(COVINGTON, La) — St. Paul’s School juniors recently composed, completed, and presented orations to their Religion III classes concerning addictions to harmful substances. These presentations, paired with the personal testimony of Neil Woodall, an affected St. Paul’s alumnus, rounded out the assignment.
“My time at St. Paul’s is something that will forever remain in my heart,” Woodall said. “It was integral in building the foundation for my faith and character.”
While attending St. Paul’s from 1999-2004, Woodall was a model student. Academically, Woodall maintained a 3.8 cumulative GPA, all while receiving Honor Roll accolades every quarter of his scholastic career. Outside the classroom, he was equally successful. Woodall was a distinguished athlete, earning the Scott Dottolo and Jimmy Dunn memorial awards for outstanding athletic ability and sportsmanship in both baseball and football. Extracurricularly, he served on the Student Council and was affiliated with Student Hosts.
“I had a lot of influential people who touched my life during that period,” Woodall said. “Señor Trevor Watkins, Mrs. Karen Hebert, Mr. Lee Pierre, and Bro. Ray Bulliard were some of the people from whom I learned the most.”
Yet, despite the nurturing care and mentoring he received at SPS, Woodall would later secretly lead a double life, characterized by harmful addictions that spiraled downward into a tumultuous world of costly consequences.
Following a tragic hunting accident, Woodall was administered pain medication to alleviate discomfort, introducing him to an addictive substance that would control his life for several grueling years.
“That was my first experience with pain medication,” Woodall said. “But it certainly wasn’t my last.”
Woodall’s battle with strong pain medications, especially hydrocodone and Oxycodone, continued for many years. On the outside, Woodall led a successful life. He had recently moved into pharmaceutical sales, where he had become one of the highest-producing representatives for his employing company. This company provided Woodall with a sturdy salary with commission profits, useful benefits, and a company car. Still, during this time, his life was marked with emotional suffering, guilt, and shame. Furthermore, this psychological agony, partnered with physical withdrawals, led Woodall fearfully down a turbulent path of inner chaos.
“It was literally hell on earth,” Woodall said. “My life was unraveling faster than I could keep it together.”
However, through faith, courage, and the grace of God, Woodall willingly sought assistance, and was eventually relieved of his disastrous addiction.
“There’s not much I’m proud of during my time in active addiction,” Woodall said. “But asking for help is hands-down one of the strongest decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life.”
Now, as a physical trainer and coach, Woodall inspires individuals to achieve their goals through hard work, determination, and resolve. As the owner of HardKnocks Sports & Fitness, he encourages his clients to “set goals and then crush them.”
Woodall never fails to recall his own struggles, and even utilizes his experiences with narcotics as an educational catalyst to prevent others from stumbling down the same path he once fearfully navigated.
As Woodall closed each of his presentations with each Religion III class, he conveyed this central message: “There are times when life’s tough. It’s supposed to be. Part of growing up is learning that fact, and learning how to not just survive, but thrive during those tough times.”