Recovery Unscripted Herschel Walker

Featured Guest: Herschel Walker, football legend

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For today’s show, I’m excited to bring you a conversation with legendary running back Herschel Walker. After winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Georgia, Herschel went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, become a successful entrepreneur, and overcome the challenge of being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. For this episode, he sat down with Foundations Chief Marketing Officer, Lee Pepper, at the Recovery Results conference in Dallas to share his personal story of self-discovery and describe how he hopes to be a voice for others struggling with DID.

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Podcast Transcript: David Condos with Herschel Walker, football legend

David: Hi guys. Welcome to this episode of Recovery Unscripted. I’m David Condos, and this podcast is powered by Foundations Recovery Network. Today, I’m excited to bring you a conversation with legendary running back Herschel Walker.

After winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Georgia, Herschel went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, become a successful entrepreneur and overcome the challenge of being diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. He sat down with Foundation’s chief marketing officer Lee Pepper at the Recovery Results conference in Dallas to share his personal story of self-discovery and describe how he hopes to be a voice for others struggling with a DID. Now here’s Lee and Herschel.

Lee: It’s my great pleasure to welcome Hershel Walker to our stage this evening. Hershel, thank you so much for coming to Recovery Results. This is our 51st national conference here in Dallas and we’re just so honored to have you on the stage for sharing your journey and your story tonight.

Herschel: I’m glad to be here. Sharing my story is not just sharing it with them but it’s also helping me out as well.

Lee: That’s good to hear. When we’re producing these conferences, we have so many professionals that come to get their continued education credits for their certifications. We also have a lot of folks who just work in the industry that come here and they use this time to go to the open meetings and to network. To get refreshed, to get revived. Because I think so many people who are in our space, who are working every day in the trenches they’ve got to be revived a little bit too.

Herschel: No, that’s exactly right. Hearing from someone else that is recovering. Hearing from someone else that has had the problems they realize that they’re not alone. For myself I get it out of speaking, talking about things that is happening it helps me. It helps me to be better for myself and sometimes it helps me to find out more things about myself.

Lee: There’s so much work you were just starting to share earlier about how much you travel. Especially going and working on our military bases with our veterans. I can only imagine that you probably get a lot of affirmation and comments from our men and women in the Armed Services that probably are relieved to hear you share your story.

Herschel: No, they are. Because sometimes it’s hard because first of all you think that you’re all by yourself. You don’t think that anyone is going through what you’re going through and you realize that they are. Then at the same time you are– sometimes you try to hide things. You’re more ashamed to admit it because you’re afraid of what someone may think about you.

For myself it wasn’t what someone will think about me. For myself is what I may do to someone else. I had a lovely wife. I was having a kid at that time, a young man at that time. I started thinking about what I can be to them if I didn’t get help. That’s why I didn’t worry about what anywhere else thought about me. That’s the reason I tell everyone that is going through a recovery time or going through anything, that sometimes don’t just think about yourself. Think about others.

Because sometimes what you do affects others as well. So you want to think about that. Think about your loved ones and I know it’s very difficult and you shouldn’t worry about what anyone else think. Because first of all, a lot of us have problems. First of all a lot of us have problems that we try to hide. That we don’t want to admit it. So you’re not alone and I can promise you’re not alone.

Probably a hundred percent of us are mentally crazy and the thing is that we just have to be willing to step forward. Because stepping forward it’s just a brave move that you make that make you feel better. The person that is hiding it, they’re the ones who are going to have problems.

Lee: There was a one of our CEO Jennifer Angier had spoken on one of our broadcasts a couple years ago. A lot of people think that going into treatment is going to be the hardest thing and really what she was sharing was that, no it’s asking that first person for help. Requesting that first bit of information, that’s the hard– Once you can do that you can make it through.

Herschel: It’s very hard. That’s why I said it – to come to a conference like this here, to have someone listen to me and maybe then that time someone may come up and start talking about something that’s going on in their lives. To make that initial one step, and that’s what it is taking that one step first. Whether it’s communication, whether it’s getting the information or whether it’s just acknowledging that something is going on. I think that’s the brave part because once you’ve done that now you’re ready to go forward.

