Episode 96: Randy Grimes, Addiction Assistance
Randy Grimes was an NFL player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He considered taking painkillers to be a "necessary evil"; part of the job description. However, he left the NFL addicted to painkillers and spent the next 20 years in the depths of addiction - losing friends and almost his lovely wife - Lydia. Lydia stood by him throughout that whole time and finally got him into a treatment program that stuck. Now they are giving back through their non-profit, Pro Athletes in Recovery.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Campus Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:35
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today, I welcome Randy Grimes. Randy was an NFL player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 10 years. And while playing for the Buccaneers, and to treat his football related injuries, Randy considered painkillers to be a necessary evil. Upon Randy's retirement from the NFL, he spent the next 20 years in the depths of addiction, losing friends, homes, and almost his wife, Lydia. Lydia stood by Randy and finally got him into a treatment program that worked. Now, Randy and Lydia are giving back through their nonprofit Pro Athletes in Recovery. Randy, welcome to You Matter.
Randy Grimes 01:45
Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm so grateful for this opportunity.
Karen Ortman 01:49
My pleasure. So tell me, Randy, so you were with the NFL? When did your passion for football start? Was that as a child?
Randy Grimes 01:58
Oh my gosh, it was second nature growing up in Texas. You know, I wouldn't say football was religion, but it was definitely a close second. everything revolved around not only sports, but specially football. And you know, football was just something that came easy for me. You know, I was it seems like it's something that I didn't have to work real hard to get better at. It just came naturally. And luckily, I was always in the right place at the right time around the right people. Yeah, but all football related.
Karen Ortman 02:35
And I'm sure there was some talent in there too.
Randy Grimes 02:38
A little bit.
Karen Ortman 02:41
so you played football in high school
Randy Grimes 02:43
I played football in high school and got a scholarship to I could have gone anywhere in the Southwest Conference. Now. It's the big 12. But back then it was the Southwest Conference. I could have gone anywhere in the Southwest Conference that I wanted to I chose Baylor. I had a sister there. And I wanted to play for the great coach Grant Taff. So I went to Baylor and the rest is history. Met Lydia on the very first day, our freshman year.
Karen Ortman 03:13
So you and Lydia met in college. When did you did you get married before you were drafted or after?
Randy Grimes 03:19
before like I said, we met the very first day, our freshman year, went out that night, and got married after our junior year. So yeah, we were already married and had started this whole family thing, even before I got drafted.
Karen Ortman 03:39
And you have children?
Randy Grimes 03:42
We do we have two children. Emily is is my oldest daughter and she lives in Houston and she's got three kids, three of my grandbabies. And then of course, my son Brady, who lives in Rwanda. And way over there. he's married and he has one child, too. So I've got four grandbabies that I love very much.
Karen Ortman 04:06
You are truly blessed.
Randy Grimes 04:08
Karen Ortman 04:10
So when did your experience with painkillers begin?
Randy Grimes 04:17
It was after I got to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And I remember I had a locker right next to the great Leroy Selman, and a lot of your listeners are gonna know that name. He was a Hall of Famer, a pro baller and one of the greatest, greatest football players that ever played the game. And I remember I had a locker next to him and I had a conversation. He was one of the first people that I had a conversation with about pro football and the first thing that I learned from him was that football was no longer a game. Now now it was a job. And then the second thing I learned from Leroy was You do whatever you have to to stay out on that field because you know, you don't want to get that reputation as always being hurt always being on the injury report always back there in line to see the doctor always being worked on by the trainer's always missing practice, you don't want to get that reputation because that was the reputation you were never going to get away from, it was sure to be a short NFL career, I turned to pain pills because they were so readily accessible. You know, they were there. And you know, I was not going to be that guy who was missing practice, I was going to be out there no matter what. Because if I'm not out there in my position somebody else was going to be and I was not going to let that happen.
Karen Ortman 05:40
so what do you mean by they were readily accessible.
I mena I got him from the team doctors. I got him from the team trainers, we had an open drug safe in the middle of our locker room when I Bucs for the Bucs, and so they were right there, you could go get them yourself. So though those and you know, I looked at it, like you said earlier, like a necessary evil, you know, I wanted to be the best that I could be I wanted to play every day on every snap. You know, I wanted to be all Pro, I wanted to be that I wanted to get that next big contract. So those are ways that I justified what I then called a necessary evil. And listen, I was getting it from the team doctors and trainers. So legitimate. This is the culture of the NFL.
Karen Ortman 06:35
Yeah. So what was the commentary around this? This central location where these pills were kept, I mean, was there ever any dialogue or any any sort of direction given by coaches, trainers, if you need to go take it
Randy Grimes 06:57
it was kind of an unspoken thing. You know, you do what you have to stay out on the field. And so no, nobody was directing me to that. Nobody was telling me I had to do that. And listen, I'm the first to never blame the Buccaneers or the NFL for my drug addiction. I mean, I'm responsible for everything that I did, and everything that I put in my mouth, but, you know, it was readily available. You know, it's kind of like, I don't know if you've ever seen the movie North Dallas 40. But it's, I refer to that a lot. It was kind of that North Dallas 40 culture where you do what you have to to say out on the field.
