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Alcohol Addiction Destroys (The Real) Jerry McGuire
Written By: Mark Smith

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I have been fascinated, shocked and disturbed by the recent news of Super Agent Leigh Steinberg's bankruptcy. Most of you guys know who Leigh Steinberg is. For the non-sports nuts, Tom Cruise's character in the movie 'Jerry McGuire' was based on Steinberg. He was the first agent superstar. During the 80's and 90's, if you were a quarterback soon to be a #1 draft pick, having Leigh Steinberg as your agent was the only way to go. He was the squeaky clean, All American agent that everyone admired and respected. He made well over 100 million dollars!

Steinberg, 62, filed for personal bankruptcy protection last month. The papers show assets of $483,500 and debts of more than $3.1 million. How was it possible to fall that far financially? It is a staggering, unbelievable 10 year riches to rags tale of alcoholism, denial, divorce, Counterdependency, abandonment, irresponsibility, depression and ultimately, sobriety and Recovery.

In 2006 Steinberg got divorced from his wife, Jordan, lost the ability to be with his kids regularly, became very distraught and then started to consume vodka in mass quantities.

My regular readers know that I would describe Steinberg's situation as a Counterdependent man (Grandiose, Independent, Oblivious, Self Absorbed and Controlling) being broken for the first time, thus unleashing some surprising, debilitating and extremely painful sad little boy abandonment issues. It is so sad that this amazingly successful man then flushed his colossal career down the toilet due to medicating his pain with alcohol. He would have what he called "checkout days," when he would spend the whole day drinking vodka from a bottle. In a 'Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel' interview (see the link below) Steinberg said "The essence of my life was control and in the end, it disintegrated." In another interview he said “(in 2007) I had started drinking in the day, so I went for a walk,” Steinberg says. “The problem is, is that my alcohol level got too high and I was sort of hanging out on a hill, sitting in a vacant lot, you know, just singing away and making noise. And, I ended up in Hoag Hospital in a diaper, not knowing where I was. That’s pretty close to, to bottom as I could ever get.” He was arrested twice for DUI and once for Public Intoxication. He ultimately ended up at a treatment center for indigent alcoholics, but there wasn't a bed for him! "So I had the ignominious distinction of not even being able to get into indigent rehab," Steinberg said.

Somewhere along his addictive journey Steinberg lost his NFL agent's license due to a financial issue with a client. It sounds like he basically quit paying attention to paying his bills both while he was drinking and while he was in an intensive recovery program. Then he got sued by a whole lot of people who also required interest, penalties and legal fees. He had a bunch of people screaming "Show me the money!".

Isn't that incredible? He lost over a 100 million dollars due to addictive behavior, Counterdependency, denial, marital problems, divorce, losing his livelihood and just not paying attention. Wow! That is scary! If a guy that wealthy, successful and famous can lose everything due to addiction then what can addiction do with one of us mere mortals?

Thankfully Steinberg has been in Recovery and sober since 2010. Not acting out addictively is wonderful, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of integrity to clean up the huge mess you can make in a 10 year addictive binge. He still can not represent NFL players. I wish him well. His public image always was that he was a very good guy. It is a lesson for us all. Any addiction can ruin you utterly and completely. It can grab hold of you and not let go until your life is in shambles. None of us are above the possibility of crashing and burning due to our issues. It is sobering to just reflect on the parable of his life. He looks so sad and beaten in the 'Real Life' interview. He is slowly coming back, but it will be a long time before he is back on his game, if he will ever be. Any Recovering Addict, Counterdependent or Codependent can relate to this man's pain, self destruction and desire to make it right again. The rest of us don't flame out quite so grandiosely as the real Jerry McGuire! But for the grace of God and my Recovery (from Counterdependency, Work and Relationships) go I.

Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, and a senior writer for wrote the following eloquent words about Steinberg's Recovery in his February 3rd article on "Bankrupt and barred from NFL work, there is no Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl party this year, but it sounds as if the party is far from over for him. Continuing sobriety and application of his considerable skills as a negotiator and a promoter into other aspects of sports marketing could produce a new career for the former agent. The literature of recovery includes a series of "promises" of things that can and will happen -- things like a "new freedom" and a "new happiness" and something Steinberg has always wanted: a recognition of how his "experience can benefit others." It might not come in the form of a Super Bowl extravaganza, but perhaps it can still arrive in the form of a life well-lived." I hope and pray that it is so for my brother in Recovery.

Click here for link to 'Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel' Steinberg Story Clip

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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