Alex Green escapes the abyss
Alcohol, weed, cocaine. The former Green Bay Packers running back knows his life could've ended. He hit rock bottom, got help and — now — he needs to share his story.
The NFL Playoffs start today and it sure will be entertaining for all. The league’s star players will again have our attention.
On a weekend like this, however, we should think about a player like Alex Green. A running back lost in time who’s been to hell and back.
On Jan. 5, the Green Bay Packers’ 2011 third-round pick posted on Twitter that he was 55 days sober. The tweet hinted at so much more and certainly made me do a double-take. Ahead of his first training camp in 2011, I got to know Green for this feature story at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His rise to the NFL is remarkable enough. At one point at Butte College, Green was living out of his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He struggled academically his entire life before finally realizing, on to Hawaii, that he had dyslexia.
He had two kids. He busted out at Hawaii with 1,199 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He got his shot with the defending Super Bowl champs. And, then, his NFL career came and went far too quickly. Green tore his ACL as a rookie, led the Packers in rushing in 2012, was cut in 2013, lasted one season with the New York Jets, fell into a deep depression, disappeared for four years, latched on with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL in 2017 and 2018… and then he was lost.
Addiction could’ve killed him.
In this conversation, Green takes everyone inside his ascent to the NFL and descent into a world of alcohol, weed and cocaine. All three went together and he needed help — ASAP. Today, he’s clean and determined to stay on the right path for his three kids. He wants to help anyone else struggling and, hey, maybe we even see Green on a football field again, too.
You can read the full Q&A here, watch the video embedded below or listen to our chat on the Go Long Podcast on Apple and Spotify.
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Act I: Rise, fall, rise again
It still blows my mind what you went through, coming out of Hawaii, but seeing on Twitter that you’ve been sober for how many days?
Green: Sixty-three days today. It’s been a long journey. It’s been a grind. My whole life has always been adversity. I’ve always been fighting through something. But this is the biggest fight of my life.
Your perspective on life… we got into your dyslexia in high school. Into junior college you lived out of your car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. You had two kids. This is it’s own story. High school to college, what’s the play-by-play people should know.
Green: Starting in high school, I always struggled academically. Part of it was me not going. Part of it was I wasn’t getting a grasp of the dynamic they were trying to teach me so I struggled with it. Football was my first love. All I wanted to do was play ball. So, I ended up going to a junior college after making it out of high school with a 1.26 cumulative GPA. I barely graduated. I go to Butte College in California. I was playing safety at first. I ended up playing running back just my senior year when a running back got hurt. So, I just fell in love with that position. I go to Butte and I was around guys from Texas, California, Florida, I’m at the bottom of the barrel. I came from Portland, Ore., where we’re overlooked with my back against the wall. So, I come in there, grind it out. I ended up starting. My second year, I was ready to go. I had a great season. Balled out, won a national championship, we had about 20 guys that went D-I.
I still have no grades. I went to lower-level English classes and lower-level math classes in high school, so I just want to stay eligible and play ball. That’s it. The season ends and guys are going to their D-I’s in December so you get the spring to learn the system and get a starting job as a junior. I ended up coming to Hawaii just before the season started. I had no grades. I had Oregon State, Washington, I took a visit to Liberty. They wanted me to come out there but I said, “I’m not cutting my hair to come to this Christian school.” I would’ve went out there. That’s where Rashad Jennings went. I could’ve gone there and got 20 carries a game — he was just on his way to the league. I would’ve come in as a junior but I didn’t want to cut my hair. I’m like, “Nah, let me hold out.” That’s the only offer I had. I stayed in school that spring in junior college. I’m taking like six classes just to be eligible enough to pass the board to go to a D-I. So my guy, Lametrius Davis, he reached out to the coaches and got me into Hawaii. He said, “I’ve got a guy, a running back, he can play. He just doesn’t have the grades right now.”
So, they flew me out in the spring. I spent two days there and they offered me a scholarship. I signed with them. I finished out the semester. My teacher goes on vacation so she didn’t post my grades to be eligible to go to Hawaii in the summer when everybody else is going to Hawaii to play summer ball. So I’m at home, back in Portland, like, “Damn. What else can go wrong? This is crazy.” I fly to Hawaii anyways and sleep on the floor of a dorm of Lametrius and another guy. I’m just waiting for the grade. Two or three days go by and the grade finally comes through the last day to be eligible to play. She gives me a “C.” I pass. They pushed it through. My scholarship was accepted and the last day, I come out to training camp ready to go.