Karen Ortman 07:38
Yeah. And I'm assuming that today, things are very different, where, you know, as it pertains to pills being readily available?
Randy Grimes 07:49
Right. So you were with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 10 years. How long into your 10 years with that team did your painkiller use begin? Well, I don't think there's as much off label prescribing, which is what they call that, you know, we used to just order those. those pills would come from the pharma company in these big bottles, and you would just pour them out in your hand. So a lot of the off label prescribing has ceased, but to some degree, it still goes on because you know, that pressure that players put on themselves to get back out there on the field, you know, maybe earlier than they should, that still exists. You know, coaches are still pressuring team doctors to get a guy back on the field probably quicker than they should. Owners are putting pressure on team doctors and the medical staff, the training staff. So yeah, that culture still exists. But really, it's the players themselves, you know, like me, who put pressure on themselves to get back out there because we don't want to lose our job. Yeah, probably started about after the first year or so. And, you know, Karen, it progressed to the point over those 10 years that, you know, the last couple of years of my career, I was playing games in complete blackouts, you know, I was taking so much medication before games and before practice that I was playing games in complete blackouts, and as the Senator, I'm kind of the quarterback of the offensive line. So I was getting guys going in the right direction. I was changing blocking schemes. I was calling out defenses. I had to remember the set count. And I was doing all of that in a blackout. But you know, the crazy thing about it is in those eight and a half, nine years that was going on not once did anybody ever come up to me and say, Randy, why are you slurring your words? Or Randy, why are you nodding off in meetings? Or Randy, why are you late to practice every day? And why are you the last one to leave the building every night and pills are missing out of the drug safe? Nobody ever asked me those questions, because I was always playing good.
Karen Ortman 10:25
Well, that's what I was gonna ask you. So did Nobody asked you those questions, because you were still mastering your craft in terms of pla? or, people knew that you were under the influence and still playing well, and they didn't want to rock the boat.
Randy Grimes 10:44
I think it was probably a little of both, you know, as long as I was playing well, you know, that's all that really mattered, because that's what I was there to do was to be the best center that I could be for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And as long as I was doing that, then, hey.
Karen Ortman 11:00
so if you were playing in a blackout, how do you know that you were calling the appropriate plays and snap counts? And how do you know that you were on top of your game?
Randy Grimes 11:14
because it went on for two years. I mean, I would be home late at night, 11/12 o'clock at night, laying on the couch after playing a one o'clock football game, you know, on national TV somewhere in the United States. And I would start kind of coming around a little bit, and I would be all like beat up and scratched up and fingernails all torn up and dehydrated. And everything you are after an NFL football game. And I didn't remember any of it. But I would always go in and watch it the next day with the team and i always played good. And that just allowed it to go on another another week.
Karen Ortman 12:00
So there was never a time where a teammate or anybody that you were friends with, in the NFL organization ever, you know, pulled you aside and said, Hey, is everything okay?
Randy Grimes 12:14
Never, not one time. No. And, you know, Karen, I wasn't the only one doing it. You know, there were several other guys doing what they had to stay out there. You know, and I keep saying that, I guess because it's a nicer way of saying, hey, there were some other guys that were full blown Addicts too.
Karen Ortman 12:37
Yeah. So you're with them for 10 years, the pill use starts probably a year into it. How many pills Did you start with, let's say, in a given day, the first year as compared to the amount of pills you were taking in your 10th year? Was it significantly more as time went on?
Randy Grimes 13:07
Absolutely. Because you're you know, you build up a tolerance for it. And it's depending on what kind of pills you know, in the streets of America how much I was taking, but you know, actually I probably started off if I can remember right back in 85/84 You know, taken as directed you know, really trying to do it right. As time progressed and your tolerance builds up, I needed more and more and that wasn't just through my football career that was even after I left football, you know, the tolerance - more and more.
Karen Ortman 13:43
when you would take pills while you were still playing. Did you just go into that pill safe and just grab a handful?
Randy Grimes 13:49
yeah, pretty much. And you know, here's the crazy thing about it. You know, back then when we would play a home game or there would be a trainer standing at the door. And as you are getting dressed, you know, the game was over your family's waiting outside your car is parked out there at the stadium. You know there would be a trainer standing at the door and he would hand you a pack a little white envelope. And it would have a couple of Percocets in it a couple vicatin in it a couple of sleeping pills called alsion on there'll be a couple of those in there and two beers - what other profession in the world, with your car keys in your hand walking out to meet your family would offer you as you're walking out the door and even on Team flights home you know for after away games, you know they would come down the aisle with a what looked like one of those tackle boxes. it would have all the different medications in there. And they would offer you this offer you that and two beers. So I mean, that was the culture Back then.
