Former National Football League (NFL) player, Alvin Powell made a visit to UNBSJ on Thursday, Jan. 31 to speak about his experiences as a drug addict and how he overcame his addiction to found his non-profit organization: Saving Station.
The Whitebone lounge was silent as Powell stood up at the front with a white towel in hand. The 53-year old had the crowd’s attention before he had even begun to speak. After a quick prayer, he launched into his story, a charismatic, yet gut-wrenching account that had the audience captivated from beginning to end.
Powell was born in Panama, but found himself going to school in the United States after a few run-ins with the law at home. His football career began in college, though in the beginning he wasn’t talented on the field at all.
After a summer of running five miles back and forth to a job every day, however, Powell’s physique and skill level changed drastically. By the end of his graduating year, he had been drafted as a professional into the United States Football League (USFL); things were looking up.
While Powell was learning the tricks of the game that was supposed to make him famous, he had also found a means of letting off steam that would kick-start the downward spiral that almost lost him his life.
He began smoking marijuana in school, but after going through a rocky marriage and experiencing the excitement of his eventual draft into the NFL, he gave in to the pressures of a friend and found himself freebasing cocaine.
Powell described the beginnings of his addiction as euphoric, “Let me tell you something,” he says, “drugs are great, but they ruin your life.” In the beginning, he was able to balance his addiction with his new career, but it wasn’t long before it began to take over his life.
Two seasons into his stint with the Seattle Seahawks, Powell left the team and checked into a rehab centre, relapsing twice before cleaning himself out completely. He was given a second chance the following season with the Miami Dolphins, but he only lasted two games before bringing out the pipe again.
Hooked on drugs and booze, Powell’s family disowned him and he found himself in Montreal alone, without much to live for. At the end of his rope, he purchased a speedball—a deadly concoction of heroin and cocaine— and was prepared to take it with the full intention of ending his life. At the last moment, in what he could only describe as a miracle, he found himself staring at an ad for an addiction clinic.
He left the drug behind and checked in immediately. It was during his time participating in addiction groups there that Powell realized he had a real gift for helping those who spoke to him. Eventually, he got a job working as an addiction counsellor and after helping the 13 year-old daughter of a wealthy man, got the funding that he needed to start his own foundation.
Today, Saving Station operates out of Montreal and over the past 10 years has dedicated its services to helping anyone break ties to addictions of all sorts. The group’s oldest client is 63 and its youngest is 10.
Powell has turned his life around completely and has repaired his relationship with his family. He spends his time working on his organization and travelling around the country making people aware of the consequences of drug abuse and educating others in prevention measures.
You can check out the foundation’s website at: savingstationfoundation.com.