Burning Tree was proud to be a major sponsor of the Power of Prevention Breakfast benefiting The Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, with former Dallas Cowboy Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson the keynote speaker this past week.
A recent study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse indicates that nearly half of all U.S. high school students smoke, drink or use drugs, and a third of users meet the medical criteria for addiction. Henderson was no different, and shared his experience, strength, hope, and concern over drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.
In his 2004 book, In Control, Henderson wrote: “There were bets that I wouldn’t survive. Here I am one day at a time for over 20 years. This story continues and gets better because I choose every single day to stay clean and sober. This simple decision makes all things possible.”
Debbie Meripolski, executive director of the council, added: “We are honored this year to have Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson as our speaker. His story highlights how someone who basically ‘lost it all’ can achieve recovery and come back to help others make safer and healthier choices in their lives.”
Founded in 1946 by 30 prominent regional business leaders, the council’s early mission was to educate the public about alcohol.
Today the council’s network of collaborative services prevents problems with alcohol and other drugs before they occur, intervenes when they do, and promotes recovery for people who are addicted.
Henderson took attendees through his early memories of growing up in an alcoholic home. Henderson said he learned early on to use his good humor to defuse tough situations. Henderson shared some funny stories about legendary coach Tom Landry, someone Henderson called “a good man.” Henderson said that Coach Landry wouldn’t get too close to anyone, but was someone you could lean on. Henderson also lightened the crowd by telling the story of how he cured Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ snoring problem by getting out of bed in the middle of the night and kissing Jones on the lips. Henderson remarked, “I went back to bed and fell asleep as “Too Tall” stayed up all night keeping an eye on me.”
Henderson talked about how he met San Francisco 49er Head Coach Bill Walsh drunk and high. “Coach Walsh wasn’t amused with me, but he didn’t tell the Houston Oilers that I was an addict, so the Oilers signed me.” Henderson had lost it all due to drinking and taking “cigar box full of something and everything.”
Seven months after becoming sober, Henderson went to jail. Calling it “the best twenty six months of his life,” Henderson talked about how life changed for him while in prison. Henderson took us to a moment the night before he was to go to jail. “Coming back from an AA convention, in a $200 car that I was making payments on, the guy I was with in the car wanted to get high. I was seven months sober, about to go to jail the next day, and I had a decision to make.”
Henderson chose to stay sober.
Henderson took attendees through the ups and downs of his life as a professional football player, and as a person walking through life as a recovered addict and alcoholic.
Henderson also talked about through his travels as a speaker, movie producer, and author that he gets approached by all different ages of people. Some of the older people that stop him are people that know and remember Henderson as an intimidating linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. Younger people are stopping Henderson because they have seen him on one of Henderson’s ten movies that Henderson has created and produced, some having no clue that he was a NFL player.
Henderson talked about working with people that are willing. “You get to own me,” Henderson powerfully says from the podium. “If you are willing, I’ll help you in any way that I can. I learned that in recovery.”
Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson spoke from the heart, and did it unselfishly. He ended his talk with a prayer. “God, thank you for allowing Thomas Henderson to laugh and smile today, and never let him forget about the days when he couldn’t.”