Karen Ortman 15:16
What did your wife think was going on the 10 years while you were playing with the NFL. And clearly, she probably observed you slurring your words, and maybe not being completely present once you finally got home. From her vantage point What was she saying?
Randy Grimes 15:41
Well, when you're practicing in 100 degree heat when you're beating the hell out of each other every day, during practice, coming home and crashing on the couch or jumping in bed and crashing for the night. It's not that big of a red flag. You know, because we have been working so hard. And she knew how hard we were practicing.
Karen Ortman 16:03
You know, what about the slurred speech?
Randy Grimes 16:08
If she did notice it, she never called me out on it. And I don't think she ever did notice.
Karen Ortman 16:15
When did your wife know that you were becoming addicted to pain pills, or perhaps were addicted to pain pills
Randy Grimes 16:27
I had a seizure one time on the beach as a result of withdrawal from benzodiazepines. We didn't know at the time, what caused it, I just had shoulder surgery. So we just kind of related it to that. But also, I had to get off the benzodiazepines to have that surgery. So we didn't connect the two at the time. But I mean, she saw, you know, when money started being missed, and certain things and when I wasn't in football anymore, and I was around her more, you know, then she started noticing the slurred speech and all the signs, you know, and that wasnt the last seizure that I ever had as a result of withdrawal. You know, after several more seizures, then, obviously, she knew something was up.
Karen Ortman 17:28
Did this the first seizure on the beach occur During the offseason, were you still playing with the NFL?
Randy Grimes 17:36
Yeah, I was still with the Bucs. Yes. And even the team doctors, you know, contributed that to something to do with the surgery.
Karen Ortman 17:47
So, tell me if you can put it into words, the 10 years playing football, the effect that the pill consumption, which increased from year to year, the toll that it took on your body between years one and 10.
Randy Grimes 18:09
Yeah, well, physically, I don't know that it did take a toll. I mean, I was still playing at a high level, I was still - I mean, injuries started happening towards the end. But I think that had a lot to do with my age. You know, I was getting up to 30/32/33 years old and I'd had a pretty injury free career up into the last year or so. So I don't think it really took a toll on me. But, you know, I talk a lot about this. You know, we had, in the 10 years that I was there, I had five different head coaches. In those 10 years, we were a revolving door of players and coaches and front office people. And I remember Sam Wash when he walked by my locker one day after our last game I was there to clean out my locker, we were going to watch the film, do an exit meeting with our coaches. And then we would leave we'd go we would leave until the next season started. That's that's how it was back then. You know now it's more of a year round job ya have to stay around all year long. But back then, after your last game, you were pretty much free to go live wherever you wanted to until the next season started. But I remember Sam Wash putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, Randy, you know your services won't be needed here in Tampa anymore. And I remember how that affected me. You know, it was like it was pouring gasoline on an already raging dumpster fire. that when I didn't have that uniform to put on anymore when I didn't have that playbook to look at any more. I really struggled because I already had this raging addiction going, and now? I don't I'm not Randy Grimes, a football player anymore. And man that really set things off.
Karen Ortman 20:12
And that was the 10th year that happened.
Randy Grimes 20:15
Karen Ortman 20:16
So was your departure from football related in any way to pills?
Randy Grimes 20:27
No, I had an injury that last year. And, you know, like I said, I was 33 years old. And I was done. And matter of fact, because of that injury, I couldn't even go try out for anybody else. So I knew my career was over. And you know, Karen I just kind of raked everything out of my locker into a black trash bag and walked out the back door, and Randy Grimes the football player didn't exist anymore. I struggled with that.
Karen Ortman 20:57
How did you share that news with your wife?
Randy Grimes 21:05
There's only one way to do that. And that's just to be honest, and say what happened. And, you know, you think you're ready to retire, you know, you've beat the hell out of yourself for 20 plus years, and in junior high, high school, college, and then pros and you think you're ready. But until it really happens, you don't know how you're gonna react to it. And I think she was ready. You know, we lived in two places. We lived in Tampa during the season, and we lived in Houston during the offseason, I think she was ready to settle down in one place and really, you know, have a more stable experience for our children. But until it really happens, you know, you just don't know how you're going to handle it. And I didn't handle it well at all.
Karen Ortman 21:57
So you're done football at this point, you have a significant addiction to pills. Did your addiction ever escalate to other substances?
Randy Grimes 22:16
So things didn't really spiral out of control until years and years later.
Karen Ortman 22:22
So how did you maintain your addiction Following football? The first few years Until it did spiral out of control? What did you end up doing when you left football? And how did you manage to maintain your addiction Before it did spiral?
Randy Grimes 22:44
Well, I had some great jobs when I got out I was in construction sales for forever. And you know, back then you could doctor shop. And I probably had 10/15/20 Doctors at any given point all over Houston, Texas, you know, that I was going to and also many different pharmacies. And this was way before they started linking the pharmacies together, you know. And so you could get away with that kind of behavior.