I have my first big game vs. Washington State. All of my family is there. At that time, I had only one kid, Harlym. She was out there. My brothers were there. My Mom was there. My Pops was there. It was perfect. I had a 47-yard touchdown run. I scored in the same end zone they were sitting at. That’s when I realized I could do this thing at a high level. Fast forward to my senior season. In February, my best friend passed. He got killed in a car accident. Jamell Taylor. Rest in peace. He was the main one that was believing in me to go to the NFL. I’m like, “I don’t know about that but I’ll do good in Hawaii.” He was like, “Nah, you can go, you can go.” So when he passed, I dedicated the season to him. A few days later, I found out I was having a son, Kingston Green. So I’m just going to spring ball motivated and ready to rock.
We went into our first game against USC — one of the biggest games we had at Hawaii — and I ball out. I had a touchdown and was just shy of 100 yards. That sparked it. Now, we’re here. Now, we’ve arrived. My son’s born in October. The same week after he’s born, I broke the record against New Mexico State. I’m like, “I’ve got two kids. Here I am sitting here, 22 years old, with two kids. I’m making this thing happen. I don’t give a damn what anybody says.” I’m motivated. That very next game, after he was born, I broke the (school) record against New Mexico State — 327 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns. Now, I really want to go to the league. I’m thinking, “NFL. NFL.”
Fast forward again, I ended up getting drafted third round Green Bay Packers. I thought I was going to go fourth round or later. …
I get to Green Bay and it’s already cooking. It’s training camp. We have a game in three weeks. You’ve got to learn the playbook. You’ve got to get in shape. Everything’s at full speed, 100 miles per hour. Week 7 in Minnesota is when I got injured. That game was my breakout game. We had packages. We had “Tiger,” which means an extra tight end comes into the game. We had “Zebra,” which means an extra receiver comes into the game. They tagged the rookies with numbers. So, I had “20.” There was three plays with Tiger 20 and two other plays with Zebra 20. There were screens. There were draws. A shovel. And a couple of outside-zones. It was going to be my breakout game. I was ready to go. First kickoff return comes — me and Cobb are back deep — he gets tackled into my leg, boom, ACL. Season’s over. So, I’m just devastated. I got into the locker room and that’s it. ACL’s torn, it’s confirmed. I healed fast. I should’ve taken more time but I heal fast, and I played the next season. They bring in Cedric Benson. He had a foot injury against the Colts and that’s when I got my first real shine, breaking a 41-yard run. Then I started against Houston the next week, then St. Louis and Jacksonville. It was everything I dreamed of. Here I am as a starting running back, 100 percent or not, I’m a starting running back for the Green Bay Packers. I could die. My dream came true.
You led the team in rushing with 464 yards.
Green: Led the team in rushing. Come into the next year, they bring in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.
What’s that draft day like? When they bring in two running backs to replace you?
Green: I was watching that draft with DuJuan Harris. We watched that draft together like, “Nah, they’ve got me and him here. Starks was still there at the time.” Me and DuJuan stayed in the same area so we’re watching the draft together. We’re like, “Second round, Eddie Lacy! What?” And a big back at that. I’m like, “Oh man. Here we go. OK. We’ve got to deal with that. It is what it is.” One of us is going to be gone — me, him or Starks. Then, fourth round, they take Johnathan Franklin. We look at each other like, “Hell nah. What’s going on?” We start drinking.
You’re both watching your careers end in Green Bay together?
Green: We’re watching our careers change and end in Green Bay together.
So it’s BS when guys say, “Oh, competition! We want the competition!” You want your spot.
Green: I was OK with the first one. I’ll compete. But you bring in a running back in the fourth round, too? Now, you’re sending a message. We’re in camp with like six running backs sharing carries and competing for a spot, which is fine. I’m all for competing. But the NFL is a business first. Competing is second.
So, they release me and I go to the Jets. I remember telling my girlfriend at the time, “I’ll never live in New York.” I woke up the next day, looking at my phone, like “New York? I’m going to New York?” I didn’t like it. And the Jets? The Jets suck. Let’s be honest. The Jets are terrible. I’m going to this team from Green Bay, I’m going from Aaron Rodgers to Geno Smith? Like, c’mon man.
How bad was it really? What was batshit crazy about the Jets? Because Rex Ryan was still the coach.
Green: He’s the same on TV as he is behind closed doors. He don’t give a damn. “Do what you want. Do it how you want. As long as you go out there and win.” Which we didn’t. Green Bay was more structured. You go in there and you have to put your phones away. We put on our Green Bay sweatsuit. We’ve got our iPads out. We’re 10 minutes early to meetings. With the Jets, man, you’re chillin.’ You’ve got your clothes on, your phone out, chillin.’
