The former Marlins Pitcher talks to The Fix about heroin, jail, and how he knows if he uses one more time, he won’t be able to make it back.
At 18 years old, Jeff Allison seemed to have it all. As a pitcher, he was named the 2003 Baseball America High School Player of the Year and was drafted that June by the Florida Marlins, which included a reported $1.85 million signing bonus.
But after the death of a close friend, his recreational drug use soon morphed into a severe OxyContin addiction. As his signing bonus started to dwindle away, Allison then turned to heroin as a cheaper substitute. A pair of nearly fatal overdoses and several stints in jail soon followed. But at his lowest point, Allison found the strength to turn his life around and has now been sober for nearly 10 years.
These days, he is the pitching coordinator for the Northeast Hurricanes Baseball Organization in Salem, New Hampshire, as well as the director for their Baseball Showcase program. He also travels the country to share his story of recovery. Allison spoke exclusively with The Fix about being clinically dead after his first overdose, running from the law and why he believes this is his final shot at sobriety.
When did your drug use first begin?
Probably when I was around 13 or 14. When you’re just getting out of middle school and wanting to fit in with everyone in high school, you see they’re smoking weed or taking a sip of alcohol or whatever else. You give it a try and then you puke, but then you’re good and you try it again because you want to be cool.
Did you progress to opiate use fairly quickly?
Probably about two-and-a-half or three years in. I was first introduced to Percocet by a girl I knew when I was 16. That was me just wanting to fit in and latching onto something. When I took them for the first time, it was a euphoric feeling for me. I talked a lot more, could stay up longer. There were a million things I thought that they allowed me to do better even though I was a Division I college and Major League Baseball prospect.
I didn’t really know what addiction was at that time, though. I knew you could get addicted to things, but didn’t think I could personally. But between my high school graduation and my first full year of spring training, I had already been to rehab three times and went to two detox centers, as well as a transitional house.
When I was 18, I played when I signed (with the Gulf Coast Marlins). I threw my 10 or 11 innings at the end of the season, went home and that’s when my drug use really started to progress.
What made it progress?
A good friend of mine who was on the Gulf Coast Marlins passed away. He was 19 at the time. He went back home to Arizona, went to a party and someone put what ended up being a methadone pill in his drink while he was in the bathroom. He passed away that night, which sent me on a whirlwind of using. That was the jumping off point for me. I knew I had money and the ability to get OxyContin or pills or whatever else, so having a reason to use was a deadly game.
Did your team or the Marlins staff ever express concern about your drug use?
When I was 19, I went to my first full year of spring training and failed my drug test about two weeks in, so that was when the Marlins expressed concern. They sent me off to rehab for a few months and said they said they wanted me back when I was clean for six months. You can’t just tell a drug addict or alcoholic to come back in six months when they’re ready. Just because they pay you a lot of money in Major League Baseball doesn’t mean it’s going to change your life. It doesn’t work that way. At that time, I wasn’t ready to change my life for the better.
But I went off to Sierra Tucson in Arizona, which is a 30-day program, and thought that maybe I could just get away for a while. It really got my life together. I flew out to Chicago eight or nine months after the Marlins sent me away, met with the team doctors out there and they cleared me to be with the team. Read more “the fix”…