Name: Gus Gerard, College: University of Virginia, Professional: ABA/NBA
Gus Gerard played professional basketball in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1974-1981 finishing his career with 3765 points and 1811 rebounds. He was named to the All-Rookie team in the ABA in 1974-75 and was an ABA All-Star in 1975-76. He was an All-ACC performer at the University of Virginia, finishing his college career with averages of 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds.
A certified addiction counselor in Houston, Gus now has over 15 years in recovery and frequently shares his story as a way of “giving back.” Gus shared his thoughts recently on addiction and recovery as it relates to athletes,
KD: Gus, thanks for sharing your insights. How was your addiction affected by being an elite-level athlete?
GG: They were very related. I had a really high competitive nature. I wanted to be the best at everything. When it came to partying and drug and alcohol use, it was no different. I had to be the first one at every party and the last to leave. I never missed or was late to a practice in college or the pros, and I never was late to a flight.
KD: How about your recovery—how was that affected?
GG: I believe that being an athlete made it harder for me to recover, because I was trained to never give up. I always thought that if I tried harder, I could control my use, I could keep it in check. I was trained that if you were down 10 points with a minute to go, you could still win—and this worked against me, ironically, in addressing my addiction. It was only when I realized that I had to surrender that I was able to stop using and being my recovery.
KD: How did that come about?
GG: Well, I tried to kill myself by running my car in the garage with the door closed, but the car ran out of gas! I was ready for help and reached out to my friend John Lucas, who was running a treatment center at the time, and I went to treatment. I’ve been fortunate to have stayed clean and sober since that day, and I went back to school to get the training I needed to become a counselor myself.
KD: How are things for you today?
GG: Things are great. I work in the field, trying to help others. I am re-married, but after many years have re-established a positive relationship with my first wife and my kids, and I have a great relationship with them now. Life is good.
KD: What would you say to an athlete whose drug use is getting out of control?
GG: I would say that you need to surrender. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Help is out there.
KD: Thanks for sharing, Gus.
GG: My pleasure.