Just to go way back, you did live out of your car at Butte.
Green: Butte was a grind, man. My last few months there, I had to sleep in the car. Then I would go to the meetings and the classes and then work out and I was taking like 26 units just to try to be eligible to go to a D-I. … They had housing but I had roommates who had left, so I stayed back. Most of the guys already went D-I, to their universities or went back home. I stayed back to take classes to be eligible. So when my time was up, my time was up. You either stay in a house with six or seven people or… I’m an introvert. I’ll stay in my car.
Two straight months you were in your ’98 tan Chevy Lumina, and nobody knew you were there at Wal-Mart. You had the tinted windows and kept to yourself.
Green: I just did my thing. I’d call back home and talk to my little girl. She was about six months. She couldn’t really hear me. It was a baby squeal. In my mind, I’m like, “Something better is going to come from this. “Yeah, I’m in my car. I’d go to shower in the locker room. But I just know that something better is going to come from this.” I kept that going in my brain. I kept that as my motivation to keep going.
Meanwhile, you’re still working through your dyslexia and figuring out how to learn. You got with the right teacher and she helped you flicker the right lights on?
Green: Yeah, it was my counselor. She was going over my work and said, “Have you ever looked at getting checked for dyslexia?” I’m like, “No, I haven’t.” A week after that, she had me checked for it and came back, “Yeah, I think you have dyslexia. You should probably get some extra help for that.” So, I did and things started looking a little more clearer once I started understanding things a little more and finding different ways to read and understand what I’m reading.
You get to Green Bay, they move on. You get to the Jets. From afar, it seemed strange that the NFL moved on from the Alex Green business so quickly. A year after you tore your ACL, you were a starting running back for more than half of a season. Then, poof. I thought Ryan Leaf put it best. He said Roger Goodell is there to hug you on the way in but it can end like that and no one’s there to hug you on the way out.
Green: That’s it. Turn your iPad in. You get your locker cleared out with a black garbage bag. And you’re on your way out. That’s it. It’s a cold business. It’s a cold game. I had swelling in my knee every practice, every game. … Every practice, my knee would swell up. I mean every practice. After every game, it would swell up. I’m asking, “Is this normal?” They said it is. I probably should’ve waited another year to let it fully heal for my position and my style of play. I’m a one-cut running back. I cut and go. I shouldn’t have rushed back as much as I did.
Eight yards a carry is what you had at Hawaii.
Green: That’s my style. Looking back now, I don’t want to make excuses and shit and do the boo-hoo thing. It is what it is. It happened. I can’t go back and change it. I have to take that loss. If I could go back and change it, I’d definitely take more time to heal and be honest with the trainers and say, “I don’t feel good. I don’t feel comfortable doing this.” I’m living my dream. Shit, I wanted to play. And not understanding how the body works, I’m trusting these trainers to have my best interests. If something doesn’t look right and something doesn’t feel right, let’s talk about that.
You need somebody to protect you from yourself at that point, right? Because what an opportunity. Cedric Benson, rest in peace, he goes down and you’ve got this chance. Of course you’re going to play through this swelling and through anything because, at that time, a lot of defenses were sitting back to defend Aaron Rodgers after that historic 2011 season. So the opportunity to run and be successful is there.
Green: You want to play. You’re out there. It doesn’t matter if they’re sitting back or blitzing 100 guys, you want to play and showcase your skillset. That’s what they’re paying you big dollars for.
Could you take Toradol or numb it up to any extent?
Green: You can definitely get some shots or take some pain meds. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that your knee’s not ready. If it’s not ready, it’s not ready.
You’re not going to be as explosive as you want to be.
Green: You’re not going to be as explosive. I didn’t do the shot. I did the pain pills. It did it’s thing for what it’s worth, but it didn’t take away the problem. It’s not fully healed.
And you keep playing.
Green: I go to the Jets. It was fun there. Sitting behind Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, good dudes. Still, the knee wasn’t good. It was a new team, a new environment, then they bring in Chris Johnson, which was dope. CJ2K. Then, they bring in Mike Vick and Ed Reed. Antonio Cromartie. I had guys around me who were legends that I grew up watching and admired. But as far as playing? I wasn’t really in it anymore. I lost my love for the game. I was battling with things back home. I had two kids I wasn’t seeing. I just lost the love for it. It became more stressful than fun, and that’s when I knew I was done. Before they even released me, I was done.
Green: I remember going to practice and just dreading it. Like, “Damn, I don’t want to go to practice.” Even some games, bro, I wasn’t even into it. I’d drive to the stadium, like, “Alright, here we go.” Just… just… not even wanting to go to this game and being excited it was over. I couldn’t wait. I hated going to practice the next day. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I lost the love for it.
