Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand called sitting in a northern Michigan jail cell four years ago "one of the best and worst" nights of his life. Lewand spoke candidly about his struggles with alcohol addiction and what led him to that jail cell and arrest for drunk driving during a testimonial at the Kensington Church in Orion, Michigan, recently. And he said that night changed his life.
Lewand was arrested on June 25, 2010 after a golf outing in northern Michigan and was eventually charged with DUI after being cited with a .21 blood alcohol level. He was taken to jail, and that experience, he told people over the weekend, is when his life changed.
"I laid down on that hard, cold floor in that cell and had what was simultaneously one of the worst and one of the best nights of my life," Lewand said. "One of the worst because I didn't know when I left that cell if I would have a job, if I would have a wife, what my relationship would be with my family or what my future was going to be.
"One of the best because I finally gave up. I knew that I couldn't do it. I had a relationship with God growing up, at least I thought. I think my relationship was 'I don't bother you. You don't bother me.' And that night, I said, 'Look, I give up.' I didn't know it then. I think I know it now. What I felt that night for the first time was God's amazing grace in my life."
Lewand said he "began a journey" that night to eliminate negative feelings in his life and to appreciate his family and friends and religion.
The Lions continued to employ him, although the NFL suspended him for 30 days -- a ban that was eventually lifted early -- and fined him $100,000. He was also sentenced to six months probation by the courts after pleading guilty to drunken driving.
That night was the low point for Lewand, who told the Kensington Church he started drinking at parties in high school and college at the University of Michigan, and that drinking alcohol escalated from a reason and way to relax, to an escape.
"Then it became a habit," Lewand said. "Then it became something I consumed that pretty quickly consumed me. And as I progressed throughout the course of my career, I thought everything was fine.
"I graduated with three degrees from Michigan, lots of honors. I had a great job and by the standards that the world judges us, I was doing just fine."
As he progressed in his career, Lewand said he wasn't doing well and that he would hide his drinking from others. He said around "seven or eight years ago," some of the people close to him confronted him and asked him to take a look at the path of his life and his drinking.
He said he felt he had it under control and could handle it. Then one day he wanted to stop and he couldn't, all eventually leading to that night in the jail cell, and the admission to himself that he had a problem with alcohol.
"My name is Tom Lewand and I'm the president of the Detroit Lions," Lewand said. "I'm a proud husband, father, son, brother and I'm an alcoholic."
Lewand said during his testimonial to the church that alcohol is no longer involved in his life, and he cited his routine as the reason why he doesn't relapse.
"I'd like to tell you that everything since that day has been sunshine and roses in the last four-and-a-half years," Lewand said. "It hasn't been. It's easy to get complacent because while alcohol may not be a part of my life anymore, teenagers still are. My marriage still is. Stress at work, referees who pick up flags, all of those things.
"I have to, on a daily basis, pay attention to my relationship to God because my complacency shows up if I feel that distance between God and I starting."
The pastor of the church Lewand spoke at, Dave Wilson, is also the Lions' team chaplain, and Wilson called Lewand one of his best friends.