From riches to rags - Former NFL footballer shares his tale of recovery with Booth Centre clients



Drug Counsellor Alvin Powell speaks to more than 50 clients of the Ottawa Booth Centre’s addiction treatments program, about how substance addictions ruined his career as a National Football League lineman with three NFL teams.


Former NFL footballer shares his tale of recovery


Clients of the Ottawa Booth Centre’s (OBC) addiction treatment program are used to inspirational public speakers sharing their uplifting stories of recovery from former clients.

Many of those clients have chosen to continue along the path they started at Addictions Services, living in recovery and a substance abuse free lifestyle.

The OBC’s addictions services program, spearheaded by Gordon Hudson, is a thriving enterprise of good will. It received 1,017 referrals in 2018, 450 of which attended the centre’s treatment programs.

Many of those OBC’s former clients have graduated and moved on in their Substance Abuse Disorder-free lifestyle.

Those individuals are inspirations to those in our service and many are actively employed, in housing, and have re-established relationships, and in life stability, thanks to attending the Booth Centre’s four-month addiction treatment program.

Recently, drug counselor Alvin Powell, a former National Football League (NFL) lineman, visited the OBC and recounted a different kind of yarn to a rapt audience of about 50 addiction-treatment clients.

He shared his “riches-to-rags” drug addiction story.

Gord Hudson, a former pro football player himself, (from the CFL), invited Alvin to speak. 

He described Alvin’s story as considerably different to most, but one he wanted the Booth Centre’s clients to hear.

“Alvin comes from a different perspective,” Gordon said. “Alvin came having everything and losing it all.”

Alvin’s lesson is: “It does not matter where you are or who you are, or what you have, addictions will come and take it all away, whether you live on the street or live in a mansion.” 

Was preparing to die

“He (Alvin) went from millions of dollars a year salary and living in six- and seven-bedroom mansions, having multiple cars, being catered to left-and-right, to winding up un-showered for six weeks in a Montreal crack house.

His plan was to kill himself with a speed ball (a concoction composed of a mixture of heroin and cocaine that users commonly inject into their bloodstream.)

“That perspective brought something different to these guys,” the OBC’s rehab clients, Gord Hudson explained.

But Alvin’s demise was not supposed to happen. His was a significant success story.

He had been a solid high school student and a standout athlete. He won two scholarships, for football and basketball, at Winston-Salem University in North-Carolina. He graduated with a degree in Special Education. He was tall, 6’5” and fleet-footed. He filled out to about 300 pounds.

Earned millions in late 80s

Alvin, now 60, went on to earn millions of dollars in his 20s as an NFL offensive lineman first in the now defunct United States Football League, then with the Seattle Sea Hawks (in 1987 and 1988) and the Miami Dolphins (in 1989), when he left the sport because of his cocaine addiction.

Pro football ended for him when he wrote a resignation letter to the Miami Dolphins football team, stating the obvious, “that cocaine did not work for me.”

Alvin estimates he blew about $6 million on a 13-year drug-addled odyssey during which he destroyed his football career, a career that began in 1980 with his first puff of marijuana with another player, until he finally quit drugs in 1993, about 27 years ago.

Gord Hudson said “bringing God into his life” is what enabled Alvin to stop using drugs and alcohol.

“He accepted God wholeheartedly. His higher power was God who he envisioned, and that is what saved him.”

Alvin told his OBC audience the following three “truths” from his drug experience, that:

  • Drugs are great
  • Drugs will destroy your life, and
  • Drugs will kill you (as they almost did to him.)

Lived in flop houses

After resigning from football, and through a circuitous route, Alvin wound up in Montreal, living in cockroach-infested flop houses.

He got to know the Montreal night club scene, landed jobs as a bouncer, and serving eviction notices on tenants, earning $200 for every delinquent tenant Alvin served a notice to.

Better-paying jobs came along thanks mostly to his brawn. He became a bodyguard to entertainment stars such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Madonna and even Céline Dion.

While on tour in Europe with Britney Spears he got a phone call, out of the blue, from Montreal Rabbi Ronnie Fine, who was operating the Chabad Lifeline, a drug crisis centre on Marlowe Avenue in Montreal. The rabbi had heard that Alvin was skilled at helping drug addicted people.

Set down roots

That twist of fate led to a new career path for Alvin. He deepened his roots in Montreal as a drug counselor to youth at the Chabad Lifeline clinic.

“People were coming to see me and they were getting better,” Alvin told the OBC clients. “That’s when I knew I had a gift in this area.”

Mr. Richard Marroni, a father of one of Alvin’s young addicts, was extremely grateful to Alvin for helping his daughter overcome her addiction. He expressed his gratitude by setting up a non-profit organization in 2004, called the Saving Station Foundation.

That organization is dedicated to the prevention of youth substance abuse. Alvin is the director of Prevention Services at the facility.

Alvin told his Ottawa audience: “All I do (now) is help people. It is the biggest high going.”

“Your pain and your suffering are the very things needed by him (God) to change you, which will become your greatest source of strength and power.”

Alvin is based at the Saving Station Foundation on Brunswick Blvd., in the Montreal suburb of Pointe Claire. From there he has travelled extensively, sharing his message to students at hundreds of schools, universities and sports associations in North America.

Mesmerizes audiences

He delivers emotional and sometimes bellowing, self-deprecating presentations of how drugs destroyed his life – for his audiences to learn from his many monumental errors. At the Salvation Army, clients listened to him intently, much like the mesmerized audiences he has been speaking to for the last 15 years. 

When Alvin completed his 90-minute stem-winder at the OBC, many clients leaped to their feet giving him a rousing ovation, while others passionately applauded from their seats.

Alvin’s message penetrated, Gord Hudson said:  “Each and every client came up to me and was shaking my hand and said ‘thank you so much for bringing him. It was an amazing story. I never thought of things like that, that somebody who had everything could go down that road.’ ”  

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Click here to read more about Alvin’s presentations. Once there you can click on another hyper link embedded in a photo like the one below to hear and view samples of Alvin’s presentations. (The clip was prepared by Global News.)

(By Roderick Macdonell, administrative support to program)