Was it because of stuff going on back home? Or the game itself?
Green: We were losing. There was stuff back home. I was dealing with a girlfriend at the time, it was a toxic relationship. And I just didn’t feel comfortable there. I didn’t like the organization. I didn’t like how the practices were run. We’re just banging heads all day. It didn’t feel like they had our best interests. It didn’t feel like they really cared.
The practices, you’d go at it pretty violently?
Green: We’d be banging in practice. We’re going head-to-head in practice. It’s Week 6, Week 7, Week 8 in the season. But when you’re losing, that’s what happens. The coaches feel like, to get the most out of their guys, they have to hit harder in practice. To go run more. Instead of giving us rest and going over the technique stuff, we’re working ourselves into the dirt and wearing our bodies down so guys are getting hurt more. I had a hamstring pull. My knee was still bothering me. I had a shoulder. We had guys with concussions, who wouldn’t even talk about it because if you talked about it, you’re going to get cut. You’ve got to deal with it. And when you’re losing, everybody’s jobs are on the line. It’s stress. So I’m dealing with stress back home and stress at work. Your whole world’s chaotic, and it led to a downward spiral. It kept spiraling to where I lost the love of the game.
Were you depressed that 2013 season?
Green: Oh yeah. I was depressed, man. I was depressed. They had me on anxiety pills. They were shoving those down my throat and I was just numb to everything. I wasn’t seeing my kids how I wanted to. I was 5,000 miles from home. I couldn’t find my niche. I couldn’t find my motivation. I couldn’t find a reason to go to practice or to go to a game or to do extra workouts or the weight room. I couldn’t find a reason for it. My reason was back home. Creating more distance. Creating more problems. There were a lot of problems with going to the league and not having a solid foundation back home.
People don’t realize this stuff. You’re names to plug into a fantasy lineup or we just see you in an injury report or a box score. Nobody probably had a clue what you were dealing with that season — that you wanted to quit football and get the hell out.
Green: No, not at all. To the outside, it’s like, “You’re in the league. What are you complaining about?” But I’m a human being, too. I deal with real-life shit. I have kids back home not seeing their Dad. I have family at home going through their stuff and they need help. I’m out here and I can’t do anything but talk on the phone to you, and I have to deal with the stress at work, in the locker room, on the field, and it became a toxic relationship when I do get to go home, man, it just wasn’t good. There was too much weighing on me at that time.
And knowing that time to say “goodbye” to the game is coming, that had me depressed. And then, it’s “Damn, how am I going to take care of home still?” If you don’t have a solid foundation, if you’re not grounded, it’ll mess you up. It took me out. I’m not going to lie. It took me out. It wasn’t until 2018 that I found the love of the game again and played in Canada.
You were out of the game for, what, four years?
Green: Yeah, I was done in ’14. That was my last camp. I didn’t go to Canada until 2017. I literally just woke up one day and called an agent and said, “Hey, hit up every team in the CFL and let’s see what happens. Why not?” And nobody replied back but one team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. They were the only team that sent an email back saying, “OK, send some film.” So, I sent some old film, with a few clips on it, and I went to a tryout and they invited me to the next tryout into camp. I get cut from camp. Now, I’m really done. In ’17. Then, by November, I get a text, “Hey, the Tiger-Cats want to sign you. They want to bring you in on Monday. This is a Thursday. I’m eating fried chicken, smoking weed, drinking liquor every day. I was like, “What!? They want to bring me in when? Oh shit! OK.” I go straight to the park to run, to lose 10, 15 pounds in three days. I fly out to Canada out of shape, belly poking out, weighing 240, hella overweight, and they send me to the practice squad for two weeks. I’m eating spinach every day. I’m working out at my dorm because they had dorms at the time. I’m trying to get in shape somehow in two weeks as many times as I can. C.J. Gable was the running back at that time, from USC. He gets hurt. I’m getting more reps. And then the running back coach goes, “You know you’re starting this week, right?”
The game was in B.C., in Vancouver, which is close to Portland. About a six-hour drive. So my family comes up. They watch me play for my CFL debut. I had like 140 yards on 10 carries, 11 carries. I balled out.
Let me go back and say this, though. June Jones brought me over to Canada. They started 0-7 or 0-8, fired their coach and brought June Jones in and he changed the offense to a run-and-shoot offense that I ran in Hawaii. That’s why they brought me back out during the season after I got cut. I never played for June in Hawaii but it was the same offense.