Karen Ortman 23:15
especially because you were in Florida, and Texas.
Randy Grimes 23:19
Yeah. But when I retired from football, I moved back to Texas.
Karen Ortman 23:23
Did you ever say to yourself, I got a problem?
Randy Grimes 23:28
A million times. and I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop the chaos. You know, all I knew to do was get up and do insanity every day. And I mean it really. And listen, I think I'm a pretty tough guy, you know, because I've been in a lot of battles. And I think I'm pretty discipline guy too. But man, I could not get that monkey off my back.
Karen Ortman 24:00
When was the first time that you said to yourself, Hey, I got a problem. When did you know that you had a problem?
Randy Grimes 24:09
Well, as long as I was playing good, and nobody was saying anything, I was good. But I knew after that first seizure, that something was up.
Karen Ortman 24:19
And that was on the beach?
Randy Grimes 24:20
I knew what it was related to. Although I didn't say anything to anybody, I knew what it was related to. But, you know, different people would say different things To me. This is after football. You know, while in my retired life, you know, different people would say different things to me about my behavior or like you said slurring my words or something like they couldn't really understand why. And so I mean, I knew that it was getting out of control then.
Karen Ortman 24:56
When did your wife know
Randy Grimes 25:03
Probably just a couple years out of football, you know, probably back in 95/96, she knew something was up but like I said, there would be periods in there where I was controlling it. You know, I was a great provider, I was doing everything I was supposed to. I was coaching my son, literally, you know, I was attending all my daughter's volleyball games. You know, I was in church every Sunday, you know, I was being the husband she wanted me to be and the father that I needed to be. So I mean, I really hid it well, I thought, for many years, you know.
Karen Ortman 25:46
how many seizures did you have?
Randy Grimes 25:49
Oh, my gosh, total? A lot. Oh, my gosh, yeah, probably over 15.
Karen Ortman 25:57
That must have been really scary.
And all of them related to withdraw. I mean, it's not like I had epilepsy. I didn't have a seizure disorder. Although I took medication for it. But that was just in case I ever had another one as a result of withdrawal. So, you know, I always say that opiates are what cost me everything. But benzodiazepines are what nearly killed me.
Karen Ortman 26:27
What did your doctor say?
Randy Grimes 26:30
Say that again?
Karen Ortman 26:31
What did your doctor say Every time you had a seizure? Did they lie? What were they diagnosing?
Randy Grimes 26:38
Oh, well, they didn't know. I mean, I did all the tests. I did all these seizure disorder tests. And, you know, they would try to make me have another one in a controlled environment, just so they could find out what was going on. And I never could do that. Nobody had any answers, but I knew what it was.
Karen Ortman 27:01
Did they ever ask you if you took pills
Randy Grimes 27:05
no, never came up.
Karen Ortman 27:08
So after you would have seizure, you would continue taking the ah, benzo..?
Randy Grimes 27:15
Oh yeah. It got to the point where it didn't shock my kids anymore. It didn't shock Lydia anymore. You know, she just made sure that I was safe on the floor. And that I wouldn't hurt myself or anything like that. And then, you know, I would start coming back around after about 20 minutes or so. And you know, it just kind of got to be second nature, unfortunately.
Karen Ortman 27:44
While you were playing with the NFL, were there any programs in place related to substance use disorder or addiction? Any conversations, any trainings?
Randy Grimes 27:55
no, nothing. The NFL would come in before the season every year. And they would talk to us about cocaine and, you know, gambling and stuff like that. But, as far as prescription medications and things like that, no, there was nothing.
Karen Ortman 28:12
So you had seizures. Did you ever overdose?
Randy Grimes 28:17
Yes, I did. Accidentally. Yeah, sure did, a couple times.
Karen Ortman 28:23
And at that point, did any medical professional think that you had a problem?
Randy Grimes 28:31
Well, yeah, I mean, at that point, of course, everybody knew, you know, when that was happening, and, you know, I always thought that I, you know, I always was able to say the right thing or do the right thing and get myself out of it again for a little while. And then it would rear its ugly head again. But yeah, I had a couple of overdoses accidentally. I should have, I should have passed away both times.
Karen Ortman 29:02
How soon? How long after your retirement from football Did your overdoses happen?
Randy Grimes 29:09
Probably 15 years later?
Karen Ortman 29:12
Randy Grimes 29:14
Oh yeah, a long time. Yeah. I mean, this went on for a long time here.
Karen Ortman 29:19
So at some point, your wife didn't think that the seizures were just because of some undiagnosable issue. She knew that you had an addiction. I'm sure at some point your children knew that you had an addiction.
Randy Grimes 29:38
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Karen Ortman 29:40
How did that unravel?