I must tell everyone that it’s not easy and it’s not going to be easy. Don’t think that just because you made that one step that now the sun is bright and everything that’s happening. Because you’re going to have some dark times. You’re going to have some tough times. I always say I’m living proof, that if you continue to get up when you get knocked down just keep getting up. You’re going to be okay.

Lee: There was an interview you did many years ago and the person interviewing you said, “Aren’t you ashamed?” and you said, “What’s there to be ashamed about. I’m human.” I thought that was such a powerful quote and I hope that it gave a lot of people encouragement too.

Herschel: That’s what people forget about that we all human. That we all are willing to make mistakes. We all going to make those mistakes. I’ve been a Christian. I tell people all the time there’s only one great man in my life, that’s my Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the only one I know that didn’t make a mistake but all of us are going to make mistakes. That’s what makes us human.

That’s what makes us great people, and a great person is a person that gets knocked down and get up. Because you will get knocked down but you got to get up. When you talk about mental health, when you talk about something like that people want to shy away from it. They don’t want to deal with that, but we all have those problems. We all have those challenges in our life that we got to realize that they’re there.

We’ve got to acknowledge them but if you’re going through it it’s okay. It is okay because you’re going to have those problems, you’re going to have those challenges that you just got to stand up.

Lee: When I was doing some research on Dissociative Identity Disorder, DID, and then seeing quotes from you and reading parts of your book and seeing your videos. I really liked how you were framing it to people who did not understand. Because there seem to be a lot of people in the beginning that were a little dismissive of the disease because they just didn’t understand it.

I think the way that you framed it as that was your coping mechanism. I just wondered if you might share a little bit about that coping mechanism and some of the trauma that starts to mask.

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Herschel: When you talk about mental health sometimes you talk about the different recoveries. You talk about people who use coping mechanism because they don’t want to deal with the real pain they’re going through. For myself I was bullied as a little kid. I was bullied as a little kid that I was ashamed of myself. I didn’t love myself and I wanted to be someone else.

So what I did is to overcome that pain I created that incredible hope. I created that incredible athlete that can do some amazing things. That got it. Went out and got all A’s in schools and did all those great things but what I didn’t do is deal with that pain that I had. I used that athletic world as my coping mechanism. Like you can use alcohol, you can use drugs, you can use cutting, you can use over eating as a coping mechanism. Because you don’t want to deal with the pain that you’re going through and that’s what I did.

What happened is when I got out of this athletic world, so seriously into this athletic world, where’s that coping mechanism going to go to right now? Is he going to go in my home? Is he going to go out on the streets? Right now in today’s football world, first thing people will think is a concussion. First thing people are going to say is, ‘Herschel he’s that football player.’ No, no, no. I had a mental problem and the mental problem was DID, Dissociative Identity Order.

There are some doctors say, “I’m not really sure that I believe in DID,” and I’m saying, “I’m not sure if you believe in it, but I do.” Because after going to get treatment, after going to professionals to help me, I’m not doing the things I used to do. That I understand what’s going on in my life. I’m not saying that I’m better, but I am better than where I was at before. Because there’s not a doubt in my mind that if I’m not going to seek help, Herschel Walker wouldn’t be sitting here right now.

Lee: Isn’t it interesting how society, and I wanted to know if you feel like this has changed since you wrote your book. We’re coming up on eight or nine years since your book came out. Isn’t it interesting that society still wants to not accept diseases of the brain like they do diseases of our bodies?

Herschel: That’s exactly right. People don’t want to accept diseases out of brain because they can’t understand it. I say diseases of the brain is same as diseases in your body. It’s the same identical thing. People don’t want to accept things that they can’t understand and I say, what’s so funny is God sometimes make things happen that you don’t understand. Then you got to accept that he is real. For me I know it’s real and he’s real for a lot of other people.

I think that’s the problem, people don’t want to accept things that they can’t understand. I can tell them in different types of problems that you’re going through you’re not going to understand it, but you’ve got to seek help from people that do understand it. That’s when you restore understanding. That’s what I learned and that’s what I try to tell people today. Quit trying to self-doctor yourself.

