These days, 35-year-old Tony Hoffman is a man on the move, traveling the country 200 days a year.
“I’m never in a place for more than 36 hours,” Hoffman said.
The former top-ranked BMX amateur shares his life story, weaving together his rise in BMX racing to becoming a homeless drug addict, sharing his insights into addiction and mental health.
“My message hinges itself a lot on mental health because I had those issues when I was in middle school,” said Hoffman, who will speak Wednesday at Centennial Hall for the second installment of the Pillars of America Speaker Series. “I grew up in the 90s where we didn’t talk about mental health. (If) you went to a therapist, you were crazy. I really try to break down those stigmas and get people to understand it’s OK to talk to people if you’re not feeling good about yourself. That’s actually the key to getting better.”
Hoffman’s profile in professional BMX riding soared as teenager while growing up in Clovis, California. His domination in the sport led to endorsements deals from big companies, but the fame would be fleeting.
While attending Clovis High School, the BMX star got into marijuana and using prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin which began taking over his life.
“I found out that I was an addict that and addicts don’t get to choose whether they get to be addicts or not and that my life would go on a very long downward spiral journey to homelessness and being in prison and having to turn my life around,” Hoffman said.
That started with becoming sober, which he did on May 17, 2007, and then telling others about his story. He gave a Ted Talk last year titled, “The Stigma of Addiction.”
“My speech is always my life story,” Hoffman said. “It’s never statistics and so specified that I would talk about anything statistics-wise in a town because kids don’t want to hear that stuff. I tell my life story and the messaging of addiction, the messaging of attitudes and choices is built into my life story.”
Hoffman said misconceptions about addiction can be harmful, and believes in giving youth better access to mental health resources.
“Kids need to be introduced to therapy and counseling starting in elementary school,” he said. “We’re at such a reactive state with how we deal with things in education so we typically wait for a student to get expelled or misbehave knowing that there could be some issues going on.”
Tickets for the talk and luncheon are $35 and available at Hearthside Books. Doors open at 11:15 a.m. and lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. There is no seating after 11:50 a.m. The Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club sponsors the event, which started in 1992 and has brought over 80 speakers to town.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.