Randy Grimes 29:42
I thought I could control it. I was always able to talk them into give me one more chance and let me get it under control. You know, let me take care of it. Maybe one more chance
Karen Ortman 29:56
Give me one more chance with what?
Randy Grimes 30:00
with this disease, you know, with this addiction with not going to treatment, you know.
Karen Ortman 30:06
so they knew that you had an addiction. So that was out on the table.
Randy Grimes 30:13
Karen Ortman 30:13
at what point was that?
Randy Grimes 30:16
Oh, probably, I don't know, 10 years into retirement, you know, oh, I was able to hide it all those years up until then.
Karen Ortman 30:27
So tell me about the time or times where you were no longer able to hide it? How did it unravel for you?
Randy Grimes 30:38
Well, I mean, money was missing, I started losing jobs as a result. i started losing cars, having cars repossessed, because I was spending all the money that we had on pills. And, you know, it got to the point where you couldn't hide it anymore. And I couldn't like I said earlier, I couldn't stop the craziness. I couldn't stop the insanity of what I was doing in my lifestyle at that point. You know, my son was in high school, my daughter had gone off to college. Lydia was working, you know, she was trying to maintain our household and here I was out there being crazy.
Karen Ortman 31:31
So you would go and buy pills from a drug dealer?
Randy Grimes 31:35
Well, I didn't have to, you know, all I had to do was go find another pain clinic, or shady doctor, and you know, those little pill mills were everywhere. So it was just a matter of if you had the cash, you know, then you could get just anything you wanted to. And not that they really needed our X rays or medical reports, you know, to prove that you're in pain but I had plenty of those. because I had plenty of injuries. But it didn't take much to get the medication.
Karen Ortman 32:16
Do you recall ever having that conversation with Lydia, where you acknowledged your addiction, talked about Next Steps treatment attempting to get clean? Did you have those conversations with her?
Randy Grimes 32:37
Yeah, we had plenty of those conversations. And, you know, in the beginning, I always was able to convince her give me one more chance or let me try to control it. Let me see if I can get this under control. And you know, we even went to treatment once or twice before. But I always relapsed when I came out. And so whatever it was that was making me do what I did. And yeah, there was chronic pain. I mean, that obviously existed, but after my career, there was something else going on. And that was underlying. And it was unresolved. It stayed unresolved for a long time. It really was just that loss of identity. And it wasn't until I went to treatment in 2009 that I finally grieved The death of Randy Grimes, the football player. You know, it was years and years actually, decades later, before I finally dealt with that trauma and grieved and it was like a death. but yeah, we had a lot of those conversations. And she didn't know how to help me. She didn't know who to call. She didn't know what to say.
Karen Ortman 34:14
did she have any support? I'm sure its a very difficult situation for any loved one.
Randy Grimes 34:23
And their raising the kids keeping them safe through it all and kind of hidden from it. You know, she did her best to protect them from, not from me, but from what I was doing.
Karen Ortman 34:36
Yeah. Did she have any support? You know, did she have people she could talk to or any resources available for her to give her the strength to you know, live?
Randy Grimes 34:49
She probably had them she just didn't know that existed. You know, there were obviously there was nothing for her through the NFL. Her father was Baptist preacher. So, I mean, we always had that, but as far as who to call or what to say, or how could someone help her? She just didn't know. You know, and even her family they didn't know. Even my family didn't know how to help me. You know.
Karen Ortman 35:23
Did they know of your addiction?
Randy Grimes 35:25
Karen Ortman 35:27
Throughout your NFL career?
Randy Grimes 35:30
Not throughout my NFL career, but later afterwards,
Karen Ortman 35:35
did you ever believe that your addiction will kill you?
Randy Grimes 35:38
Oh, yes. Yeah. And I can remember being in such a dark place many times that I didn't care if the next handful of pills was my last. I mean, there was that much chaos going on. And I was so deep in such a dark place.
Karen Ortman 35:57
You lost your home as a result of your addiction.
Randy Grimes 36:04
Karen Ortman 36:06
One home or more than one home?
Randy Grimes 36:09
Well, one home for sure. .
Karen Ortman 36:12
So if I have the timeline Correct. So 10 years in the NFL. The addiction continued for 15 years?
Randy Grimes 36:20
Karen Ortman 36:21
20 plus years. Following your NFL career, you lost a home. At what point was that in the following 20 years?
Randy Grimes 36:32
Yeah, it was probably after about 10 years retirement. And this was our dream home. You know, this was the house we bought. We lived in it in the offseason and then when I retired, this is where we went to, this is where we entertained our friends. You know, this is where our kids grew. This is where we were going to spend the rest of our lives and, and I lost it as a result of the addiction.
Karen Ortman 37:00
That must have been a very painful time.
Randy Grimes 37:02
It was and you know, there's a lot of guilt and shame that comes with that for you know, my end. And matter of fact, that was the night that we were moving out of that house is one I did accidentally overdose. So I was rushed off to the hospital. And Lydia was left to do everything that it took to get out of that house before the next day. So a lot of guilt and shame there.
