Breaking Down the Barriers to Drug Addiction Treatment for Professional Athletes

In addition to the usual obstacles obscuring the path to seeking treatment, professional athletes must face and overcome a unique set of barriers to addiction treatment in order to begin their recovery journeys, including fears of jeopardizing a stellar career, being alienated from one’s family, and doubts about being able to stay sober following treatment. By addressing these concerns and pushing past them, you can break down these barriers and get the support you need to begin forging your own path to recovery, one step at a time.

As a professional athlete, you have risen to the pinnacle of athletic performance through hard work and dedication. Most people in your situation don’t want to believe that they have a substance use problem. If you have the willpower and dedication to become a professional athlete, shouldn’t you have the willpower to avoid that substance that keeps coming back into your life?

Of course, the reality of your situation isn’t that simple. One of the first and most challenging barriers to addiction treatment for professional athletes is having the ability to admit that the problem exists in the first place. Acknowledging that you need help could feel like you’re admitting to weakness. Because your profession requires mental and physical strength and dedication, you may feel that you should be strong enough to be able to push through your addiction on your own. In truth, it’s just the opposite—you need a team to help you through it. As in many sports, a team approach—with the help of coaches and trainers, who in this case happen to be medical professionals—will give you your best chance of success.

The Barriers to Addiction Treatment


As a professional athlete, the first and most common barrier to drug addiction treatment is the same barrier that nearly everyone faces. That barrier is typically the ability to realize and admit that you have a problem. But there are other fears and concerns that pose specific challenges to professional athletes in particular:

Career concerns.

You may worry that you are jeopardizing your future career by seeking professional help, but you can actually have a much healthier and productive career after treatment. Especially as an athlete, your health and wellbeing are inextricably connected to your ability to succeed; it only makes sense, then, to prioritize your wellness in order to protect your career. Know that the right treatment facility will respect your rights to privacy and confidentiality to the utmost. Know, too, that you are not the only athlete to face this challenge, and that many notable names have faced their addictions, came out on top, and continue to have successful (and sober) careers to this day: Josh Hamilton (MLB), C.C. Sabathia (MLB), Brett Favre (NFL), and Chris Herren (NBA), just to name a few.

Family matters.

As a professional athlete, you likely travel frequently—as such, staying in communication with your loved ones may be more difficult (and that much more important) for you than for most. A common fear is that going into rehab will completely separate you from your family and friends for months on end, leaving you feeling isolated and lonely. In fact, a good treatment center will offer you specialized programming designed to help you and your loved ones heal together. This often involves psychoeducational programming and the opportunity for you to work with your family in therapy to resolve conflicts and develop a plan for how to move forward as a family.

Doubts about maintaining sobriety.

When you’re deep into an addiction, it can be difficult to see a way out. Even after acknowledging that you have a problem and that you can’t beat it alone, you may worry that you will not be able to stay sober once you return to “real life” outside of a treatment facility. After all, you already gave into temptation once; what’s to stop you from using again once you’re on your own?

The thing to remember is this: if you do nothing to change your situation, then that’s exactly what will happen. Nothing will change. However, just like you had to rely on your coaches and teammates to help you get where you are today, you need the aid of a team of medical professionals to help you get sober and a solid support network to help you stay sober both during and after treatment.

High-quality rehab facilities often offer a variety of continuing care programs and services developed specifically to facilitate this process, including IOPs, relapse prevention and process groups, and alumni events. If you apply the same level of dedication and coachable mindset to your recovery as you do your sport, you’re already well on your way to victory.

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How to Overcome Barriers and Get the Support You Need


You have likely been dealing with your addiction for some time now. You have become an expert at cultivating the image of a successful athlete all will concealing a substance use problem, which is no easy feat. Chances are, it’s beginning to take its toll. You may feel worn out, exhausted, even frustrated with yourself or your situation. You know something needs to change, but sometimes the hardest thing is the simplest; just taking that first step can seem overwhelming, especially given the hurdles you imagine are waiting for you on the road ahead.

A high-quality addiction treatment program can help you break down the barriers to addiction treatment and help you begin on a new journey toward sobriety. Step one of overcoming that initial barrier involves a comprehensive psychological assessment to identify the individual challenges that you face personally. This is typically the first step a proper treatment facility will take to ensure that your treatment plan fits your needs and addresses your unique struggles. Your individual plan should encompass a plan for sobriety, self-discovery, and overall holistic wellness, including both medical and psychological therapies, to help you while you are in treatment as well as when you leave the facility.

Jeopardizing your future career, fear of not being able to see your family, and maintaining your sobriety after treatment are all legitimate concerns and barriers to drug addiction treatment for professional athletes like yourself. You will need to confront and work through these barriers with the help of your treatment teammates and the many coaches that will be made available to you.  A comfortable and peaceful treatment environment can also help you overcome those obstacles by giving you a safe space in which to heal at your own pace. As an athlete, you will be able to utilize fitness facilities and private chefs throughout your stay, and you will even have the option of private living quarters. The resources, unique programs, and overall environment of a proper treatment facility will help you break down the barriers to drug addiction treatment and begin to live a healthier, happier life.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.