But when the Jets thing ends, I remember following you, nothing’s happening and then boom. All of this Hamilton stuff four years later. What did you do for three, four years?
Green: I didn’t do anything. I was at home with the kids. Working little gigs here and there. I wasn’t working out at all. Drinking. Smoking weed. Living the post-football life. And just trying to be a Dad again and get back into a groove again, being a father with the kids. I had another baby when I got back. I tried going back to school, back to Hawaii, and left there. I was doing personal training for a little bit. But after that, I stopped doing everything. Now, I have three kids and that’s what sparked me to play again in the CFL. I got my motivation back.
Opportunity called, then opportunity called again. Once I got that OK to play and go into the game, I didn’t look back. After that game, we come back the next day — that Monday — for our meetings and they say I’m the starting running back. C.J. is being traded. So, it’s like, “Oh shit. OK. I’m the guy now. I’m the lead guy.” It worked out. I played that whole season. God has his hands on me the whole time. I came back in 2018 and broke my hand. We had Johnny Manziel on the team at that time. I caught his first touchdown pass. With a broken hand. You can see my scar. I sat out six weeks after that game rehabbing my hand and getting in the best shape of my life. So, this time, I know I’m taking this shit serious. I’ve been here before. I’m going to get my chance and, when I do, I’m going to be f------ ready. I got my chance and I took off with it. I hurt my hand against Montreal and the game I came back was, sure enough, in Montreal. I got up there and balled out. That whole season I did great. I had my best games. I redeemed myself. Playing how I know I can play. Everything was working. I had 604 yards in like six games.
It’s crazy. Hit after hit after hit, I keep getting back up, back up and back up. Going to Canada was the time I was able to redeem myself as a football player. That’s why I can look back now and be OK with it. If you asked me this in 2014, ’15 or ’16, I would’ve been pissed off. I would’ve been angry and a lot of doing this (points finger), a lot of blaming. I redeemed myself. I was the player I knew I could be. Now, I can walk away from the game on my own terms and be OK with it and say, “I gave everything I had.” I put so much into it, man. Sleeping in my car in junior college. My grades barely getting posted in Hawaii. My best friend passing away. My second son being born and me missing that in Hawaii. Me going to Green Bay and dealing with injuries there. Battling that whole time with depression with the Jets. And then coming back home and a lot of drinking and smoking and figuring out life and having a third kid. It was a lot of battling. To come back and play in Canada and actually redeem myself and excel, it was fulfilling.
To have the ball in your hands doing what you feel you were born to do.
Green: What I love. And to give it all back. Because it took so much from me. To say, “OK, now, I can ball my ass off. For the grind, for the struggle.” It was the best time of my life. I love Canada.
Act II: The descent
So, what happened after that? Did you go back to a darker place of drinking?
Green: Probably my darkest times. 2019 wasn’t that bad, just getting out of football again and getting back into life again. 2020 got bad. I was doing a construction job that I didn’t like. I was going there to just show love to a black-owned company, a way to make some money. I was learning something new to start my whole life over and figure out a new skill and excel at that. I’m doing construction and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It became depressing. I wasn’t eating healthy. My schedule is all messed up. I was drinking like a fish. Drinking a lot of liquor. Smoking a lot of weed. I even did cocaine. And I started spiraling until it was an addiction. Now, to jump forward to 2021, I’m full-blown in it. I’m out til 4 in the morning and I start going to work at 7. Work all day. Go straight to the liquor store. Drinking there. Smoking weed. Not getting tested and not playing football anymore.
I’m eating fast food every day. Fried foods. I wasn’t working out at all. I wouldn’t even touch a weight really. It started spiraling downhill. I was so far into my addiction that it started taking over my life. I couldn’t manage work. I couldn’t manage my family. I couldn’t manage my living situation. I was just spiraling. As an addict, the only thing you want to do is get high, get drunk. Everything else starts fading away.
To me, in my own little small world, everything was fine. But around me, everything was chaotic. There’s a saying I learned in my rehab, that “we get the disease but it’s our family that gets sick.” My family around me was sick, man. I was hurting. Emotionally. Because I wasn’t there. I just wasn’t living to my potential and I kept digging my whole deeper and deeper and deeper. Once I finally realized it? It was too late, man. I couldn’t get out on my own so I had to get help. So that’s what I did. I called my program manager from the NFL and I was crying on the phone. I said, “I cannot do this anymore. I literally cannot do this anymore. I need help. Right now.” She said, “OK, listen. Everything will be OK. We’ll send you to Jacksonville, Fla., a rehab/treatment facility for 45 days.” I said, “OK.” The next day, I went to the airport and caught a flight to Jacksonville, Fla. I turned my phone in and came in with a backpack and a duffel bag and I gave it all up. I said, “I cannot do this on my own anymore. I need some real help.” Forty-five days later, I get out and it was first time being sober for 45 days at that time. My mind was clear. I started reading. I read five books in there. I was seeing a therapist every day. I was talking to my Mom. We had 20-minute phone calls. I talked to my Mom every day, to my kids every day. I did a lot of journaling and documented everything I did each and every day.
