josh gordon-cleveland browns

Three years after he last played in the NFL, Josh Gordon is (probably) back, having been conditionally reinstated into the league last week. With Gordon’s seemingly endless suspension lifted, the Browns will now decide whether to bring back the 26-year-old wide receiver, who led the league in receiving yards in 2013.

Gordon’s long absence was the result of a series of off-field issues, including a DWI arrest and numerous failed drug tests. In an interview with GQ published Monday, the receiver explained just how deep his substance abuse issues went.

How would you do this on game days?

We would stay at the team hotel and then players are allowed to go back home, get what they need, and then go to the game. So I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol, and then go to the game. And then, I’d definitely be partying after every game, win or lose. Every game.

Were you doing this in 2013—during the back-to-back 200-yard games, for instance?

Every game. Probably every game of my career.

Including college?

Definitely college.

Though Gordon’s revelation that he had drugs or alcohol in his system before every game has gotten all the attention, his comments to GQ about the depths of his addiction are the truly poignant part of the interview. Here’s Gordon explaining why rehab was more successful for him this time than in previous attempts.

I said, If I plan on having any type of a career, I’ll stop. But at this point I thought, If I want any type of a life, if I wanted to live, [I’ll stop]. It was like: You’re never going back to fucking work ever, if you can’t figure out how to live. Because at this point in time, the trajectory, you’re going to die. You’re going to kill yourself.

And here he is describing himself as a “highly functioning” alcoholic:

Highly functioning. For sure. [I] definitely pushed the limit. I don’t know how I did it. It could be before games, it could be before practice, after practice. You see other guys kinda doing it, but I would take it to another level a lot of times. Feeling as though I was being enabled, I thought it was an okay thing to do: Well, this is the norm. And it wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t.

Since Gordon was first arrested and suspended in 2014, the narrative around him has been that of a malcontent with no self-control and a lack of commitment to football. But as is typically the case, there was clearly more to his situation than a failure to take his career seriously. Gordon says he began medicating himself with marijuana, Xanax, codeine and other substances as a way to cope with anxiety from a high-stress, high-trauma childhood. Eventually, he tumbled into addiction and, like so many others, struggled to escape.

Hopefully Gordon’s story can be a reminder to fans and media that the guy on your favorite team who keeps failing drug tests is not necessarily a bad person. He may very well be an addict.

[GQ]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.