Karen Ortman 37:35
She stayed with you throughout.
Randy Grimes 37:37
Oh, hero in the story, you know.
Karen Ortman 37:39
she's a strong woman.
Randy Grimes 37:42
Well, she'll be the first to tell you that she wanted to leave me. But God just kept telling her that he was going to heal our family and it kept her in it.
Karen Ortman 37:51
Tell me about your sobriety and how that happened?
Randy Grimes 37:57
Well, in the end, Lydia was willing to make one more phone call for me. She was so tired of the excuses that I was giving her but she was willing to make one more phone call for me. And this was in 2009. And it was in the summer of 2009. And she called the league office, the NFL league office up in New York, and whoever she talked to, like I said they didn't have a program back then for former players. But whoever she talked to they knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody. And that's how I got to Florida to a treatment center. That was September 22, 2009.
Karen Ortman 38:42
How many drug treatment facilities had you gone to prior to this one?
Randy Grimes 38:47
In September I had gone to two full 30 day programs. And then I'd been to four or five different just detoxes.
Karen Ortman 38:58
None of them worked.
Randy Grimes 38:59
Before this one. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 39:01
So the one that worked was the one that you went to on September 22, 2009.
Randy Grimes 39:07
Yeah, that was the one that was the last one. And, you know, I can't even tell you why that one worked. And the other ones didn't because the other ones were good too. But I guess maybe I was at my end then. And you know, I can remember pulling up to that treatment center that night. After flying in from Houston to Fort Lauderdale and driving up to the treatment center. And I was leaning up against the door of the car inside of it. And somebody opened it from outside. I just kind of fell out of it because I was so sick and beat up and you know, it was such a long trip and I was in withdrawals. And I remember just falling out of that car. There's about another 30 or 40 feet to get to the door, inside the rehab, and I remember just crawling on my hands and knees, that next 30 or 40 feet, and nobody helped me. And I'm so glad they didn't because I needed to do that on my own. And you know, that was always I say crawling in the door that night was my greatest accomplishment. Because if I didn't do that, than everything else was for nothing, I would have been dead.
Karen Ortman 40:35
You said in a previous interview, that you have the desperation of a drowning man.
Randy Grimes 40:44
Yeah, you don't know the story, but the reason that has such an effect on me, I heard that night, I don't remember much about that night. But I remember hearing somebody say that, Randy, in order to get this you got to have the desperation of a drowning man. And as an eight year old kid, in Tyler, Texas, I remember I was out on one of those paddle boats, you know, it's a little two man paddle boats that you like pedal and go forever. I fell off of that and I was out there by myself, I fell off of one and I got my feet tangled up in something on the bottom of the lake. And I remember how desperate that was. It's like one of my most vivid childhood memories. And I remember how desperate how I clawed at the water and how I was screaming underwater and how I was fighting with every fiber of my body to get back to the surface and get out of water, whatever that was wrapped around my foot. I remember when I heard that the night as I crawled in that treatment center. I knew that I was in for the fight of my life.
Karen Ortman 41:58
At what point in the in your stay at the facility in 2009 Did you know that you were officially in recovery.
Randy Grimes 42:14
I do remember exactly two weeks into the process, I was sitting at a picnic table right in the middle of the rehab campus. And for some reason I used to, I would get up every morning and I had a spiral notebook. And I would just kind of write down what I was going through what was going on around me. And just kind of shared my thoughts. And I don't know why I'm not a big writer, but it made me feel better. But this particular morning, I was sobbing uncontrollably sitting at the picnic table, it's 8:45 in the morning, it was on a Wednesday, I'll never forget it. And I was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn't get myself under control. Because first of all, I couldn't get over the obsession to throw pills down every day. Second of all, all the guilt and the shame of the huge wake of destruction that I left back with my family, my reputation, my friends, my job, finances. All that I was having to deal with that for the first time. Clean and Sober, you know, and I just couldn't get over all that. And I was sobbing uncontrollably. And it was like having somebody come up behind me and draped a warm quilt around my shoulders. And I Say quilt because I remember feeling weight and warmth on my shoulders. And it was like at that very second 8:45 Wednesday morning, that not only was that obsession to throw pills down, lifted off of me. But also I had this overwhelming sense of confidence that I could do this, you know, and that was kind of the birth of Athletes in Recovery. You know, I knew I wanted to make my addiction mean something. You know, I wanted to give back somehow through my experiences, but that was my burning bush moment. That was my big Spiritual Awakening was that picnic table at 8:45 on that Wednesday morning. And, you know, I did everything they asked me to do I stayed in treatment for 90 days, I had a couple surgeries. While I was in treatment, you know, I did some things to get out of the chronic pain that I was in. I had a knee replaced I had the other knee operated. I had some neck surgery. Like I said earlier I went and I dealt with that grief and loss of my career, you know, that lack of identity that low self esteem, and I did everything that they asked me to do for the next 60 days and I even moved into sober living. Here I was 49 years old, moving into sober living with a bunch of 20 year old kids, that were also just getting out of treatment. But I was still desperate to do whatever I had to stay sober.
