A former professional lacrosse player and college football and lacrosse standout who struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. He is now a motivational speaker who talks to high school athletes about the dangers of substance abuse.

“There and Back” Presented to RSCS High School Students

story by Bruce Watson

On Dec. 4, high school students at RSCS gathered for an inspiring and informative presentation of how alcohol and drugs can lead to the horror of addiction and shatter dreams and family. Presenter Ken Bartolo attended high school at Jamesville-DeWitt High School where he excelled in both football and lacrosse. Colleges and universities were following his successes in high school sports offering scholarships and incentives as early as his junior year if he would sign to play for them after high school graduation. “In high school it seemed that the students that were the most popular and “cool” also smoked “weed” (marijuana) and did drugs,” Bartolo told the high school students at RSCS at an assembly. “I had everything going for me but I also didn’t think much of myself. Inside I believed I was a loser.” In a high school lacrosse game he was injured and his doctor treated him with painkillers. Thus began 27 years that included substance abuse, three years in state prison, addiction to prescription drugs, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. “At 26 years old the two things I loved to do, play football and lacrosse, were ruined because I was drinking, popping pills, and doing cocaine,” Bartolo told the students. “My coaches recognized I had substance abuse problems and tried to help. Eventually I washed out of colleges and then other colleges recruited me and I would play for them. I continued to smoke crack, drink, and spend time in detox and rehab centers. I would be clean of drugs for ten months and then begin again. I believed I was a “nobody”; I didn’t matter and was a loser. Despite everyone telling me I was Mr. All-American Athlete, inside I didn’t like myself and turned to drugs. Even when I ended up in prison there was heroin inside prison waiting for me.

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