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‘It Happened Through Recovery’: NFL’s Cris Carter to Share Story of Hope at Rosecrance Benefit

The NFL Hall of Famer has dedicated three decades to sharing his story of recovery.

Cris Carter can proudly give you the full timeline of his sobriety date from memory.

On a recent October day, it went something like this:

31 years.

1,600 weeks.

Over 11,300 days.

The NFL Hall of Famer has dedicated three decades to sharing his story of recovery, which he will do for an intimate audience at the 2021 Rosecrance Launch to Life Benefit on Thursday, October 28, in Chicago.

Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013 and is recognized as one of the greatest wide receivers to have played the game. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987 but his rookie tenure was clouded by drug addiction and clashes with management.

He was released from the team in 1990, an event that would ultimately change the course of his life.

Carter sought treatment for his addiction and credits Wheelock Whitney, former part-owner and president of the Minnesota Vikings, and counselor Betty Trilogy for helping him get sober when he joined the Vikings later that year.

He was introduced early on to Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps, though he recalled initially being reluctant to identify as an alcoholic.

“I didn’t think I needed that type of help. Then you slowly start peeling things away and I was able to see who I really was,” Carter explained. “I was a person who needed help. Treatment began to show me the tools I needed. I started apologizing to people, righting wrongs, changing my environment and understanding that means changing your friends and a change of scenery and accepting who I was.

“Who you are on the inside will always be the same, but the outside has the ability to change. Deep inside my soul, I’m an alcoholic. I have to acknowledge that on a daily basis and reflect on that.”

As a sports celebrity, anonymity was tough to find, but he dedicated himself to attending four to five AA meetings a week. He found a home group and a sponsor and was introduced to sober living. Former Vikings Coach Dennis Green was another big supporter.

“He talked about the three F’s in football: family, faith and then football. If any of the first two got in the way of football, he always told me to come talk to him. There was space and room to be comfortable. He was always open to helping any player who was struggling and maintained an open environment for people who wanted help.”

Carter was with the Vikings until 2001 and ended his career as the second all-time leading receiver with the second-most touchdowns in league history. He transitioned seamlessly into broadcasting following his playing career, appearing on HBO’s “Inside the NFL,” ESPN, “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “Monday Night Countdown,” and “First Things First” on FOX Sports.

Today, Carter is employed by the NFL as a retired player and resource for other players who are struggling with addiction and mental health. He continues to be open about his recovery – and that treatment and getting help works – on TV and social media and said the NFL is even better equipped with programs and “real assistance” for those who need it.

“There’s no point where I’m not telling my story,” he said. “It’s a prominent part of my life and my career. There are a lot of Cris Carters out there who are undiscovered who can succeed with the right type of treatment and recovery. The accolades I’ve achieved in my life happened through recovery.

“I wish my story was different. But I think it’s important in all aspects of life for these young players to know that it’s OK to not be perfect. It’s OK not to be OK. There are other real, living examples of people going through and who’ve been through the same things who were introduced to a set of tools that can help you live and be successful. You don’t have to be a prisoner to your thoughts or substance abuse.”


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