Top 20 Addiction Recovery Speakers

  • By Aaron Peterson
  •  Oct 17, 2023

Half of all Americans aged 12 or older have used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime and 25.4% of drug users have a disorder like addiction. Shockingly, 70% of people who use an illegal drug before the age of 13 develop a substance abuse disorder. Overdose deaths between 2000 and 2020 increased at a rate of almost 4% each year. It’s alarming.

Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, and it’s not just drugs that are tied to addiction. There are gambling addictions, eating disorders, hoarding addictions, and many others. Ten percent of Americans over the age of 12 have Alcohol Use Disorder. When your organization needs an addiction recovery speaker to bolster support for your group, our top 20 addiction speakers are among the best.

1. Lamar Odom

While in the NBA, Lamar Odom was a star player, even representing the USA in the 2004 Olympics. He married Khloe Kardashian and appeared on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and their show “Khloe & Lamar.” He overdosed in 2015 and was hospitalized and on life support after kidney failures, heart attacks, and strokes left him in a comatose state.

His recovery took time, but he got stronger and is well on the road to recovery. Since then, he’s appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, founded a senior living care company, and has participated in celebrity boxing matches. He’s an engaging and well-versed speaker on cocaine and alcohol addiction.

2. Ryan Leaf

Ryan Leaf’s struggles with addiction are tied to mental and behavioral health issues that led to him becoming an addict and going to prison for robbery. He used drugs as a means to escape the pain his mental health caused. He’s a firm believer that “asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.” He shares his story with audiences and in the podcast, “BUST: The Ryan Leaf Story.”

3. Mariel Hemingway

The Hemingway family has a long history of addiction, and Mariel Hemingway has been part of it. Her grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, committed suicide, as did his sister and brother. Mariel’s sister died of an overdose, the fifth suicide in four generations of the family.

“Running From Crazy” has Mariel talking openly about her and her family’s struggles with alcoholism and suicide. She’s a familiar face and a speaker who talks openly about addiction and breaking free from a family history of it.

4. CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia played 19 seasons in the MLB, and four years before his retirement, he entered a rehab center for alcoholism. He’d struggled with alcohol addiction for several years, and rehabilitation was a vital part of his recovery. After rehab, he went back to the Yankees, but he focused on telling his story and getting people to talk openly about their addiction. Reducing the stigma of addiction is important to him.

5. Jayson Williams

When it comes to pressure and tragedy, Jayson Williams has endured a lot. He grew up in the Lower East Side and watched two sisters succumb to the AIDS virus, and another was murdered by her husband. He adopted their children while attending university. Despite all he was going through, he was drafted by the 76ers and eventually signed to a six-year contract with the Nets. He suffered a career-ending injury in his first year.

Jayson developed an addiction to Ambien and alcohol and accidentally shot his limo driver, putting him in prison for aggravated assault. He realized he needed help and ended up finding effective ways to recover by getting outside instead of being stuck inside in rehab programs. He partnered with Future Recovery Healthcare and helped establish a Rebound program. His program “Addiction Unplugged'' highlights his struggles and discovery that fresh air, outdoor adventures, and honesty are key to overcoming addiction.

6. Tony Hoffman

Tony Hoffman had big dreams of racing BMX professionally, and he seemed well on his way to achieving that dream, but mental health issues like anxiety and depression led to an addiction to drugs, especially opioids and Oxycontin. He ended up addicted, homeless, and then jailed for robbery. He created the Freewheel Project and specializes in mental health and substance abuse. Since parole, he has raced professionally and coached Brooke Crain at the Rio Olympics. He’s the owner of pH Wellness and is one of our top substance abuse speakers.

7. Anthony Alvarado

He’s a CCAR Certified Coach and trains professionals in the skills needed to prevent suicide. Anthony Alvarado is a powerful speaker in both large and small groups on topics like addiction recovery and mental health. His training isn’t all that makes him an expert in addiction and mental health. His son’s accidental overdose of fentanyl has him ready to help others.

8. Lauren Sisler

She’s a 2x Emmy award-winning sports broadcaster and former collegiate gymnast. Lauren Sisler also knows the pain of addiction all too well. In 2003, her college life was just beginning when both of her parents lost their battle with prescription drug addiction within hours of each other. She shares her story to help others heal and find meaning in their lives.

9. Quinton & Jenn Gibson

Quinton Gibson plays lead guitar for Darius Rucker (country musician and former Hootie & The Blowfish lead singer). He has a music career that spans 30 years, and he struggled with alcohol addiction. His girlfriend, now wife, had no experience with alcoholism and held an intervention. Jenn Gibson went from knowing nothing about alcohol addiction to becoming the support person he needed to get and stay sober. They travel the country sharing their story and giving insight into how to support someone through addiction.