As soon as I got out of that treatment center, I got my phone back, I called my Mom and my kids, and I hopped in that Uber, went to the airport and flew straight to Houston to come live out here.
What changed in there? What worked for you in Jacksonville?
Green: First off, I did 10 days of detox. Where you can’t go anywhere. You’re in your room for 10 days straight. They knock on your door and bring you your food. You only have your thoughts. You don’t have any drugs in you. No liquor. You’ve got just you, yourself and I. That’s it. I had to deal with myself. I had to figure out who I was. I had to figure out what I wanted and didn’t want and I had to deal with all those past traumas I had in my life and all the issues I was facing and all the insecurities and all the fear and the doubt. I had to deal with it. Once I got out of 10-day treatment, I was able to talk to a therapist and all of the people in there. I could eat at the actual cafeteria table and go work out and play basketball. But I was seeing a therapist and taking it serious. Here I went to the NFL. Third round, 96th pick, 2011 to the Green Bay Packers. There’s no way in hell I’m sitting up here, man, with nothing but a bottle in my hand, a bag of coke and a blunt roll. This ain’t my life. This can’t be my life. I’m not doing this.
It was hard. It didn’t take until the 25th or 26th day where I made that flip, that psychic change in my mind that, “OK, I really want this and I’m going to stay on this side of the fence.” I took it serious. I was seeing therapists even after-hours. I was seeing therapists in the morning. I was seeing therapists during my lunchtime. I’d eat real quick and see a therapist. I was getting all of these issues worked out and taken care of when I was in there because I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to come back. There were guys in there who had come back six times. Like, damn, I respect the fact that he came back six times but I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t have six times. This shit could kill me. So, I’m thinking of it as “This is life or death for me.” My kids can’t wait on me anymore. They’ve been waiting on me since I was in the NFL this whole time.
You’re using to the point where it could kill you. Cocaine. When the addiction really has you, how bad did it get? We’re not talking about a couple of beers.
Green: It got bad, man. It got real bad. Cocaine goes hand-in-hand like pancakes and syrup. You can’t have one without the other. I was doing it to where I became dependent. I was dependent on weed. I was dependent on cocaine. I was dependent on alcohol. I had to use it to function. It became unmanageable. And I knew if I didn’t get help, I would’ve been dead or in jail. That was my only outcome. Luckily I had the awareness in my mind still left to realize that before it got too late.
If that doesn’t go off in your head, if you don’t look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I need help,” we’re not sitting here talking and who knows where your life goes. It was that bad?
Green: It was that bad. Looking back — and it was hard for me to say this at first — but I don’t change anything about it because it got me to where I am now. The only thing I would take back is all the people that I hurt. All the tears that I caused. The pain that I caused. But as far as me doing what I did, it taught me so many lessons. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that struggle. All my struggles I had in my life built me and molded me into this man that’s resilient, strong and can fight through anything. That holds true to this day. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to get help. A lot of people don’t.
Were you by yourself when you’re smoking, drinking and doing coke? Or did you have a bad circle of people with you?
Green: I’d do it by myself. I’d do it on my own. People didn’t know. I did it on my own accord. I’d do it away from people on purpose — because of who I am and what I’ve done — I didn’t want to be judged. I’d get high and just go out into the world like normal.
Did anything specific trigger to get out of that place? This awakening, this moment out of nowhere?
Green: I hit rock bottom. What they call “rock bottom,” I hit rock bottom, man. I hit it. I look up and I was like, “What the f--- am I doing? Why am I here? What am I doing?” I started crying, like, “There’s no way in hell I come from this and now I’m here.” I knew in my heart that’s not what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. So, I let it all go. I made the decision that day that I would never be this person again because I knew it wasn’t me. Even when I was doing it, I knew it wasn’t me. It’s not me to be away from my kids and not call. I wouldn’t even check in. Not call my Mom. I was MIA. Nobody knew where I was. I wasn’t talking to anybody. That’s not me. I’m a loving, caring guy. I love being with my kids. I love being a great Dad. I’m not a guy who’s going to be on drugs out here in the streets. I hit rock bottom. I knew I had to change, so I did.
