“I’m sober now,” he said. “But it’s an everyday struggle. I have an addiction. I’ll always have an addiction. It never goes away. I mean, I want to get high right now. But I know that I can’t if I want to be here for my children.”
We knew many of the checkpoints on Odom’s path to an October 2015 overdose at a Nevada brothel that landed him in a coma — his father’s drug addiction, the death of his mother when he was just 12 years old, the 2003 passing of his grandmother who raised him, his 6-month-old son’s sudden death three months later, his best friend succumbing to a bacterial skin infection and his separation from ex-wife Khloe Kardashian — but to hear him detail the steps is both captivating and heart-wrenching:
Odom described first trying cocaine at age 24 on break in Miami during the summer of 2004, the same offseason in which he was dealt to the Lakers in the trade that brought Shaquille O’Neal to the Heat.
“I wish I could tell you there was a reason for it,” he said. “There wasn’t. It was just an asinine decision I made. If I knew that it was going to affect my life the way it did, I would’ve never even thought about it. Never. But I did it. It turned out to be a life-altering decision.”
He detailed a night in 2006 — the summer before a three-year stretch on the Lakers that resulted in three straight Finals appearances and two championships — when he “had been out partying all night,” only to receive an early morning phone call from his son’s mother saying, “He won’t wake up.”
“I should’ve been home with him,” he said. “But I was out, doing whatever.”
That’s when “everything probably picked up at that point, with the drugs,” which in retrospect is remarkable, considering he enjoyed his most successful NBA stretch and captured 2011 Sixth Man of the Year honors over the five seasons. Following the NBA lockout and his trade to the Dallas Mavericks in December 2011, “things got out of control,” and his life and career began a downward spiral.
“When I was like 32, 33 … I just wanted to get high all the time,” he said. “That’s it, just get high. And things got dark as hell.”
He played one tumultuous season in Dallas, appeared in all 82 games for the 2012-13 Los Angeles Clippers and signed a 10-day deal with the New York Knicks in April 2014. He played his final NBA game at age 33.
Three months after he started for the Clippers over Blake Griffin alongside Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan in a first-round playoff series loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Odom reportedly went missing, suspected of heavy drug use, and days later was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence. He soon checked into rehab, only to leave a day later, and Kardashian filed for divorce shortly thereafter.
“One of the darkest places I’ve ever been was when I was in a motel room, getting high with this chick, and my wife (at the time) walked in,” said Odom. “That probably was like rock bottom.
“First of all I was in a motel.
“I’m a millionaire. I’d made it out of Jamaica, Queens, and won two NBA titles. And I’m in a motel, with some random person, doing coke. But I just wanted to get high with this girl, and I had no other place to go. I couldn’t take her home. You know, I was being a scumbag. Nothing else I got for that. No excuses. No bulls***. That’s just the truth.
“My d*** and my habit took me down all the roads that you don’t ever wanna go down. A lot of great men are fools to that. Fools to that. There are probably a lot of young dudes out there who hear my story and think that it could never happen to them. That they’re untouchable.
“Man … Nobody is untouchable. Nobody in this life is immune to pain.”
He overdosed two years later.
“At that point in my life, I was doing coke every day. Pretty much every second of free time that I had, I was doing coke. I couldn’t control it.”
Odom described both the pain and joy he felt as his teenaged children, ex-wife and former teammates, including longtime loyal friend Kobe Bryant, visited him during his three-month stay at LA’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Over the next six months, he was spotted as a guest of Bryant’s at a game against the Heat in Los Angeles in March 2016 and again at Kobe’s 60-point farewell evening.
Last summer, though, friends and family reportedly feared Odom had relapsed. In December 2016, he again checked into rehab, this time staying for nearly a month. This past January, he appeared on “The Doctors” to declare, “I feel good, man. I’m great. Living. Sober. Hopefully a long life ahead of me.”
In March, Odom granted a candid interview to US Weekly, detailing how cocaine ended his marriage. But never has the former Laker opened up quite the way he did to The Players’ Tribune on Thursday:
“I shook hands with death. But you know what? Ain’t no coming back from that. Even though my funeral would probably be a good funeral, and there’d probably be a lot of people who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. But it ain’t time for that yet.”
Odom has presumably been sober for nearly eight months. Here’s hoping each day gets a little easier.
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