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RHoops Asst. Greg Vetrone tells his story about his family and addiction

On Friday morning, Rutgers University hosted the first on campus Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall.

According to Rutgers Athletics, the event is for, “Rutgers University students, student-athletes, faculty and members of the public to learn about the personal impact of the nationwide opioid epidemic, specifically on athletes, from a group of high-profile speakers."

The event, held within the Rutgers Athletic Center, featured key speakers such as New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, Rutgers Football play-by-play broadcasters Chris Carlin and Ray Lucas, Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs, and Rutgers Basketball Director of Player Development Greg Vetrone.

Rutgers Hoops assistant Greg Vetrone was kind enough to tell us more about his own personal story about opioid abuse within his family.

“My daughter is 27 years old and she is in a state appointed facility, a court appointed facility in New York state with my seven month old grandson,” Vetrone told TKR. “My daughter has been a heroin user now for seven years and I don’t think she thought when she played her first beer pong game or smoked her first marijuana joint, that three years later she’d be taking oxycontin and two years later be a heroin addict. I’m here to try and save a life and help this disease. I know it’s a self-inflicting disease, but it’s a disease nonetheless. I’ll never stop fighting for my daughter. She is now in a position where if she gets in trouble one more time, she goes straight to jail and I’d get custody of my seven month old grandson.”

Vetrone says that his daughter getting arrested and admitted into the rehab facility has been a blessing in disguise.

“You have children and you have parents,” said Vetrone. “The first child you have you are deathly afraid, you are responsible for this child. Think of how powerful this disease was, that she was using while my grandson was just four months old. Thank god fortunately, she got arrested which was the best thing for her. She got appointed to this facility in Long Island and she’s been in there for four months now. She has another six to eight months in there before she possibly gets released. I’m here fighting for her, just got to keep fighting and fighting.”

The coach says that access to cheaper drugs is what is a leading cause to addiction.

“I don’t think the doctors prescribing this, understand the addiction rate. When she couldn’t afford oxytocin, she went over to heroin because it was cheaper. They called them Roxy’s in my neighborhood where it was $25 a pill, where she got a dime bag of heroin for $10. It’s been seven-eight years now and that’s why I’m here today, I just want to touch one person today.”

This was the first time the Knock Out Opioid Abuse event was ever held on a college campus, and it most likely won’t be the last. Coach Vetrone would like to see this type of town hall implemented into the orientation for incoming freshmen.

“It’s unbelievable,” Vetrone said about holding this type event on Rutgers University campus. “I don’t know of any other place that has done this. Something like this should be part of the seminar for freshmen when they come into college. Bring educated people to campus. I’m not a drug counselor, I’m just a parent. We need to bring in parents, a user and people who are well qualified to talk about this to help people understand. If you reach out for help there is no judgement, we just want to help and they are afraid. On the other side, kids are afraid today to lose their street credibility and don’t want to rat out friends. I tell them all the time, “would you rather rat on your friend or attend their funeral,” because that is the reality today.”

Going through a tragic event like Vetrone did has given him a different view not just on life, but when it comes to coaching too.

“When people talk about "we are going to war tonight in the game, this and that" - this is real life, this is a real life battle," he said. "This to me is the toughest thing I ever had to live through and the toughest thing I ever had to overcome and we are going to beat it. The toughest thing now is the games have a different perspective for me. I have a compassion as a coach, if Geo (Baker) doesn’t have a 20-point game that night, we don’t know what he’s going through. Different perspective on it all.”

Before Vetrone got ready to step on the stage to join the panel of participants talking about their own or families’ addiction stories, he offered one piece of advice for parents going through this.

“My biggest advice is to never stop, just keep fighting,” said Vetrone. “Even though it’s a self inflicting disease, it is still a disease. Try not to be an enabler and try not to be manipulated, because they will do it. They are the best actors in the world when they are using. Just know as much it was there thought that they used this drug, it’s still a disease like cancer and we have to keep fighting.”