Photo - Hannah Foslien (Getty Images)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Four months ago, former Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson found himself in a very dark place. Six years into his professional football career and finally in the starting position he desired (middle linebacker), Henderson saw it all begin to crumble. It was two DWI arrests in the span of a month that led to Henderson landing a spot on the bench, then the demotion came and ultimately Erin found himself out of a job after being released by the Vikings following the season.
Then he just disappeared. Nobody heard from Erin, nobody saw Erin around town and there were know rumors popping up during free agency about Erin making visits to potential suitors.
Today he surfaced. a new man ready to tell his story addiction, triumph and the process of finding the road to recovery.
Friday morning, Erin Henderson stopped by the KFAN studios in Minneapolis for what would turn out to be a very candid interview with Paul Allen and Paul Charchian. Formerly reserved, quiet and guarded, Henderson took to the mic today an open book. Proud of his accomplishments and no longer ashamed of his trials, Henderson shared the story of his depression and discussed what led him to where he is today.
"I just kind of lost control a little bit," Henderson explained. "It was like an out of body experience almost. You have one part of you telling you shouldn’t be doing this and that you’re better than this and you can handle this and can do it different. Then you have the other side that’s like this is where you’re supposed to be. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. Just constantly trying to pull you down and break you down with it. They talk about the disease of addiction and how it’s here to kill us and that’s what it was trying to do to me."
It was two arrests over the span of six weeks that landed Henderson in jail overnight and put his NFL career in jeopardy. Alcohol and marijuana were his vices and it was severe depression that pushed him towards the false senses of healing he received from the drugs.
"As I stepped off the field I was miserable," Henderson told KFAN. "I was depressed, I was down...I just kind of felt like I was lost in the world where there was nowhere I could be comfortable, nowhere I could feel safe or where I could be myself. A lot of times I just try to escape it. I would use [drugs and alcohol] to hide those feelings and to mask what I was going through and what I was dealing with."
Initially (after the first arrest), Erin avoided seeking help for his addictions out of fear that it would cost him his career.
"I didn't [seek treatment] after the first [arrest] because I wasn't ready to stop playing football," Erin said. "I knew that if I went to inpatient it would be a thirty day, twenty-eight day process where I would miss a lot of time from the team and all my guys. That was one of the things keeping me sane and keeping me going was just being around my teammates and being able to play the game I love."
Ultimately it became too much.
After his second arrest on January 2nd, 2014 Henderson checked himself into the thirty-day inpatient drug rehab program at Hazelden in Center City, MN.
"It was awesome," Henderson said of the program. "It was a great experience for me. We were all there with the same ideas and the same want to live better...I was able to look my addictions in the eyes and show them that I’m stronger than them and move forward."
Erin has since graduated from the inpatient program but continues outpatient counseling and rehabilitation.
"Right now it's still about bettering Erin and becoming the person that I want to be."
The next step, Henderson explained, will be to figure out his future involvement in the league.
"I would love to get back out there on the field," Erin said. "Maybe it's time for me to have a fresh start? Maybe it's time for me to play a for a different organization? Maybe it's time for us to see some different things? Maybe I’m not supposed to play football anymore? Maybe I do have a different calling in life."
Whatever his calling may be, Henderson is still only 27 years old and has a lot of life left to live. With his wife and young son Lennox by his side, Erin is ready to take on life's challenges and continue down whatever path is set before him.
Whether you have personally dealt with addictions, you know someone who is currently dealing with addiction or are simply looking for an uplifting story, I encourage you to check out the full interview with Erin Henderson in the player below.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN