Colts' Jim Irsay on drug addiction: 'It's treated like you're a leper'

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says the public tends to look down on people batting drug addiction

Jim Irsay has been through a lot.

He has been battling a potentially life-threatening disease, but because that affliction is drug addiction, the Indianapolis Colts owner doesn't think people fully appreciate the struggle he and many other addicts face.

"These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases," Irsay told the Indianapolis Star on Monday.

"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."

Irsay was arrested for driving while intoxicated back in March. His initial hearing on two misdemeanor counts of impaired driving is scheduled for June 19. According to a police affidavit in the case, authorities say Irsay was driving under the influence of powerful painkillers.

According to the article, Irsay has been "attending rehab in several spots around the country in recent months" to treat an addiction to painkillers. Though he said he feels others might look down on such recovery efforts, Irsay maintained that going through rehab "is my greatest moment."

"It takes courage to try and overcome the difficulties you have. [But] for some reason, it's seen as unheroic," he said. "When someone beats cancer, it's like, 'Wow, that's so heroic,' but when someone has this illness, it's treated like you're a leper because that person is morally corrupt, and that's not the case."

He added: "It's an ongoing thing in one's life when recovering from any disease. The disease never sleeps so you have to be proactive when dealing with it. But the journey is great because it forced you to grow spiritually. There's a lot of gratitude and spiritual growth. And it's rewarding because it makes you more virtuous when you have success."

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