Outside of his bipolar disorder, Andy Irons faced the ever-deepening struggle of a severe opioid addiction. While many of his family and friends were aware of his mental disorder, his drug habit often went overlooked. Only his closest friends, with whom he spent time together surfing on tour and partying thereafter, recognized his opioid addiction. To both him and his friends, the dangers were not always apparent, as the perils of these types of drugs have only recently become commonly known.
Friends like Joel Parkinson recognized Andy’s problem early on and saw how it changed him, offering their help along the way. Notable was the fact that Andy no longer spent time freesurfing in between competitions, which defined him earlier in his life.
Recalling seeing Andy’s foray into drugs, Parkinson says, “Yeah. One in the morning, one at lunch, maybe, one at night. And I remember just going, ‘Man, those things are just deadly.’ And then, I guess, I didn't realize how far they'd spread. They were in pretty deep in Hawaii, so a lot of the boys...they were poisonous, those things.”
Seeing how they broke his friend, Parkinson and others tried to lend Andy a helping hand. This involved everything from encouraging him to surf more, physically removing the drugs, and trying to talk him out of it.
“I confronted him a couple times on it, and just was like... He kept telling me off. We'd be on another trip, and the first thing I'd ask is, "Are you still on the bluies? What's going on?" And I could tell straightaway if he was or he wasn't... Dilated pupils, crystal clear eyes. You knew when he was on them or if he was lying to me. And there was one time here in Hawaii that he had like, this expression session with all the pipe masters, previous champs... Jerry Lopez, all the guys and we had a big fight about them, 'cause he told me he wasn't, but I knew he was, 'cause he'd sleep. He'd stay up all night and you could hear him pacing round the house and then he'd sleep all day.
It was his way. I just went in there, and I was like, "Fuck, man, you've gotta get out there!" Pipe masters' like... As a kid, I would have dreamed of paddling out...there's Lopez, and I think it was Roy Russell, all those famous old school guys, too... And he was in bed and we couldn't get him up. And finally I went, ‘Get the fuck up and just go!’ And he paddled out, and he rode a wave one ride, and fell flat on his face, and came in... And he looked like shit. He was pale and pasty. Man, I wasn't afraid to tell him, ‘Clean up on those things, get off them.’ And I'd always be hassling him about those things.”
If you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from a bipolar disorder, please, contact the SAMHSA national helpline.