Where were you living?
Green: I was in Portland. I was back home.
When you were in there, you read five books? Do you remember what books they were?
Green: I read the Curtis Jackson book, 50 Cent. I read Will Smith’s book. I read the Muhammad Ali book. Then, I read a book called the “Naked Mind,” which teaches you about alcohol addiction and drug addiction. And then I read a journal that a friend of mine sent me. I read five books and I had never finished a book in my life. Granted, I had more time. I had nothing else to do in there but read. But my mind opened up. I started journaling. I’m putting the words together a little bit better. So I’m understanding more. That’s my brain healing. My body healing. … I documented every day. I documented everything I was doing and how I was feeling. From the day I walked in there, I documented everything in a notebook. I did a word of the day. I did a goal of the day. I did an action to achieve that goal. I did, “Did I accomplish my goal yesterday?” And I did what I’m thankful for. Every day for 45 days straight.
That creates accountability and achievement and progress.
Green: Exactly, exactly. I held myself accountable. I had guys in there who were battling the same thing, if not worse, and we just held each other accountable. We were in here together. No matter if you were in the NFL — there were other NFL guys in there. There were pilots. There were doctors. There were lawyers. There were drivers. There were members of the Navy and the Army. All these people from different walks of life battling the same thing. We were all the same. We were all battling addiction that we had to kick. It put a different perspective to who I am. This addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are. If you let this thing take control, it will. And, it did.
What do you do to stay clean? How do you find fulfillment, purpose? When you wake up in the morning, how do you get by?
Green: First is always prayer and meditation. I go to meetings every day. I see therapists still. I do group work. We do exercises. We do trauma therapy. Then, I go work out every day. I come back and talk to the babies. My daughter’s out here (in Houston), so I go see her. Then, I come back home and I might pray again. I have a sponsor that I see and he gives me assignments to work on in the book. I work on his assignments and then, at night, I follow my prayer and meditation again. So, the meetings will go on for the next week and a half. After that, I’ll start doing some personal training. I’ve got some good guys out here I can connect with who will set me up with some personal training opportunities.
I might even play in the XFL again so I’m working out and staying in shape for that. So, who knows?
So, you’ve got that motivation back?
Green: Who knows? Let’s take this thing as far as… let’s just see. I just want to see.
You may be in luck because the co-host of the Go Long Podcast here is Jim Monos, who’s working with the XFL. Maybe that’s the follow-up. We’ll get Jim and do a job interview.
Green: Let’s do it! I’m with it. I’m ready to go, man. I’m ready. Wherever I can fit in.
It’s been 11 years since you’ve been drafted. Twelve by the time the XFL starts. That’s a goal? After everything you’ve been through, you still want to play?
Green: I still want to play. I just want to see. I’m healthy. I feel good. I still have to get in better shape, but I feel good. I feel good mentally. Everything else will follow. I still love the game. That never changed. Once I got in Canada, I got the love for the game back. My mind’s clear now. I’m ready to go play again — if the opportunity presents itself. If not, I’ll take a backseat and help somebody else make it. I’m ready.
Your family never had a clue. Your teammates from Green Bay didn’t have a clue. Nobody knew that you were addicted to drinking, smoking, cocaine — and at the ledge.
Green: They didn’t know, man. I didn’t want them to know. See what I’m saying? I didn’t want them to know. So, it was a hard pill to swallow for the family and some close friends but I didn’t want them to know what’s going on. I wanted to keep it in my tight bubble and let it take its toll on me without anybody finding out. That wasn’t obviously the best thing to do. For anybody out there who struggles with the same thing, find help. Talk to somebody about it. Find help.
Was there one night specifically where you hit rock bottom? Do you remember where you were and what you felt?
Green: I remember I was in my car and I had gotten a bottle after work. I was driving alone and I pulled over just to drink and relax before going home. I had some coke with me and I had some weed with me. I was in the car, listening to music, and drinking as much as I can. Smoking as much as I can. Doing coke. About an hour goes by and I just felt terrible. I felt bad. The sun goes down. It’s late. I’m still not going home yet. I’m drunk out of my mind. I’m on the side of the road. I’m like, “Damn. What the hell am I doing?” It just came over me. I couldn’t help it. It started hitting me: “You have a problem. A real problem.” Because I had a problem before. I just didn’t want to admit it. I had a problem a long time ago but I wasn’t man enough to admit I had a problem until right now. Once that happened? That’s when I made that phone call to get help.
You could be such a voice to help a lot of people. There could be human beings out there going through stuff like this and nobody has a clue. Their friends don’t have a clue. Their family doesn’t have a clue. They may not be lucky enough to have that moment in your car.
