but I knew he was hard on me because he cared about me and wanted to see me get my life straight. I remember that I had a bag of alcohol, I had been drinking all night and all morning, and that I was in his office. I don’t know exactly what I said to him, but I’m sure it was something to let him know that I was saying goodbye and that I appreciated everything that he ever did for me and that I’m very sorry that I let him and Coach Beamer down.

Well, I never made it out of his office. He told me that I wasn’t going anywhere and that I certainly wasn’t going to hurt myself. He took the bag of alcohol out of my hands and told me that I was coming with him and that we were going to get some help. I thank God for Coach Ballein. He’s truly an angel on earth. Coach Beamer and Coach Ballein gave me chances and I blew every one of them. That’s totally my fault. I’m ashamed that I treated those two good men the way I did. I’m ashamed that I lied to them. I’ll always regret that and I’ve told them that I’m very sorry.


Every day is a battle. It’s a battle. As soon as my eyes open in the morning, I drop to my knees and I ask God to give me the strength and courage to get through another day. I just can’t go back to where I was. I can't. I was at a point where I was no longer drinking for the high, I was drinking to just function. I needed alcohol to be able to speak. I needed it to be able to walk to the store. That’s how bad it was. My body couldn’t function without it.

Also, I want people to know that I’m not a bad person. I don’t have an evil heart. I have a good heart. I don’t mistreat people. I’m a loving, caring person. I’ve just been very sick. I’ve been in a battle and I’ve been losing. But now, I’m starting to win that battle.

I didn't believe the earlier interviews. I believe this one. There's nothing feel-good about it. Hitting rock bottom means standing naked before the world with all your imperfections. This is a prerequisite for recovery. Now Ike has a fighting chance.

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Facing the reality underlies

Facing the reality underlies all sorts of twentieth century psych remedies, from Freud's therapy to Alcoholics Anonymous. Confession is also used by the Catholic Church. But it has a spotty record fixing the problem. Meanwhile it has a powerfully addictive property. People keep going back.