Harrington: Mental Fight To Remain Sober Lasts A Lifetime

May 27, 2020, 12:19 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2020, 11:57 am

Alema Harrington does a pregame show before the Utah Jazz play the Grizzlies at the EnergySolutions...

Alema Harrington does a pregame show before the Utah Jazz play the Grizzlies at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City Friday, April 10, 2015. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former BYU running back, KSL sports anchor and current Jazz Game Night host, Alema Harrington, has been very vocal about his lifelong struggles with addiction. It’s a fight he said he expects to last for the rest of his life.

The ex-football player, broadcaster and recovering addict shared insight into his difficult journey on the KSL podcast, Project Recovery, with Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Wooley.

His days of abusing drugs started while attending high school in Hawaii. Harrington would dabble in street drugs and alcohol, although admitted to never taking it too far. He felt as though his drug use was always under control.

“I experimented a little bit in my high school days, but not really anything that was over the top. I didn’t really like weed when I first tried it and alcohol tasted terrible and it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I started to do this senior party thing, and I kind of liked it and the social ease that it gave me,” Harrington said.

Happy Tuesday everyone!We're so excited for you to hear from this week's guest, Alema Harrington. As many of you know,…

Posted by Project Recovery With Casey Scott on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Demons Begin

That all changed when he attended Brigham Young University in 1984 following an all-state career at Punahou High.

“It wasn’t until I started going to school at BYU. The first time that I was prescribed a narcotic, an opioid, was at BYU. I had injuries as a high school football player, but never once was I prescribed an opioid,” Harrington said.

He said that day he was sitting on a bench in the common area of Helaman Halls after suffering an injury during football practice. With him was a manila envelope with opioids inside.

“I remember when I took those and it hit my bloodstream. It was like a life-changing moment for me,” he recalled.

During this time, he said he was struggling with some mental demons of his own. He came from Hawaii, where he was a star football player. When he arrived at BYU, he quickly realized that everyone on the team was a star football player. He found himself buried in the depth chart and getting zero reps at practice.

On top of that, he was lonely.

“When those drugs hit my system, it just felt like I was going to be okay,” he said.

Harrington had found some relief, but little did he know the subtle relief gained would quickly spiral into a much bigger problem.

During his senior season, following his second back surgery, Harrington realized that his career at BYU had not lived up to his expectation. He was in a lot of pain, both physically and mentally. His addiction had encapsulated his world. He started forging prescription refills, with the hope that one of the many doctors he was visiting would provide him with more pills.

He was striving to constantly stay high, being sober was nowhere near as enjoyable, he admitted.

Harrington said his family became secondary to his addiction, which led to his eventual divorce.

Addiction Under Control

Harrington would eventually manage to get his addiction under control. He attended rehab for the first time in 1992 and spent the next eight years sober.

Unfortunately, he said he relapsed in 2000 while working at KSL-TV as a sports anchor.

Harrington admitted to ordering drugs off the internet and having them delivered to work.

The addiction had crept back into his life.

Help From The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints

Harrington said his local leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints helped immensely during his darkest days. Religion played a monumental role throughout his life, he said, specifically when he needed help the most.

Speaking with Scott and Dr. Wooley, Harrington admitted that he continues to struggle with his addiction demons. He said he has relapsed on a number of occasions over recent years.

Harrington believes that the mental fight to remain sober will play a role in his life forever.

Finding The Light

Harrington is hoping that millions of other people around the world who struggle with addiction can learn from his story. Fortunately, Harrington is in a much better place today. He is happy and has a clearer view on the world.

Addiction is a struggle that some men and women in the world face, some struggles are more dangerous than others. But nonetheless, every struggle must be taken as seriously as the next.

“Today, what I went through and what my children went through because of me, now has a positive purpose,” he says. “It gives me the unique ability to truly understand the unspeakable things that addiction can drive a person to do and to give others hope that redemption is possible,” Harrington told the Deseret News in an interview in December of 2017.

Harrington’s life goal is to now help, assist, and aid those that are struggling with addiction. He respects the disease and has a much greater understanding of the powers that it holds. Nonetheless, he strongly believes that addiction can be nullified. The pain and agony that is causes can be limited, and light can be found at the end of the long, dark addiction tunnel.

The Podcast

Download Project Recovery Podcast

Project Recovery - Apple Podcasts  Project Recovery - Google Play

Tom Hackett is a Utah and Real Salt Lake Insider for and host of the It’s Utah’s World Podcast (Utah Football themed) and The Lion’s Den Podcast (Real Salt Lake themed). Follow him on Twitter: @TomCantHackett.


  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

BYU Cougars

BYU Basketball, Trevin Knell, Utah Utes...

Mitch Harper

No. 14 BYU Seeks Fourth Consecutive Win Over Rival Utah

BYU basketball looks to remain unbeaten this season and extend its winning streak against the Utes.

7 hours ago

BYU Football, Kalani Sitake, Transfer Portal QB...

Mitch Harper

Will BYU Football Pay Millions For Transfer Portal Quarterback?

BYU AD Tom Holmoe weighs in on the need for millions to land a top-notch quarterback in the Transfer Portal.

10 hours ago

BYU/Utah, Basketball Rivalry History...

Mitch Harper

Looking Back At BYU/Utah Basketball Matchups In Non-Conference Era

Taking a look back at the rivalry meetings between BYU and Utah on the hardwood since the two schools were non-conference opponents.

1 day ago


Kyle Ireland

BYU, Utah Standouts Land In 2024 NFL Mock Drafts

A pair of local college football players landed in the first round of recent 2024 NFL mock drafts published by CBS Sports.

1 day ago

BYU Basketball, Mark Pope, Undefeated start...

Mitch Harper

Mark Pope Built BYU Basketball Roster With Goal Of Reaching Final Four

BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope joined Hans & Scotty G. on the KSL Sports Zone to discuss the early season success.

1 day ago

How To Watch Utah BYU Basketball...

Chandler Holt

How To Watch Utah Utes Vs. BYU Cougars Men’s Basketball

Utah Basketball hosts the BYU Cougars in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Saturday. Here is how to watch, stream, and listen.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @kslsports...

The Road Home Mediathon 2023

The KSL Sports Zone and are proud to support the all-day Mediathon 2023 at the Road Home, an annual tradition to raise money and other essential items for the Road Home, a Homeless Shelter.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.

Harrington: Mental Fight To Remain Sober Lasts A Lifetime