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The Impact of Alcoholism, Ayahuasca, and Enlightenment on an NFL Player

About Jordan Poyer

LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA, Fla. — The Buffalo Bills have a new safety this season. He sometimes plays close to the line of scrimmage, even lining up in the gaps and banging helmets with the interior linemen. They use him as a hybrid linebacker in a three-safety dime package. He has played free safety, strong safety, outside cornerback, inside cornerback, left linebacker and right linebacker. And more. Physically and mentally, he is being challenged, but he’s grateful, content and all in. The Bills’ new safety is Jordan Poyer. It’s the same Jordan Poyer who played for the team the previous six seasons, the only player in the NFL to have 500 or more tackles, 20 or more interceptions and 10 or more sacks in that time frame, a Bills captain for the fourth time, an Ed Block Courage Award winner in 2017, a Pro Bowl safety last year and an All-Pro the year before. But this is a new Jordan Poyer because of ayahuasca. In the spring of 2020, NFL team facilities were closed because of COVID-19, so Bills defenders met in Washington, D.C., for a few days to train, study and bond. The first evening, cornerback Josh Norman welcomed the players to his home, and out came the shots of tequila. When Poyer was handed a shot, he looked at it and then at his teammates. He put it down. Norman and the others, who had never seen him turn down a drink, were taken aback. “What?” one said. “Come on, Deejay Poyo!” Deejay Poyo was Poyer’s alter ego. Inspired by tequila and a turntable, Poyer became someone else. And for Poyer, there was value in being someone else. What his teammates didn’t know was that Poyer had not put alcohol to his lips in about three months, since he downed a shot of tequila on March 13 in the Puerto Vallarta airport bar during a 12-hour flight delay. Poyer spent his childhood in Astoria, Ore., a picturesque town on the mouth of the Columbia River not far from the Pacific Ocean. His mother and stepfather worked at a juvenile detention center and raised him with a strict hand. When he was no longer under their watch, unsupervised as a freshman at Oregon State, Poyer drank. And drank and drank. It never seemed to affect his play in college, where he was a consensus All-American. And despite his continued drinking, he made steady progress in his early NFL years.

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