SOUTH JORDAN, Utah (ABC4 News) – It’s been two decades since Derik Stevenson played football for Brigham Young University and Coach LaVell Edwards – and two decades since a powerful addiction to painkillers changed the course of his life.
“I didn’t get help,” he said.
Stevenson, who has been clean for four years now, said his addiction cost him his marriage. He said he got hooked on painkillers after team doctors prescribed them to him when he separated both of his shoulders during a game against Alabama.
“I remember taking all of those pills and feeling something I had never felt before in my life,” said Stevenson. “I would save up the pills throughout the week so we would have more for the weekends.”
He said he knew substance abuse was against BYU’s Honor Code, which requires students to refrain from drinking alcohol, using tobacco or drugs. Before he got injured, he had already been kicked off the team and out of school for misdemeanor charges against him after he pleaded guilty to firing a gun in the air during a fight, he said.
Stevenson said Coach LaVell Edwards championed him and got him back into the school and back on the team. But when his addiction to prescription pills began, he decided to fight it alone, fearing expulsion by the BYU Honor Code office.
“Once I did get back into school, I just thought honesty with the Honor Code didn’t get me very far and it put me at risk everything that I had been working my whole life for,” he said.
Last week, Stevenson spoke out on Twitter about the Honor Code, calling for the rules to be “revamped.” He told ABC4 News that he was happy to sign the Honor Code when he was a student and excited to go to a school that he said would help him be a better person.
But the fear of “separation from the university,” as outlined in the Honor Code for students who violate it, weighed heavily on him.
“I just felt like man I just don’t know if I can come clean and be honest about this,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson said his addiction continued for years.
Other former athletes have also opined on Twitter about the strictness of the BYU Honor Code, including former BYU defensive lineman Hans Olsen.
Stevenson said there should be an amnesty policy in place, particularly for students struggling with addiction. Recently, the Honor Code office did adopt an amnesty policy preventing victims or witnesses of sexual assault from being punished – even if they violated school rules at the time of the incident.
Officials at BYU declined to comment for this story.