Monday, May 25, 2009

Former Husker track star Thompson has amazing courage

On this site, we’ve talked ad nausea about how the University of Nebraska football team is like a fallen champion trying to rebound.

Well, another former Husker superstar very much fits that category – Tressa Thompson, who starred as a shot putter and discus thrower. The Bloomfield, NE native was a three-time NCAA shot put champion and record-setter at Nebraska. I had the pleasure of covering Thompson as a student sports reporter at the Daily Nebraskan. Little did I or anyone know the trials and tribulations Thompson would have later. Thompson lived for years in the whirlpool of cocaine and meth, stealing, lying and cheating. Thompson’s problems have been featured on two episodes of “Intervention,” which is a TV program on the A&E Network. The most recent, which was the “Follow-Up” edition came on Memorial Day.

Each show shadows one or two subjects that suffers an addiction (i.e. drugs or alcohol) or has any mentally and/or physically damaging problem and believes that they are being filmed for a documentary on their problem. Their situations are actually being documented in anticipation of an intervention by family and/or friends. Each participant has a choice: go into rehabilitation immediately, or risk losing contact, income, or other privileges from the loved ones who instigated the intervention.

Often, other tactics are used to persuade the addicted person into treatment, which vary depending on the situation; some of these include threats to invoke outstanding arrest warrants, applying for custody of the addict's children, foreclosing on the addict's property, and break-up of marriages or other relationships. The producers usually follow up months later to monitor the addicted person's progress and film it for "follow-up" episodes of the series or for shorter "web updates" available on the show's website.

The “Followup” episide showed Tressa returning to Nebraska for the first time since her intervention eight months early to attend her mother’s wedding.

Following the first episode, Tressa was sent to a 90-day intensive in-patient therapy known as "Hope By The Sea" in San Juan Capistrano, CA. She also reportedly went from the treatment facility to a sober living facility to continue her sobriety. According to the show Tressa has been sober since October 2007. She attempted to qualify for the 2008 Olympics only to fall short of that goal.

She is training to make an athletic comeback and wants to someday open a treatment facility. With her experience and sober life as an example, I am sure she can help transform many lives.

One of the underlying issues of Thompson’s addiction was her family’s guilt trip and lack of accepting Tressa for her being a lesbian. Tressa’s inner loneliness steered her to developing an addiction to meth, then leading her to steal money from her parents and friends. She also stole a gun from her father and pawned it to buy more drugs. Tressa lost the trust of her family.
I have watched these episodes whenever A&E re-airs them and one thought crosses my mind. Yes, Tressa ultimately chose to do drugs and she has had to suffer the ramifications – of which there have been many. Losing a once promising athletic career as well as losing the trust of a family that loved her.

However, I’m also inclined to think that if Tressa family had not ostracized her for being a lesbian, I don’t think her addiction even remotely reaches the point that it did. Maybe, it wouldn’t have even happened at all.

Her parents and sister (Rachel Pinkleman) are all guilty of shaming Tressa about her lifestyle, using the most ass backwards reasons such as Tressa’s homosexuality is “a sin.” I consider myself a conservative (well, a moderate one) and though I might not like the lifestyle, suggesting it is a sin is over the top. Of the four people, her mother (Sybil) seems to have the clearest grasp of the big picture in that this process is about Tressa recovering and feeling comfortable with who she is.

The biggest culprit is her dad. He lumps homosexuality in the same category as liars, drunkards and fornicators. And he then goes out and commits adultery, which led to the divorce of his now former wife. I have three words to describe Jim Thompson – hypocritical, asinine and idiotic.

Memo to Jim: If you want to play this bible thumping game about homosexuality, just remember one thing. One of the Ten Commandments in the Bible says, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” However, there is no commandment in the Bible that says: “Thou shall not become a homosexual.” Without getting overly religious, yes there are passages in the bible that discourage homosexuality but they are not in the Ten Commandments like adultery.

I did not know Tressa enormously well outside of covering her as an athlete but every time we talked, she had a certain glow about her. She had a personality that lit up a room. It’s nice to see that personality return. I remember writing a letter to Tressa after her episode first aired. She e-mailed me back and we exchange e-mails at various times. I’m actually flattered that she still remembered me.

If Tressa makes a comeback athletically, great. However, the biggest victory in this whole matter was that Tressa received the help that she needed. Her journey has been hard; especially with some family not completely understanding who she truly is.

Members of Husker Nation, continue to wish you the very best in your recovery, Tressa.


  1. Sober living homes are the recommended course of action after addiction treatment or alcohol treatment.

  2. Finding the right drug addiction therapy program can be very difficult because everyone has a different, individual process.

  3. Tressa is in jail in knox county for robbing Hefners Hardware in Bloomfield ~ i guess that she will be extridited to New York next.

    To the girl in New York how got robbed - she robbed my mom too. How do I reach you I need help on having her charged for my mommys stuff she took with erin thompson.