A Family’s Struggle

Tammy and Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles Coach), speak out about their sons’ drug and legal problems for the first time.



On January 30th, 2007, Garrett and Britt Reid, the two oldest sons of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid and his wife Tammy, were arrested in separate driving incidents. Police found drugs in the car of Garrett, 23, a student at Montgomery County Community College, after he had an accident. Britt, 21, also attending MCCC, was held on drug and weapon offenses after allegedly pointing a gun at another motorist. Thus began a media firestorm and a bizarre year for the Reids. Andy and Tammy Reid had said nothing publicly about the events until they agreed to meet with Philadelphia features editor Robert Huber for an interview. The Reids were limited in what they could discuss because of possible upcoming legal action; their lawyer, Paul Rosen, was present. But sitting in the living room of their Main Line home, the Reids spoke openly for two hours about their family’s battle with addiction.

Philadelphia magazine: First, how are Garrett and Britt doing now?

Andy Reid: They’re doing well. Obviously, they’re incarcerated at this time, but they’re working through it and handling themselves the right way, doing what they’re supposed to do at the facility here in Montgomery County. We talk to them — they can call us, we can’t call them. And we can visit them twice a week. Although one day happens to be Sunday [when the Eagles play].

PM: I’d like to go back to the day they were arrested — I think you were on the West Coast.

Andy: At the end of every season, Tam and I take a vacation, and we’ve done that for a number of years, just to kind of regroup as a couple — the seasons are long. We had taken a trip to Los Angeles, where I’m from. The third day in L.A., I got a text message from [former Eagles tight end] Chad Lewis. He said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” We just thought, that’s kind of weird. A couple hours later, I got a call from my head of security that one of the boys had been in an accident. It was Garrett. We hopped on an airplane right away and came back.

PM: It emerged at Garrett’s sentencing hearing in November that he’s had issues with drugs for some time.

Andy: It’s been an ongoing struggle that we’ve dealt with, with Garrett.

PM: When did his drug use begin?

Andy: We kind of found out late, when he was actually going through the withdrawal process. He was trying to get himself off drugs — he’d been using OxyContin.

Tammy Reid: It was the summer after his freshman year at BYU, in 2002.


Andy: He was clearly down and hurting. It saps you — that’s what it does. You’re talking about a highly intelligent guy, a guy with a great personality. It takes that away.

Tammy: Normally, he’s so funny. He can imitate many accents and goes into these shticks that are so funny you’re almost wetting your pants. But at that point, he didn’t want to get out of bed and function.

PM: He came to you needing help?

Andy: It was kind of a mutual thing — we saw that he was hurting and talked to him, and he came clean with us. It wasn’t like pulling teeth, because he was trying to clean himself up.

PM: Initially, were you disappointed, or angry?

Andy: At that point, you don’t really care, there’s no time to be mad or frustrated or this or that, you’ve got to get that kid help. You don’t care if you’re Andy Reid, or Tammy Reid — you don’t care about all that. You care about that child. What happens is one thing leads to another thing to another thing to another thing. And it almost goes with what the addict can afford, and leads to heroin, because heroin is the cheapest, and in this case very similar to OxyContin.

Tammy: Over the years, he’s done so many things, it’s all blobbed together in our minds.

PM: How long was it before he started using heroin?

Tammy: The last few years.

PM: How much you don’t know, the mystery of it — that must be difficult.

Andy: That’s all part of it. For an addict, it’s you and the drug. That’s what it comes down to.

PM: How did he pay for it?

Andy: He was working, and had jobs. Different jobs.

Tammy: That’s after going through a couple of detoxes, two rehabs, and he was out in Arizona on his own.

PM: Let’s back up. When he was in withdrawal, after his freshman year at BYU in 2002, what did you do?

Tammy: We put him in rehab, the Caron Foundation near Reading, a 28-day 12-step program. But he really didn’t want to go — he wasn’t quite ready for it. And of course this happened during training camp, in 2002. This was the beginning of football that year.

Andy: So Mom did more of it.

Tammy: I went up for the family weekend. I didn’t take our kids, because we weren’t at that point yet. We had a family council, and told them Garrett has some problems with drug use, and we’re taking him to a clinic. But I didn’t take them up because I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t want my three little kids involved in all that. There were counseling sessions, you break into little groups, we write letters to the addiction. It was a very emotional weekend.

PM: What did you learn about Garrett?