Go to people that understand this. Go into areas where there’s people that’s going through what you’re going through. That you can see it for yourself and that’s what happened to me.

When the doctor first diagnosed me as having DID, I went along with him at times and sometimes I didn’t believe him. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I thought he was crazy, I wasn’t crazy and all these things and then when I decided to go to a hospital. I went to a hospital and I was there were people that was going through what I was going through. I was able to see it for myself. I was able to understand it and then I said yes, that is correct that is a coping mechanism that I’ve been using my whole life. That I’ve been ashamed my whole life and then I had to get where I had to love myself.

That’s what I want to tell everyone out there that first love yourself. Stand up and say you love yourself. You’re not going to be perfect. No one is perfect. That’s what’s so funny.

You’re not going to be perfect. We’re like a vase that we are going to have these cracks. We’re going to have these broken pieces but it is okay. That’s what’s so funny. It is okay because in Gods’ eyes we’re beautiful.

You don’t have to think that you are beautiful to someone else because he don’t even think he’s beautiful himself. Be beautiful to yourself and that’s when you are going to be okay.

Lee: What is next up for you Herschel in your journey?

Herschel Walker: My next step is to continue to go on out there fighting trying to remove that stigma of mental health. Try to remove that from people usually that you’re crazy, that you have a problem, that you can’t go forward, that you can’t do it, because I want to remove that. I want to get our people in Washington talking about it. Dealing about it. Because sometimes when you mention it in Washington they shy away from it but this is real. This is real and not something you want to shy away from.

It is not something that is bad. It’s something that this whole world is going through and that’s what I want to do. I want to continue to try to remove that from people that they realize that we can treat it. That there is people that can treat certain things. That people can help a lot of people that are very productive in this country and that’s what I want to do.

Lee: If we get a petition to send you to Washington are you raising your hand that you’re ready to serve?

Herschel Walker: Oh no, I would do that. I’m in Washington every February talking about physical fitness. I talk about physical fitness as well as the body as well as the mind. It’s not just one, they both go together and I talk about all the things. I know people in Washington know I’m there. They listen to me but I want to start acting on things, not just listening.

I want them to start acting because we know from what we’ve seen in Washington today, there is people in Washington that has problems too. They’re just ashamed and they don’t want to come out because they’re people of authority but I’m here to tell you if you have the authority, you can continue to get help and think how better you can be by getting that help. That’s what I want to see them do.

Lee: That’s a great message. Thank you so much for being here with us today Herschel and I hope we get the chance to see you again.

Herschel Walker: Thank you. thank you.

Lee: Thank you for sharing.

Herschel Walker: You’re very welcome.

David: Thanks again to Herschel for joining us. Now I’ll close the show by featuring another story from the Heroes in Recovery community as part of our ongoing series called Hero of the Week. Today’s story comes from Ken W. who shared it on heroesinrecovery.com, a grassroots movement where over 1500 people have contributed their stories.

Like Herschel, Ken viewed sports as an outlet to escape from the internal struggles he experienced. His ability as a football player allowed him to go to college and earn a spot in the NFL, all while falling further into alcoholism.

Even after winning two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, Ken still didn’t like the person he was. He kept running from his fears, masking them with his use of alcohol and Percocet. This all came to a head one night when he had a serious car accident with his son in the passenger seat. As Ken says in his story, “The big fear that I had my whole life came out that night. I knew at that moment that I couldn’t live with that fear any longer and I couldn’t hide from that fear either. I knew I needed help.”

After attending treatment and becoming a faithful member of the 12-Step community, Ken now has nearly three years in recovery. Thank you for sharing that Ken and for helping to break the stigma around addiction and mental health issues. If you’d like to read Ken’s full story or share your own visit heroesinrecovery.com.

This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. Today we’ve heard from football legend and entrepreneur Herschel Walker. For more about his work with Renaissance Man Food Services, visit renmanfoods.com. Thank you for listening. Please take a few seconds to leave us a rating on your podcast app and subscribe so you won’t miss any of our new episodes. See you next time.