10. Montee Ball

Montee Ball is a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist and 2013 draft pick for the Broncos. Alcoholism destroyed his career before he really even had time to build it. After two seasons with the Broncos, the Patriots put him on their practice squad, but Montee’s NFL story ends there. His father had issues, so it was what he knew. In college, everyone around him drank, further normalizing it. He’s recovering and became involved with a program, Badger Recovery, that he didn’t know existed when he was in college. He’s avid about helping others find the help they need to overcome addiction.

11. Darryll Stinson

Darryll Stinson was a star athlete in high school and college, so the loss of attention after his time at Central Michigan University proved too much. In 2011, he planned his suicide. He was battling an opioid addiction from years of back injuries, and his girlfriend left him. After several suicide attempts, his mother brought him to a psychiatric unit for help, and a nurse changed his path. is a holistic transitioning program for former, current, and forgotten athletes who need to find their way. Its main goal is something Darryll believes is key – a five-step path to accepting the end of your athletic career before embracing new goals and passions.

12. Charlie Engle

After enrolling at UNC, Charlie Engle found himself struggling academically due to an addition to cocaine and alcohol. His wake-up call hit when a cocaine binge ended with him being shot at. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous that same day and started taking the steps to get and stay clean and sober. His passion for running marathons proved helpful. He was part of a six-person team in the 2016 Icebreaker Run across the U.S. to raise awareness of addiction and mental health.

13. June Shannon

Most people know her more as Honey Boo Boo’s mother. June Shannon, aka Mama June, is a recovering addict. Her struggles with addiction were very public due to her career in reality TV, and she was spending upwards of $3k per day to feed her cocaine addiction. She’s been clean for several years and tours the country sharing her story and helping others see that there is a path out of addiction.

14. Paul Osincup

Paul Osincup is referred to as a “Jack of All Jokes,” as he’s built a comedy career but also was Director of Conflict Resolution and Dean of Students, where he helped students overcome severe drug and alcohol addictions. He uses comedy to keep his presentations and keynotes light and engaging, even when the subject matter is heavy and dark.

15. Marian Bacol-Uba

Marian Bacol-Uba is the founder of Thriver Lifestyle, as well as a certified meditation teacher. Her experience with addiction came from the pressures she felt as a marketing executive, a career that saw her dealing with PTSD and depression, leading to substance and alcohol abuse. When she overdosed and had an out-of-body, near-death experience, she changed her ways and went from being a survivor to a thriver.

16. Jolynn Swafford

By her own accounts, Jolynn Swafford was drinking about 80% of her waking hours. Her vodka addiction brought her to a point where she learned her liver was failing. That was her wake-up call; she realized her life was more important than the drink in her hand. But, there was more she had to get through.

Her addiction started in high school when she was gang raped at a high school party. She married, divorced, and ended up penniless with no job. She went to jail, and all of this played a big part in her addiction and the things she had to come to terms with to begin her recovery. Ask her about the three steps she took to get healthy.

17. Michael Sonbert

As a kid, Michael Sonbert suffered unexplained, debilitating anxiety attacks, and he started to use drugs as a way to escape those panic attacks and crippling fear. He became trapped in his home, within himself, and by the drugs he took. His mother’s death brought him into a world where he had a sobriety coach and community for support. He became a teacher first but used that as a stepping point to found Skyrocket Education, a program that coached educational leaders to be the best for their students.

18. Ryan Stream

Ryan Stream is a 2x war veteran, but before that, he lost his mother to suicide when he was a child. He watched the damage the foster care system did to his family, and he spent time living in homeless shelters becoming addicted to drugs and jailed for his crimes.

The Army started where his story changed, but it also impacted him as he watched almost two dozen of the soldiers in his deployment become injured when an IED went off and blew up their vehicles. Following his military service, he became a speaker on mental health, addiction and substance abuse, and believing in yourself.

19. Jeff Wickersham

Jeff Wickersham went from being a successful business owner to someone on the brink of divorce, losing a business, and facing financial ruin. His battle with addiction was impacting his life in too many ways, and quick fixes were not working. He tried something else and talked about how addiction also requires accountability and consistency if you want to make lasting changes.

20. Chris Sullivan

His time in the NFL was a dream come true, but it was also Chris Sullivan’s path to addiction. After winning a Super Bowl XXXVI ring, he had an addiction to drugs and alcohol that were threatening to defeat him. He retired from the NFL and got the help he needed. His “Not in the Playbook” talk is proof that reaching out for help is important and a sign of strength.

Any of our top 20 addiction speakers offer the insight, real-life accounts, and facts your group or team needs to hear about addiction. Contact them with ease through Engage’s online platform and book the best addiction speaker for your needs today.