Former NFL player, wife talk substance abuse

Posted at: 11/09/2013 12:43 AM
Updated at: 11/09/2013 12:50 AM
By: Dan Levy

PITTSFIELD - Chris Sullivan was a high school football hero, a college star, and then a Super Bowl champion, but his playing days are long behind him now.

Now-a-days, Sullivan says his most rewarding experience in life is something he shares iwth his wife, Kathi, and it's occurring on a nightly basis in high school auditoriums across the country.

When Chris Sullivan became a Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots more than a decade ago, he reached an apex in life, the football mountaintop, but sadly, it didn't take long for him to reach the bottom.

"I made a willing choice after the Super Bowl, after we got our rings, to give up football to use drugs and drink alcohol," Sullivan says, "I literally sat on my couch one night and believed that that was a better option for me."

Sullivan's life began a rapid downward spiral. Not only did substance abuse abruptly end his playing career, it nearly cost him his life. The once massive 300 pound lineman downsized to only 160 pounds, and was bedridden.

On the road to recovery, that's when he met Kathi, who herself had also had her life turned upside down when her 17-year old daughter Taylor drowned in a minimal amount of water after a night of binge drinking. 

"You get that feeling of: is it a right of passage for teenagers," Kathi Sullivan says, "Are they doing it because it's their grown-up thing? And I can tell you first-hand now, five years later, that it's not, and it's a serious, serious problem."

Now married and together, Kathi and Chris, the loving mother and the large lineman, are tackling the serious problem of substance abuse and addiction, one school at a time.

On Thursday night, it was Taconic High School in Pittsfield where they delivered their powerful and inspirational message of hope: telling students how important each them is, and reminding them how their decisions always affect others.

"I dragged my family's reputation down and through the mud," Chris says, "As much as talking to the kids hopefully helps them, it helps me more."

"I'm a huge believer in that everything happens for a reason," Kathi chimes in, "(Our mission to help others) keeps Taylor alive, and her spirit keeps her in the hearts of others for years and years to come."

In their own unique way, Kathi and Chris are executing a game plan that hopefully results in a life victory that's much more important than any Super Bowl can bring.