PALM BEACH COUNTY - A former NFL player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who battled pain killer addiction, is now working to help athletes across a broad spectrum of sports.
Randy Grimes has lived the painful experience he now wants to help others through.
"I was the guy that was willing to do whatever I needed to do to stay out on that field," said Grimes. "And doing 'whatever I had to do' looked like for me, was taking handfuls of pain pills and handfuls of sleeping pills at night to sleep through the injuries. I looked at it like a necessary evil. You know, I wanted to feed my family. I wanted to be the best center that ever played the game. I wanted to play every snap."
That dedication to the sport and his work on the field led to what he describes as a "full-blown addiction."
"When I left the game, I not only took that chronic pain and those injuries into my private life, but I also took that addiction. And for the next 20-plus years, I put my family through all kinds of pain. And all because, whether it's pride, ego, warrior mentality, whatever, I didn't put my hand up and ask for help. So when I finally did, that's when we found out there wasn't really anything in place. And that's when I started putting all of this together."
Grimes, with his wife's support, found his way out of his addiction, and founded Transformations Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Center. What started as an effort to help his fellow former NFL players through addiction recovery, has blossomed into an effort to help struggling former professional athletes from all sports.
Grimes serves as the National Director of Business Development for Transformations.
"It's such a diverse group now. We work with major league baseball, the NBA, with the NHL, with jockeys, with surfers, with MMA fighters, with wrestlers, skiers. It's just a beautiful thing to watch because all of these athletes have the same issues when they can't put that uniform on anymore. It's chronic pain, it's injuries, but it's also self worth and identify. You know, they leave the game, and they never leave the death of their career," Grimes said.
On Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, experts in the sports pain and addiction recovery fields will gather for a summit to share progress and new findings.
Grimes explained, "The current athletes, they have protocols in place and they've got solutions. but former athletes, no. And there were just so many groups out there that were dealing with former athletes, it was just getting these groups together. And that's what the summit's all about."
There are some areas where athletes deal with more specific issues, like eating disorders for jockeys, but Grimes says, athletes broadly deal with similar issues across the sports. While an NFL player gets slammed in a tackle, a jockey falls from a horse.
The hope, ultimately, is one of healing.
"My wife will be the first to tell you, when that this is such a family disease, when we talk about substance abuse and mental health, that even the families need help, and that's her passion, it's my passion. To not only see lives restored, but to see families and relationships restored as a result of this."