Miles McPherson: How I Found a Power Greater Than the Enslavement of Cocaine

Don’t put the powder in your nose,” I said as I looked in the mirror. “Don’t do it.”

I was sure I could talk myself out of snorting cocaine one more time. My words sounded so real, so genuine.

But just like that, I saw my image disappear from the mirror as I bent down and took another hit off the table. It was an awful high. The chemicals of the cocaine laced through my body at the same time they battled against the guilt in my conscience. I would yell at myself, “What are you doing?”

The tragedy of my addiction was that it threatened everything I had worked for. I was a defensive back playing for the San Diego Chargers and living the life I always wanted. I had come up from nearly nothing to get into the league. Since I wasn’t recruited by any of the Division 1 colleges coming out of high school, I ended up playing Division 3 ball at the University of New Haven.

But I wasn’t deterred. I knew I would get to the NFL one way or another. My coach made a flyer about me and sent it to every NFL team each week, inviting their scouts to come watch me play. No one ever showed up, but I didn’t care. Their lack of interest just motivated me to work harder.

Peer Pressure

After my senior year, one season after becoming the school’s first All-American, five teams agreed to watch some of my game film. I got a call from the Los Angeles Rams, who told me they were impressed. “If we have everything we need,” the coach told me, “we’ll take you in the later rounds of the draft—if you’re still available.” Ultimately, I found a spot on the Chargers. (The Rams had drafted me, as promised, but I was cut during the preseason.)

As a rookie arriving at training camp, just trying to establish a foothold in the league, I was in awe of all the veteran players, some of whom I had looked up to for years. I’ll never forget the day I walked into a hotel room occupied by six partying veterans: Immediately, there was a dynamic in place that was nearly impossible to control. The pressure to get along, to fit in, was overwhelming. So when the guys pulled out cocaine and passed it around, I knew I had a decision to make: Take part or be left out.

Everybody was partaking, and they seemed no worse for the wear. Even though I knew it was wrong, I rationalized that it couldn’t be all that bad if these successful guys were doing it. Who could blame them for periodically letting off a little steam while enduring the strain of such a high-pressure job? As long as it only happened every once in a while.

But, of course, it didn’t.

The cocaine that I consumed that night took me by the lapels and forced me into submission. Soon enough, I was completely under its control. There I was, at the top of the sports world, a member of one of the most exclusive clubs on earth, playing on TV every Sunday and enjoying a nice contract (earning more money, at least, than I had ever made before). And yet, every chance I got, I drove myself down to the seediest neighborhoods of the city and paid good money to a dealer who sold me poison.

At the time, there were several guys on the team who were Christians, and they were very vocal about Jesus. One guy, in particular, was downright aggressive. As great as he was on the gridiron, I got the sense that NFL football was more his mission field than his profession.

One day, on a chartered flight back from a game, I was making my way down the aisle from the bathroom when he got in my face. He knew what I had been doing in there. Staring me down, he asked, “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven? You know Jesus wants your heart. What are you going to do?”

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Source: Christianity Today