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Conquering Addiction: Pro Surfer Tom Carroll

Hall of Fame surf pioneer Thomas Victor Carroll was Born in 1961 in New South Wales, Australia. To say his career was impressive is an understatement: he won the world championships in 1983 and 1984, twenty-six world tour stages, three trophies in the legendary Pipeline Masters competition, and was the first surfer to secure a million-dollar contract with a sponsor. His deal with Quicksilver turned the idea of a career in the sport from a pie-in-the-sky dream into a legitimate opportunity.

It sounds like a charmed life, but that’s not the entire story. While collecting world titles, big tournament wins and bigger sponsorship paychecks than any surfer before him, Tom battled substance abuse and addiction. Cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and methamphetamine almost killed him. Fortunately, he’s now in recovery and he’s written a book about his struggles, called “TC.”

Turning to Drugs

Tom did his first line of cocaine at age 18. In his book, he says he continued using cocaine because he was shy, and believed it helped him connect in social situations. Throughout his 20 years of drug abuse, he experienced highs, lows, and brief periods of sobriety. He always relapsed, though, often for days on end. His drug of choice was cocaine, although he also used ecstasy and LSD.

In 2002, things got worse when he became addicted to crystal meth, or “ice” as it’s known in Australia. It quickly replaced cocaine as his favorite drug. When he first started, taking a little bit lasted for a long time.

But all that changed.

Hitting Rock Bottom and Seeking Help

Drugs were killing him from the inside out. He lived in a state of extreme desperation, always looking for his next fix. It got to the point where felt he had to use every day just to function. In his own words, he was manic, crazy and “running around with his head cut off.” He didn’t stop using at the end of his pro surfing career. He didn’t stop when he became the father of three kids. It was clear to everyone around him that if he didn’t quit, his drug use was going to kill him.

He finally hit bottom. He felt hollow and disconnected from everyone and everything in his life. In 2006, he sought help and checked himself into a rehab hospital. Around the same time, Tom’s brother discovered their mother may have been addicted to amphetamines. This new knowledge became a powerful motivator for Tom to get clean. It helped him realize what had been happening for decades: rather than casual, harmless drug use, he’d been engaged in a lifelong battle with addiction.

After six months of sobriety, he bumped into his former meth dealer. The dealer asked if Tom wanted a hook up. Tom said yes. The dealer gave him his new number and said to call him later. As the car drove off, Tom knew that he had to make a decision quickly. The dealer’s number had been typed into his phone, but not saved.

He deleted it.

As he went on his way, he wanted nothing more than to turn around and chase the dealer’s car. But he didn’t. Tom credits this decision as the moment that truly changed his life. He knows that if he’d saved the number, he would’ve called it, and he would’ve started using again.

Living in Recovery

Tom Carroll has now been clean for seven years. His battle with addiction led to the end of his marriage and may have damaged his relationship with his children. However, his kids are still part of his life and share his love of surfing. His eldest daughter expresses gratitude that her father is in recovery and is now a completely different person than when he was using. He’s found a new partner who shares his love of surfing, and his relationship with his brother has never been stronger. Tom says the support he’s received from his brother over the course of his life has been vital to his recovery.

Anyone with a friend or family member who is facing addiction should do whatever they can to help them seek treatment. It will make all the difference in their lives. If you’re worried about someone you love, give us a call at Evolve.

We can help them get their life back on track.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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