Tammy: I knew that family was still important to him — he wrote that in his letter. He said, “The thing that keeps me going is I love my family.”


PM: But he wasn’t really committed to the program.

Tammy: Well, you don’t know that until it’s all over and you have to go back.

Andy: With kids in their 20s, they think they’ve got it, but it’s like fighting a grizzly bear. It’s a tough struggle.

PM: What did Garrett do after going through the program?

Andy: Before going to Caron, he had set up going to junior college in California, where he could play football.

PM: Were you optimistic at that point that he was off drugs?

Tammy: We hoped so, yes. Plus he said he just wanted to go back to school.

Andy: Tam flew out. He lived with a family friend and had support groups set up out there. We found out later that he didn’t use any of the things set up for him.

Tammy: We flew out for a couple of games that fall, in 2002. Everything seemed fine. But then he didn’t want to stay for his second semester.

Andy: He came back, and I said, hey, you can work for me, during the draft. He broke down film and did great — when he was by my side and I could stay right there, everything was cool. But when the draft was over, he had to get a real job to earn some money to go back to school at Montgomery County Community College, and then he came to me and said, “I’ve fallen off the wagon.”

Tammy: You don’t know that they’ve lied to you, they sneak around, they embellish — they lead a perfectly normal life most of the time, and you have no idea anything is going on until you find it, or something happens to make you think, oh my gosh, why didn’t I see this? Everybody who’s been through it says this. You don’t know.

Andy: It was OxyContin again. I asked him if he wanted help. “Yeah, I do.” There was a little bit more want-to with that one, so we had him detoxed, then found a 90-day treatment facility out in Orange County.

Tammy: And you have no idea, as parents you have no idea what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. And so you take a stab at it, you talk to psychologists and psychiatrists and friends who have been through it, anybody, to come up with a solution, what you think is best, and it doesn’t always work. That’s the bottom line, it doesn’t always work.

Andy: There’s no right or wrong, because everything has worked for somebody along the way, and then nothing has worked for somebody along the way. It’s a different dynamic. Initially, you try to help. And you might try to help a second time. Then everybody is a little bit different after that. Some go with tough love. We followed that advice. We went that route with Garrett. He had just finished the second rehab and moved to Arizona.


Tammy: We wanted him to do the aftercare.

Andy: And continue on with the program. We said, listen, if you’re going to do that, you have to work it out yourself.

Tammy: You have to figure it out.

Andy: If you want to go back to school, you earn the money to pay for school. We’ve done two rehabs, so it’s your time now, this whole program was set up to allow you or to teach you to do that. They try to ease you back into normal life, but he chose not to do that.

PM: So he was on his own in Arizona.

Andy: It was a very tough step for us, and one that didn’t work. The last six months there were a disaster. We were out of touch with him. I was, for sure. He called home only a handful of times. And never to me. It just fell apart. In Arizona, he was living out of his car. He finally called me and was very distraught, and I called Tam to have her check on him.

Tammy: I said, Garrett, if you could have any wish in the world, what would it be? He was crying and said, I wish I’d never done drugs, and could come home and start over. I got my sister to give him $500 in cash, and he drove home in three days.

Andy: When he got home, we were surprised by his appearance. You’re talking about a kid six-foot-four, close to six-five, and he was 168 pounds. Oh, my goodness — this was a kid who was 260 pounds. He’d lost almost a hundred pounds.

Andy: Going through that six-month separation with Garrett, you can imagine how tough that was. We are a close family, but the drugs, they don’t care about that. If you just happen to get hooked up with the right one, it possesses you, and nothing else matters.

Tammy: You’re thinking, let’s try one more time. Because that’s what you do as a parent. You think, okay, it didn’t work the last couple of times, but there’s still hope. We raised these boys. We taught them to pray, taught them to ride their bikes — you see this potential in him, and you’re just not going to give up. And that’s the one great thing from all the letters we’ve gotten, they all say, stay with them, always tell them you love them, show them you love them, do what you can, but know that they’ve got to do it themselves. Are we going to be there for them all the time? Yes, no matter what happens.

Andy: It’s unconditional love. We’ve got other kids, we’re going to their events all over the place, especially Tam — she’s got something every night she’s dealing with. You don’t stop doing that. But at the same time, you’re dealing with the others, and they’ve got to know you love them. But they also have to know that, hey — you’re an adult, you’ve got to get it together.

 


PM: Apparently what you can say is limited, but can you tell me whether Britt has gotten the message? Is he listening?

