Hendricks County Man Overcomes Addiction to Become a Golf Pro
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
When Clay Cox picked up golf at age 16, he was a natural.
“I clicked with golf and really loved the game,” says Cox, who played during his junior and senior years of high school. Soon after leaving for Indiana State University, however, partying took center stage.
“I struggled with self-identify, but in college I felt accepted as this fun party boy,” Cox says. “I was also a big fish in a little pond.”
He justified his behavior by telling himself that he was fine since his grades hadn’t slipped. But then he tried Adderall, a stimulant that’s used to treat ADHD. He found it improved his productivity so he continued taking it, in combination with alcohol. He got arrested for consumption as a minor, which only made him cooler in his buddies’ eyes.
“It was a badge of honor,” Cox says.
The following year he moved back to Hendricks County and enrolled at Ivy Tech. One day he was complaining of a headache and someone offered him Vicodin, a low-dose opioid.
“This was my first introduction to that little world of happiness pills,” says Cox, who spent the next year smoking pot and drinking alcohol. Then at age 23 he took Oxycontin, a strong pain reliever that can become habit-forming.
Even though, in the back of his mind, he knew that his behavior would take a toll over time, he fell deeper and deeper into addiction. By the time he was 25 he needed drugs to be able to function.
“I couldn’t start my day until I got a text from my dude telling me he had drugs for me,” Cox says. “It was a physical thing. My body needed this to function, like water. My morality was gone. My money was gone. My respect was gone. All that mattered to me was getting high.”
Over a three-year period, he pushed away his family and all of his true friends.
“I was ashamed that this is where I was, a 27-year-old who was now dating a hardcore alcoholic who drank pints of vodka for breakfast,” Cox says.
On New Year’s Eve he got wasted, fired and dumped all in the same night. He moved in with his dad. Soon thereafter, COVID shut everything down, which, for a drug addict, was the perfect storm because the government sent him money every week, which enabled him to feed his addiction.
In the summer of 2020 he began dating a girl who also had a love affair with opiates. At this point Cox had racked up a $3,000 debt and got his hands on Oxymorphone, a medicine used for cancer patients. His girlfriend told him heroin was cheaper than the drugs he was taking.
“I had a two-week bout of me snorting heroin,” Cox says. “I felt and looked like a zombie. During this time I stayed completely off the radar because I owed people money. It was hard to even sneak out to the store or the gas station. One day it hit me that I was either going to die or end up in jail.”
He knew the only way to get his life back was to tell his mom about everything he had been doing. He thought it was going to be a revelation to her, but she said she had already been attending PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones) meetings for a year.
He also went to his boss at West Chase Golf Club in Brownsburg and unloaded the whole ugly truth.
“I said, ‘Here’s what I’ve been doing. I’m not doing it anymore, but if you ever see me act differently, bring it up,’” says Cox, who is now the director of golf and instruction at West Chase, where he is an accredited PGA golf pro. He teaches people of all ages the game of golf.
For the longest time, Clay Cox struggled to regain his self-esteem because of his past relationship with drugs. Even as he gained confidence through golf, he second-guessed his worth.
“I’d make six birdies in a row and think, ‘But you’re playing at your home club, so that doesn’t really count,’” he says. Now he knows that that’s his past addiction talking, and that his opinions do matter.
“I hold weight when I talk about golf because I’m an expert at it,” he says. There’s proof of that all around him, including the fact that one of his students recently won a Hendricks County tournament.
“It’s cool to know that I’m more than just my past,” he says. “Golf is what keeps me going.”
And because Cox is forthright about his past addiction, he’s had clients confide that they, too, could use some help.
“I’ve had guys tell me, ‘I’ve been drinking five days a week for 20 years. I’m really struggling, bro,’” Cox says.
Indeed, his instruction sometimes extends beyond simply swinging the club and hitting the ball.
Clay was two weeks sober when he learned that his girlfriend had died of an overdose. Her death became a constant reminder of what drugs can do.
“Drugs don’t care about your last name or where you come from or how much money you make,” Cox says. “You can’t buy life.”
For Cox, staying clean involved a lot of measures including meditation, mindfulness and golf. He still recalls the first time he walked the golf course sober, being mindful of each step he took as he felt the wind on his face and listened to the leaves rustle in the trees.
Cox’s advice to others who are trying to get clean and sober is to take accountability in your life.
“At the end of the day, your gut won’t lie to you,” he says.
Cox is grateful to greet each new day. He’s happy to kiss his girlfriend good morning and take his dog, Charlie, for a walk.
“I’m truly excited every day I wake up,” he says. “It’s so nice to have that fire for life again and to make my day my own.”