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Bruce Irvin, From The ATL to The NFL

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Bruce IrvinWhen Bruce Irvin was a junior in high school, he dropped out of school, got kicked out of his mother’s house, and lived on the streets of Atlanta. He lived among drug dealers, dodged bullets and did a short stint in jail. Today, he’s in the NFL. While he’s obviously overcome his darkest days, Irvin’s violent and drug-filled past is a part of him he’ll never completely shed.

The Former Life Of Bruce Irvin

As a recent Bleacher Report article put it, “Bruce Irvin’s past doesn’t haunt him. It fuels him.” His past isn’t particularly exceptional; a lot of athletes have come from poverty, faced addiction or other adversities. But the fact that he’s been able to move beyond it and into a $37 million career is nonetheless remarkable.

As a kid, Bruce was known as BJ. At age 16, he dropped out of high school. His mother subsequently kicked him out of the house, and he began living with friends. He’d stay until he’d “worn out his welcome,” and then move on to another home. Eventually, he ended up sleeping at bus stops. He was homeless.

He fell in with bad crowds, hanging around with drug dealers. He carried a gun, and said he was doing a lot of drugs, “Getting it by any means.”

In 2007, he and two friends broke into a drug dealer’s home looking for cash. The dealers weren’t home, but a neighbor saw the break-in and called the cops, and they were arrested. Despite being charged with burglary and carrying a concealed weapon, Irvin spent just two-and-a-half weeks in jail because the dealers didn’t testify (for obvious reasons).

Redemption and second chances

While in jail, Bruce Irvin reflected on what could have happened that night, had the drug dealers been home. He was convinced he would have been shot, and he probably would have. He looked at his light sentence as a second chance.

Irvin returned to his mother’s home and went back to school. He earned his GED and attended two colleges before heading to West Virginia University. Then, in 2012, he was drafted 15th overall by the Seattle Seahawks.

Today, he plays as a pass-rusher for the Oakland Raiders. He is also married, and a father to a three-year-old boy. And while he’ll always have a piece of BJ – the user, the thief, the kid on the streets who carried a gun – in him, he’s able to use his past as motivation for moving forward. And he’s the way he sees it, he’s stronger because of it.

“I wouldn’t change my situation, my story for anything,” he told The Bleacher Report. “I’ve faced adversity. I’ve been at the bottom. Anything I face now, it’ll never be as hard as what it was.”

Moving on after rock bottom

Drug and alcohol use, even when used “recreationally,” can turn destructive. The influence of others can make people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. And before long, it’s a pattern of devastation. When Irvin fell in step with drug dealers, shortly thereafter, he was carrying guns and robbing people.

When every decision focuses on money, drugs, alcohol, or all three, meaningful relationships and positive influences are alienated. These kinds of patterns are often present with addiction.

If you are an addict or alcoholic, or if someone you love is, it’s not a condemnation. Addiction isn’t a moral failing. But it also not something you can will away or wish away. It’s a disease that requires professional help. And you don’t necessarily have to hit rock bottom to get it.

The Watershed has a team of compassionate, professional addiction specialists who can get you the care you need. Contact us today: 1-800-861-1768.

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