Andy: This thing here, Britt has attacked head-on.

Tammy: And as far as he’s concerned, he just wants to get on with his life. [The road-rage incident] was a one-time thing, and no one was physically hurt, thank heavens, in any of this.

PM: Some people have gotten a negative perception of Britt from that incident. Tammy: He’s not the one who goes out and picks fights. He’s sensitive and tender. He’s like Andrew.

Andy: He’s always been captain of his teams and a real leader.

Tammy: He’s going to overcome this.

Andy: But we understand, you do it one day at a time. We’ve been through some things. One play at a time, one game at a time, this is one day at a time.

PM: Both you and Tammy are devout Mormons — have these problems deepened your faith?

Andy: I wouldn’t say that. I’m always the one who gives that lecture — don’t wait until the plane’s crashing and become religious. And then say, “If you save me, I’m going to be stronger.” Don’t do that. When you’re a member of the Mormon Church, you live your religion, and that’s what we try to do.

PM: What’s all the public attention been like? The media can be pretty nasty, especially here.

Tammy: We can’t let all those outside things influence what we do. We just have to go on and live our lives.

PM: Speaking of media headlines, at the sentencing, the judge said some pretty harsh things.

Andy: Were we sad, disappointed? Yes. But we understand how things work. We have never been too sensitive to what others say. We know, and the people closest to us know, what it’s like to be in our home. My family understands the celebrity status that comes with being a head coach in the NFL. We’ve accepted public criticism as a family even when it’s not true.

PM: The spotlight is glaring — especially here.

Andy: That’s the great thing about it, though. The passion in this town, man, I wouldn’t give that up for anything! But you also have to make sure you don’t lose focus on the important things at home. To really focus in on the kids.

Tammy: We have family councils all the time to keep the communication open. My job as a mom is to read the coverage, I call it. I call Andrew and say, you need to be at this function. He’s not any different from anybody else — everybody has their jobs, there are things they have to be at, so it’s mom’s job to let dad know when he really needs to jump in. And he’s a great dad. He will drop a meeting, he will drop whatever he’s doing, if our kids need him. So it’s not like we’re ever competing with his job. Our kids get that. We have a daughter at Harriton, a son at St. Joe’s Prep, and another daughter in college.


Andy: Let me say one more thing about the kids. I’ve seen people rally around them at their schools. It’s incredible. Their friends, teachers and coaches actually protecting them, almost enclosing them, like bison around their young. It’s unreal.

Tammy: A friend of mine had the best comment about all the public attention we’ve gotten, when he was asked about it. He said, “Just because it’s news to you doesn’t mean they haven’t been going through this.” With everybody in such an uproar, the media and everything, we’ve had to do what we’ve had to do, and we’ve been dealing with this for a long time, with Garrett.

PM: When Garrett came home from Arizona in the fall of ’06, in really bad shape, what was the next step for him?

Andy: We found a treatment place in Florida. This one made a lot of sense, but it was during the season, so I wasn’t able to jump in and go. Tam flew down there with him.

Tammy: The things the doctor down there said made so much sense to us. The basics are: Most people are addicted to something; everyone has their drug of choice — working or painting or being organized or whatever. Those people can function because they have an outlet. Others get addicted to drugs or alcohol. But those that go with the substance abuse are usually masking another problem, caused by a chemical imbalance in their brain. Those people take something and it makes them feel what they believe is normal, but it’s really covering up the other problems. Diagnosing those issues is the first step, and getting on the correct medication is the second. Garrett was diagnosed with ADD, depression and anxiety.

Andy: He was doing well, able to stay clean using natural medications and prescriptions to deal with the addiction. He did great from October until his accident last January.

Tammy: Things were working, everything seemed fine.

Andy: We learned later that when he had the accident, he’d been using heroin for only a day and a half while we were in California — it would have been an easy cleanup for him. We would do it together. I asked for and received a six-week leave of absence.

Tammy: We were determined to search until we found an answer. Andrew took Garrett to Reston, Virginia, to the Amen Clinic, for brain analysis, where they confirmed the chemical imbalance that Florida Detox had already diagnosed.

Andy: I went to Florida with him — Garrett and I lived together for six weeks. I went to all the counseling sessions with him, the whole rehab program with him. They educate you. It was like learning Spanish in six weeks, without knowing a word of it.

PM: What did you learn?