Karen Ortman 45:13
How did you manage the pain following the surgeries you just spoke of?
Randy Grimes 45:17
Well, like I said, I did a couple things to get out of the pain that I was in, by having those surgeries. But right, you know, I finally came to the point where I knew that there was a certain amount of pain I was just going to have to live with every day. But I also knew that the alternative was not what I wanted to do, either. So, you know, and the craziest, the crazy thing is a lot of the pains that I thought I had, and that I was medicating. After I got sober for several months, a lot of those went away.
Karen Ortman 45:51
Randy Grimes 45:52
It was like stuff that was, you know, my brain manifested. And it was convincing me that I needed to.
Karen Ortman 46:01
Yeah. Were you able to talk to Lydia while you were in treatment back in 2009? Was that helpful?
Randy Grimes 46:10
Yeah, it helped a lot. And, you know, she had a lot of healing she needed to do too, and, you know, the family counselors there, they helped a lot. And I think she could tell the difference too, that this was really going to work. You know, somehow it was different from the other stays that I had.
Karen Ortman 46:34
Yeah. So you have been sober for 12 years.
Randy Grimes 46:40
12 and a half years. Yeah. Crazy, huh?
Karen Ortman 46:45
Randy Grimes 46:48
Thank you very much.
Karen Ortman 46:49
I'm very proud of you.
Randy Grimes 46:51
Karen Ortman 46:51
I think that's awesome.
Randy Grimes 46:52
I'm proud of myself too, like I said, it was the hardest thing I ever did.
Karen Ortman 46:59
Are you ever tempted to use again?
Randy Grimes 47:04
You know, I have crazy days just like anybody else. And then, there's moments where I think, you know what, I could probably do it and do as directed. But I can't do anything as directed, you know, there's a saying in recovery, that one is too many and a 1000 is. Never enough. And for me, you know, I don't have an off switch. I'm wired that way. So I know that if I ever pick up again, that would be off to the races. So I just don't let myself go there.
Karen Ortman 47:41
Is that something that scares Lydia Do you think?
Randy Grimes 47:44
I think so? And, it should, you know, unfortunately, relapse is part of recovery. It doesn't have to be, I don't want it to be in my case. And I don't think it will, you know, I stay sober one day at a time and I do all the work that I have to to stay sober. You know, I go to my meetings, I call my sponsor, I work in the industry, there's accountability. But, you know, we don't talk about it a lot. But I'm sure that's in the back of her mind. You know, I can't you're looking at me every now and then or listening to me. I catch my children doing the same thing. I mean, they lived it for so long, you know,They can't help it. But that's okay. I want to be accountable. I want to be accountable to them. You know, I want to be held accountable to my employer. To my brother, my sister, my mom, you know, I want to be accountable to all these people. Because that keeps me sober.
Karen Ortman 48:51
How do you discuss your sobriety with your children Today?
Randy Grimes 49:00
Um, well, of course, they're proud of me. They see everything that I post, you know, they've heard me speak several times. They know that I'm all about it, and that I. promote it and they know that I'm trying to tear down the stigma associated with it. They're very, very supportive, because like I said, Man, they lived it for so long and I put them through so much. There's, I don't even know a lot of the things I put through because I was in a blackout. You know, Lydia would tell you they love me unconditionally. Even though they were mad at me back then. And they were disappointed in me. They love me unconditionally and you know, I'm just so proud of them and we have a great relationship now. And this book that we just finished that's coming out on February the eighth that was A real healing process for the Grimes family too you know, because everybody had a platform and everybody contributed everybody was part of it. So that whether it sells a copy or not, I could care less because it's already served its purpose. And that was healing our family. the book will be out February the eighth, it's called Off Center. And the foreword was written by coach Ditka. Everybody knows that coach. And so I'm excited about it. It's everything that we've talked about today.
Karen Ortman 50:36
So what's your story?
Randy Grimes 50:37
Well, its a lot. And me and Lydia have done a lot of interventions together. And that's something that we enjoy doing. We like helping families that way. And I wrote the book with it that my story is run in parallel with a fictional intervention that's going on. And the intervention, we just took different pieces and different parts out of different interventions that we've done, and rolled it all up into one. So there's really two stories going on, that are running side by side parallel with each other. But they intertwine with each other at different points. And it's going to be a very unique book. And it's something that we're very, very proud of.
Karen Ortman 51:27
Well, I look forward to it coming out, you said in February.
Randy Grimes 51:32
February, the 8th, it's called Off Center. Matter of fact, you can pre order the Kindle version right now on Amazon. But you can't preorder the book yet. Amazon won't let us do that until February the eighth.
