Colts' Jim Irsay discusses addiction

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay still isn't ready to discuss the details of his March arrest.

But in an extensive interview Monday with The Indianapolis Star, Irsay discussed his ongoing battle with addiction.

"These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases," Irsay told the Star. "People shy away from seeking help because it's viewed as being somewhat morally off the path, that they've lost their way. I really think the disease aspect gets lost when you're talking about alcoholism and addiction; it's not like you're battling leukemia or a heart problem; it is that. But even in 2014, there's still this stigma.

"... That stigma gets carried forward, and it's unfortunate because people die and families get affected and people don't seek treatment. It's an unusual disease in the sense that the person has to diagnose himself. He has to realize that there's this genetic disease you have to deal with through treatment. My grandfather and father both died of the disease, and you realize you've spent a lot of time on this path. Certainly, I have. But with the disease, surgery and pain management can be very tricky waters."

Irsay was arrested for allegedly operating a vehicle while intoxicated on March 16. He faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. He had $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his vehicle when he was arrested.

He faces a June 19 initial hearing on two misdemeanor counts of impaired driving. A court suspended Irsay's driver's license, effective May 27, for one year following his arrest for driving while intoxicated. Irsay refused a blood test after his arrest in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis. Indiana law requires a one-year license suspension for refusing such a test. Police later obtained a warrant ordering Irsay to submit to a blood draw.

Irsay declined to discuss many of the details from the night of his arrest, but he did tell the Star that it's not unusual for him to carry that much money on him, displaying a briefcase full of $100 bills to emphasize his point.

"I don't know why that was leaked to the press or what it had to do with anything," Irsay told the Star. "You're talking about someone who is extremely generous, and I say that humbly. That's the way I try to live my life, and it has nothing to do with the law. What's been reported out there, there's been a sensationalizing about things that have nothing to do with the law. It shouldn't be an issue."

Irsay has attended rehab over recent months but told the Star he still takes pain medication to treat his hip and back, though the dosages are monitored by doctors. The doctors' eventual goal, Irsay said, is to wean him off the medication, if the pain subsides.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has been critical of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of Irsay, who has yet to be disciplined by the league.

Irsay declined to discuss any potential discipline from the NFL and stressed his commitment to running the Colts organization.

"I'd say my focus is on the season. My focus is on making the Colts the best team in the NFL," Irsay told the Star. "I'm completely engaged and have always been engaged, even when I was in rehab. Your paper [the Star] acted like my kids were running the team and I was in some kind of coma, and that's just not the truth."

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