February 11, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
At his recent Mount Saint Mary College talk, Tony Hoffman, a former BMX champion, described his struggles with addiction.
Former BMX champion Tony Hoffman discussed his athletic triumphs, his personal struggles with addiction, and the road to redemption at his recent talk at Mount Saint Mary College.
Hoffman is a former BMX Elite Pro and placed 2nd at the 2016 World Championships in Medellin, Colombia in the Masters Pro class. He was also a 2016 Rio Olympic Games Coach, with Women’s BMX PRO, Brooke Crain, in his lineup. His BMX career started in high school: he was a top-ranked BMX amateur with multiple endorsements.
Growing up, Hoffman’s peers admired him for his ability to excel at sports. But none of his friends, he explained, knew how much he struggled with social anxiety and depression.
“Starting in seventh grade, one of the hardest things for me to do was to get out of bed in the morning,” he explained.
In college, Hoffman found a destructive way to deal with his anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues: an increasingly more severe addiction to drugs like OxyContin.
“I didn’t get to choose whether or not I was a drug addict,” he said. “What I didn’t know at 18 years old was, there’s a doorway…and people can’t see this door. But when you walk through, you step all the way in. You don’t get to just turn around and walk away when you’re done.”
It’s easy to tumble down the rabbit hole of addiction, but much, much harder to climb out, Hoffman said: “Until you’re willing to change every single thing about your life, you will sit on the other side of the door, for the rest of your life, a slave to whatever substance it is that you’re using. Or you’ll leave in a casket.”
Prescription drug addiction can creep up on people unexpectedly, Hoffman said. He warned the athletes in the audience that with increased physical activity comes a larger chance of injury – and then, access to prescription painkillers.
What seems safe because it is given to us by a doctor is very easy to misuse and abuse, he noted: “We don’t realize that the stuff that comes out of the orange bottle is that same stuff that comes from the cartel.”
Hoffman became sober about a dozen years ago, but not before scrapping a promising BMX career, spending a few years behind bars, and losing his best friend to drug addiction. He has since revived his BMX career and risen to prominence in the field once more, but his story is not the norm, he said. Kicking the drug addiction is one of the hardest things he’s ever done. Not many of Hoffman’s old friends have been able to follow suit, he said.
Today, Hoffman has dedicated his life to bringing awareness to prescription pill and heroin abuse, as well as advocating for a shift in thinking towards current addiction-recovery processes.
Hoffman has presented his story on the highly coveted TEDx stage and is the Founder and Director of The Freewheel Project, a non-profit organization that mentors thousands of youth through BMX, skateboarding, and after-school programs. The Freewheel Project focuses on teaching kids leadership skills, and making healthy life choices, including substance abuse prevention.