Sean Sutton was stubborn. Competitive. He kept thinking he could handle addiction by himself.
“I don't have to do this the way everybody else does it,” Sutton kept telling himself. “Time and time again, I failed.”
Sutton needed help. Which is why he'll be at Quail Springs Baptist Church on Thursday night. Not to get help. This time, to give it.
To give hope and encouragement and a helping hand to anyone affected by addiction. Addicts, people in recovery, family members wounded by a loved one's demon.
Three years sober, Sutton will speak at “Night of Hope,” an event designed to encourage those who are in need of recovery, those who are in recovery and those who are helping with recovery.
“The best way to maintain sobriety is to reach out and make a difference in other people's lives,” Sutton said. “Help other people.
“I let a lot of people down. I promised myself at that time I was going to try to make a difference. Hopefully I've been able to help some.”
“Night of Hope” is being hosted by Hope is Alive Ministries. Director Lance Lang is a recovering addict himself.
“I want it to be a celebration of recovery, and a celebration of hope,” Lang said. “Celebrate those who have changed their lives. We want to provide them the hope they can find sobriety.”
Lang's champion is Jim Riley, who also will speak on the program. The former Sooner and Miami Dolphin player, a recovering alcoholic himself, has run Jim Riley Outreach since 1986.
“Jim intervened on me, changed my life, changed my heart,” Lang said. “Jim's been an integral part of my story.”
That's the kind of role Sutton now hopes to play.
He squandered his OSU coaching career; fired in 2008 after three years as head coach and 12 as an assistant at his alma mater.
Sutton began taking painkillers in 2002 and became addicted. In 2010, he was charged with four felony drug counts relating to illegally obtaining prescriptions. Sutton eventually pleaded guilty, and his record was expunged because he completed the requirements of his probation. Which included rehab.
Sutton spent 115 days at Cirque Lodge, a Utah drug rehab center, and says he's been sober since two days after his arrest.
“No one person can win this battle alone,” Sutton said. “Obviously, I had my family, the treatment center I went to … lot of people I came into contact with since.”
Sutton mentions a counselor, 27 years sober. A mentor, 25 years sober. Sutton hopes he can be that kind of influence to others in recovery.
“I just feel like I have an opportunity — more than anything a responsibility — to educate people on the dangers of prescription drugs,” Sutton said. “People that might be trapped or stuck in addiction. That there's a way out. That you can't do it alone.”
Sutton always was great talking one-on-one or in small groups but never seemed comfortable in front of cameras or crowds. But now he's spoken maybe 50 times, in front of crowds of 30-40 or 500.
“I'm pretty comfortable talking about what happened,” Sutton said. “Where my life was and where it is today. I'm pretty straightforward, pretty honest about the stuff I went through.”
OK. So where is Sutton's life today?
“My life today is great,” he said. “Probably closer to my family than I ever have been. I'm happy. I've enjoyed being back, coaching basketball, so life's good.”
Sutton has spent two years as an assistant at Oral Roberts, where his brother, Scott, is head coach.
“I would like to be a head coach again if it's the right opportunity,” Sutton said. “But I don't have such an ego that I have to be a head coach to show people how valuable I am.
“It's never been about money or fame or anything like that. I just always loved the game. I've been an assistant coach a lot longer than I was a head coach.
“Sure, I'd like to be a head coach again. I didn't like the way things ended at Oklahoma State. I'd like another opportunity, but if it doesn't happen, I'm happy with what I'm doing.”
Including spreading a little hope.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.