Green: I put the post up on Twitter — “55 days sober” and the “Packers will win the Super Bowl.” And I got about 50 to 100 DMs telling me about their addiction. I’m talking about current players, former players, how they have an addiction and they’ve been wanting to stop, too, how they’re proud of me for sharing my story, how they’ve been four days sober. Some guys five years sober. Some guys 50 years sober, 20 years, 20 days or they were sober today and I inspired them to do it right now. They were going to drink right now or “I was going to do some heroin tonight but I’m not going to do it.” All of these messages on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. People reaching out telling me they’re proud of me or they have a problem as well. Current players. Former players. Just reaching out and sharing their stories, sharing their pain.
We’re just sharing pain. We’re sharing something we have in common outside the game. This is something serious. This is life or death. The game is what it is. This is something we’re really battling inside. Everybody has that golden child inside of them. There’s the pain on the outer layer. There’s the fear outside of that. Then, there’s the shield outside of that. With the shame outside of that. So, there’s layers to this onion we have to get down to. Everyone has that golden child inside of them. There’s just things covering it up, whether it’s childhood trauma, whether it’s emotional trauma, sexual abuse, physical abuse. Who knows? The world is a cruel place. Some people mask it with drugs and alcohol abuse. And it’s hard to kick it once you’re in it because you’re masking it from your pain. Until you deal with that pain, it’s something that’s going to be a problem. I couldn’t believe how many people reached out to share their stories or just to tell me “Congrats.” A lot of people will be touched from this journey and it motivates me to keep going. People have 20 years sober. I want to make it to 20. I want to make it my whole life without touching a drop of liquor or a drop of weed and definitely no cocaine.
Were you able to respond to some of these people?
Green: Oh yeah. I try to get back to all of them if I can. Liking a message or a full-blown, two-paragraph response, I try to get back to every single one of them.
There were guys saying they were about to do heroin?
Green: And they didn’t do it. They saw what I tweeted. They didn’t do it that day. They said, “You know what? I’ve been wanting to get sober. I just didn’t have the balls to do it. I saw your tweet. That’s a sign from God. So, I’m going to put this heroin down.” They sent me a picture of a needle, of a bag, of a bottle. I couldn’t believe it. It made me want to go harder to keep doing what I’m doing.
It can be contagious for good or bad. You can fall into this abyss of drugs and coke, around people doing that, and it’s normalized. But if you’re putting out this achievement and people know it, it can be such a force of good.
Green: I know if I take care of myself, everything else will fall into place. I have to take care of me. I have to. That’s No. 1. I have to be OK. I have to deal with this thing, and I have to stick to it, because if I don’t everything will fall out of place again. I’ve been there, done that. So, I’m trying something new this time.
Is everything good with your family?
Green: Oh yeah. Everything’s good. The kids, I got back closer to them. I just feel better because everybody’s healthy. Me and my Mom are closer. Me and my daughter are closer. My oldest and younger son, we’re closer. I talk to them every day and it’s in-depth talks. It’s not just “Oh, I’m calling because I have to call.” It’s “How are you doing? What’s going on? Let’s talk.” I do check-ins with them, too: word of the day, goal to accomplish, did you accomplish yesterday’s goal, are you thankful for something. Then, we’ll do “What’s your favorite cartoon?” or favorite book to read something fun at the end. But we’re checking every day. Everyone’s doing good. Everyone’s happy, healthy and they’re glad I’m doing good, too.
You did say Green Bay was going to win the Super Bowl as well. Standing by that?
Green: They’ve got all the weapons. You know how A-Rod is. One thing I was telling somebody, with that controversy with him and the Covid, and all that. He “lied,” whatever. What that does is, it brings the team closer together because now it’s us vs. the world. I know how that locker room can get and it’s a small town anyway. Once he feels like he has to prove something, he will. He will. I know he has those guys on a tight rope and focused and close. When he has a good team with chemistry? That was our team in 2011. We just lost to the damn Chiefs, and then lost to the Giants. That was a championship team. They were championship team in 2010 when they won it because they had chemistry. It wasn’t a team; it was family. So, yeah, they’re going to win the Super Bowl.
He doesn’t use slights or critics or anything for motivation. That doesn’t sound like the quarterback I know.
Green: (laughs) They’re in there tight-knit. They’re not listening to the outside world. They’re going to win this thing just to prove a point.
Here’s what we’ll do: We’ll get Monos in here. Maybe Doug Whaley, too. We’ll work on this XFL thing.
Green: Send it through. I’ve got a little juice left in this tank.