BY EVAN DENNY
STAFF REPORTER AND ASST. ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR
On Feb. 7, Former NFL player Jeff Hatch spoke in the Schine Auditorium about addiction, recovery, bullying and peer pressure in an event titled Recovery: The Gift of Hope and Strength.
Jeff Hatch graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 with a degree in Political Science, Economics and Philosophy.
He was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round as an offensive tackle and was forced into an early retirement due to a back injury in 2006.
“It started when I was 14, under the auspice of wanting to fit in,” said Hatch. “I was a varsity athlete when I was a freshman in high school.”
“I went to my first party with the older guys, started drinking alcohol, and very quickly found that it would silence all these voices and feelings of being less than,” he said. “That’s what started my path to addiction.”
It was after being prescribed opiates for an injury that Hatch found himself addicted to another substance.
“The analogy people use is that it’s a slippery slope. I always say for me there was no slope. It was like a cliff and I jumped off,” said Hatch.
In his speech, Hatch talked about his struggles with substance abuse throughout his educational career and eventually his NFL career.
“It was a great turnout. The football players were very excited to come in and talk to him,” said senior Adilene Garcia, the Co-President of the Phi Alpha National Honors Society for Social Work.
“We’re still at a place where we don’t talk about it openly, we try to brush it under the rug,” said Hatch. “Opportunities like this are incredible because it starts a dialogue. You create an environment where it’s safe to talk about these things and then that produces results, every time.”
The event was set up as a part of the ‘Opioid Use Prevention and Awareness Day,’ funded by the Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative.
The CHCI grant totaling $11,000 was given to Dr. Jessica Samuolis of Psychology and Dr. Victoria Osborne of Social Work, in conjunction with Janice Kessler, Sacred Heart’s Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention and Prevention Specialist at the Wellness Center.
“I wanted to be part of a movement to change the culture of high risk drinking on college campuses,” said Kessler. “This is a societal problem, it’s not just Sacred Heart University’s problem.”
“We come from everywhere. There’s no race, class, creed or color that defines addiction; it’s an internal condition,” said Hatch.
The U.S. Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention says 42,000 people died of overdoses in 2016 from opioids. This class of drugs includes prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, illegal heroin, and fentanyl, a strong synthetic drug sold both through prescriptions and on the street.
“The number one goal for me is to break down stigma, to let [people]know that if they’re suffering it’s okay to talk about it,” said Hatch. “Number two is to increase their awareness to the potentiality of misuse and then to look at behaviors, feelings, and emotions around drugs and alcohol.”
Jeff Hatch reached 12 years of sobriety as of Feb. 8, 2018. He currently works as the Director of National Marketing for Granite Recovery Centers, a substance abuse treatment facility in New Hampshire.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.