Karen Ortman 51:46
Okay. And related to the comment you made earlier about conversations with your children and destigmatizing Addiction, I am with you all the way on that. And that is also a passion of mine as it relates to addiction, brain wellness, optimization, we got to start talking about these things and having these conversations otherwise people are going to handle such situations alone And are going to be afraid to ask for help or talk to people and that's got to stop.
Randy Grimes 52:33
And they're going to self medicate. And I like to say that my message is, it's okay to not be okay. But it's not okay to not ask for help. Because there is so much help out there. There's so much hope out there. But you gotta raise your hand and, look at me for 20 plus years, I wouldn't raise my hand because of pride, ego, whatever, guilt shame. And look what I had to put my family through, you know, so I don't want other people to do that. You know, the you don't have to, there's help and hope.
Karen Ortman 53:09
Would you say that there are many other professional athletes who have experienced something similar as you?
Randy Grimes 53:19
Absolutely yeah. I mean, I've worked with a bunch of them, you know, and those 12 and a half years, since I've been working with the NFL and major league baseball and hockey and all of them, you know? there's a lot of guys, I deal mostly with former players, but we all have the same issues and you know, it's chronic pain, it's loss of self esteem. It's lack of identity, you know, it's not having that uniform anymore. We all have the same issues.
Karen Ortman 53:51
Tell me about pro athletes in recovery.
Randy Grimes 53:54
Proathletesinrecovery.org is the website. And you know, I said, I use that as a bridge to like I said, there was no resources out there for former players when this all started with me. So I used it as a bridge between players and resources. And that's what it's still used for today. I've got a big fundraiser coming up on March the 18th down in Delray Beach, it's a celebrity pickleball tournament. But it's been a great vehicle for getting guys and families and not just athletes pretty much everybody to raise their hand and ask for help. You know, because if this can happen to a former professional football player, if this can happen to a former big league pitcher if this can happen to an all American athlete in college, it can happen to you You know, that can happen to your son, your daughter. And so I'm really proud of what pro athletes and recovery has been able to accomplish. It's a 501C3, it's a nonprofit, but it just serves as a bridge between people that need help and resources.
Karen Ortman 55:18
You're doing good work, my friend.
Randy Grimes 55:20
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, you got to give it away to keep it up.
Karen Ortman 55:25
That's right. Have you found your purpose in life?
Randy Grimes 55:30
Yes. And that's what you know Looking back now, at everything that I've done all the destruction that I've caused, you know, it was, I can see now that God was just kind of preparing me for what I do now. You know, I used to think football was life, you know, football was everything. You know, I was so wrapped up in being Randy Grimes, the football player, it was everything. But you know, This is life and death stuff, you know, what the work that I do now is life and death stuff. You know, I was inducted into the Baylor University, Athletic Hall of Fame back in 2007. And I can remember standing at that podium, in the middle of full blown addiction, you know, and accepting that award, and then just the other day, I found out that they're gonna award me with a Distinguished Alumni Award. And here it is, you know, 14 years later. And you know, it's come full circle, and I'm getting that award for the work that I do now, families in addiction, and not football, you know, football sports does not, that's not who I am anymore, you know, and I have I've rediscovered myself, I've reinvented myself, and who would have ever thought, you know, after all those overdoses and ambulance rides, and emergency rooms days and losing homes and jobs, who would have ever thought.
Karen Ortman 57:20
yeah, but you know, you also consider the fact that you're a professional athlete. And here you are being vulnerable and sharing your story, which might make other people whether they're high school superstars, college superstars, or professional athletes looking at themselves and saying, hey, I can ask for help. Here's Randy Grimes, who played in the NFL for 10 years. And he's got the strength to talk and tell his story. So that football career, I think it just sort of bolsters the voice that you have- amplifies it, I should say. So you can really reach more people.
Randy Grimes 58:10
I hope it's getting in the doors that maybe other people couldn't.
Karen Ortman 58:15
yeah, I think you're providing a wonderful service for people who need help. So I thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you would like to share?
Randy Grimes 58:34
No, just get ready for the book Off Center. Go see my website, proathletesinrecovery.org. And of course, you can find me on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, sobersinner60. If anybody needs help, you know, you can always call me. And I'll help you find the appropriate resource. And I'm just grateful that you allow me all this time today. And I do come back I want to come back with Lydia or you have Lydia without me in. But she can provide such great insight from a from a spouse's perspective.
Karen Ortman 59:14
Well, I think I agree. And I can definitely let our listeners know to look for a future episode with you and Lydia, because I think that both of your perspectives will be so educational, because there are things that she might say that I would be interested to hear your feedback about, you know.
Randy Grimes 59:39
you know it's crazy, because I'll tell a story like I thought it happened. Yeah, No, no. No it wasn't anything like that. Thank you for having me.
Karen Ortman 59:51
My pleasure. So thank you once again to my guest, Randy, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Tune in.