Andy: Because of the chemical makeup of the brain, certain people are more susceptible to drug use and addiction than others. You might be able to have knee surgery, take OxyContin, and you’re fine. Where Garrett might take a quarter of one, his mind gets hold of it, and he’s got to have more. He’s got to have it. You find out that everybody is different. Everybody has their drug of choice, that their mind loves. It’s an epidemic that has attacked America. I was sitting there, in counseling, with good people. They are not bad people, it encompasses everybody.

 

PM: What did you learn about yourself?

Andy: You put it all out on the table. As a parent, if you can’t do that with them, then there is going to be a wall. And so we both put it out on the table. Every emotion, you go through every emotion you can imagine, you go back to when you were a kid and work to the present, the whole shebango. It was a great experience. I’m not saying it was fun — but it was an unbelievable experience, an emotional roller coaster.

PM: Did you get closer to Garrett?

Andy: I couldn’t help but do that.

Tammy: After January’s accident, we weren’t able to complete the Florida program, which had several follow-up steps. We still want to do it.

PM: Okay, here’s the 64-dollar question: How close were you to resigning, and is that still a possibility?

Andy: We’ve dealt with Garrett’s situation for a long time, and we’ve done it through Super Bowls and championships. And it’s new to a lot of people, but it’s not new to us. As long as Jeffrey Lurie will have me, and as long as I can do my job to the best of my ability, I would love to be an Eagle.

Tammy: Plus we do have house payments, he does need to have a job. Any other dad, any other man who has things going on in his family, has not had it questioned whether he’s going to retire or step down from his job. The CEO of any major company, it would never be in question.

PM: Something struck me as we’ve been talking. Andy, you’re famous for having tight control over your football team, for being a detail guy, and dealing with addiction is the exact opposite. There’s no control.

 

Tammy: You learn that real quick.

Andy: They’re really very similar, though. In a game, once the whistle blows, and you’re playing the game, now the human element is there, and it’s how you’ve trained them. Some days they are going to throw an interception or miss a tackle. You didn’t train them that way. But you live with it, and you keep on teaching them. That’s why we’re here, we’re here to be teachers. And so you do the same thing at home, you teach them and then let them go. You blow the whistle and let them play. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.


PM: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned, in dealing with these problems?

Tammy: I think the first thing is that you’re not alone. There’s a lot of help out there, a lot of options. And the thing that’s gotten us through this is that we’ve received thousands of letters from people, and their stories — this has been the best thing. There are thousands, probably millions of people going through the same thing. I go around now, to the grocery store, or out playing tennis, wherever my life takes me, Sam’s or Costco or wherever, I look at people differently now — I wonder, what burdens are they carrying?

PM: It’s odd to think of how all this may have actually helped you.

 

Andy: You grow. Life can take you in a million different directions. We’ve gotten into an area that we might not have understood — not that we have a full understanding of it now. But we have a better understanding than when it first hit our family.

Tammy: Would it be easy to put the covers over your head and stay in bed? Yes. But everything looks better in the morning, it’s not as bad as when you went to bed, so you just face it forward, and do the best you can with what you’ve got. What’s best for my family may not be right for yours. Everybody has to deal with their situation in a way they think is best. It’s not always going to be perfect.

Andy: Don’t hide it! Don’t hide it and cover it up.

Tammy: Yes. And would it have been easier without this hoopla and all? Yes! But it is what it is, and we’re dealing with it.

PM: Any last words?

Andy: Yes, I would like to thank the Luries and the Eagles organization for letting me take that time off for my family. They didn’t have to do that, but they did, and showed the world what a class organization is all about. I’m thankful for the support they showed me both on and off the field. My players and coaches have been unbelievable during this time as well. We’re also very grateful that no one was more seriously injured than they were, in either incident. Last, we’re especially proud that our boys are taking responsibility for their choices.

Tammy: I think I can speak for Andrew on this as well — we would like to end by saying we know there are thousands of people out there just like us dealing with this horrible disease. Whether it’s a son or daughter, spouse, parent, sibling or friend, it’s universal in its destruction, but you are not alone. We would also like to thank the hundreds of people who took time out of their busy lives to write a card or letter or e-mail, or send a word of encouragement. But most of all, thank you for the love, support and prayers that were offered on our behalf. You can’t know what that meant to us and how it got us through some rough days when we just didn’t know how we were going to get through “one more day.” Last, we want our boys to know that we love them and know that they can and will get through this. We are there for them no matter what. We will never give up on them.

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