By Brynn Weisholtz ’20
On Tuesday, October 9, Middle and Upper School students and faculty members convened in Hauser Auditorium to hear Mr. Tony Hoffman, a speaker from Common Ground Speaks. He shared his journey of suffering through addiction to eventually achieving sobriety. Mr. Hoffman’s story began in the seventh grade when he was first exposed to marijuana. It was in high school when his use of drugs, alcohol, and prescription painkillers began to impact his life. Mr. Hoffman candidly discussed how his drug abuse progressed from marijuana usage, the drug he identifies as a “gateway drug,” to heroin, crack, and opiates.
Prior to becoming a drug addict, Mr. Hoffman described himself as a gifted athlete with aspirations to play professional basketball for the NBA. However, he now admits that he did not put forth the effort needed to make this dream a reality. He further described his childhood attitude as entitled; he was always looking to take shortcuts in life in order to reach his achievement as quickly as possible. After realizing that his basketball hopes would not come to fruition, Mr. Hoffman set his sights on BMX racing, a sport he had always excelled at. Soon, he was recognized for his talent and received sponsors and endorsements by his senior year in high school. While his family and friends envisioned a future of success for Mr. Hoffman due to his natural talent in BMX, he was internally struggling with undiagnosed social anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. These issues, he explained, made it extremely difficult for him to achieve his goals.
In addition to his success in the BMX world, Mr. Hoffman was presented with another opportunity prior to graduation. He was offered a position as a network administrator with a six-figure salary. At that moment, it appeared he had everything: money, respect, and a chance to excel professionally. In actuality, he felt helpless, struggling through his mental illness. Mr. Hoffman’s drug addiction continued to intensify and soon enough his accomplishments began to disappear. With his drug addiction spiraling out of his control, Mr. Hoffman began to see his loved ones and financial stability leaving him. He resorted to robbery to pay for the drugs fueling his addiction and was arrested and imprisoned for two years. While serving his sentence, Mr. Hoffman dedicated himself to self-betterment, knowing he had entered a “door” with only two exits: death or changing everything in his life. He chose the latter.
Upon his release from prison, Mr. Hoffman set forth to achieve the goals he created while behind bars. He was invited to a BMX Olympic training center, started a non-profit foundation, became a coach for BMX Olympians, and, most importantly, he has stayed sober. He kept the attention of students throughout the full hour; Varun Seetamraju (VI) said, “It was great and informative, and I feel like he addressed a topic that needs to be talked about.” Students found his story enthralling, and Drew Beckman (VI) said, “Mr. Hoffman presented his story in a down-to-earth way that allowed the students to connect with him.” Mr. Tony Hoffman has been sober since May 17th, 2007; he now spends his time speaking at different high schools throughout the country helping turn students away from substance abuse and inspiring them to live their lives with purpose.