You wouldn't think an ex-addict who was went to prison for drug-dealing and forgery would have some good advice for Tiger Woods, but you'd be wrong. I think I understand his emotional trajectory very well. Being a successful dealer won me an immediate and huge circle of "friends." I got as high as I wanted, as often as I wanted, and slept with a huge amount of my clients. (We're talking gay men and crystal meth here). There was always cash in my hand. Unlike Tiger, I didn't have a significant other I was lying to, but I was lying immensely to my family, and to all of my friends who I had before my drug use turned occupational. And I was also taking the risk of huge consequences. For me it was prison. For Tiger, an unimaginably steep fall from grace, and probably, divorce.
Against all statistical odds, I had survived an AIDS diagnosis dating from the 80s. Tiger had come from behind in countless golf tournaments. I know how potent that illusion of invincibility is. You push the envelope, then push it some more. With Tiger, golf wasn't enough, it meant juggling more affairs than could possibly be sustained in the long run by someone in the public eye. With me it was increasingly brazen albeit ingenious criminal acts, including forging my own death certificate to get out of my first arrest, and adopting the identity of my brother, who died years before. I was "successful" for a substantial period of time just as Tiger was with his lies. Like him, I discovered a new rush that was different than getting high itself--getting away with things.
Some of us just have to discover the hard way that consequences are a spiritual principle. No one is immune to them over time. And because they are an immutable law of human nature, on some level we yearn for them. Avoiding them eventually becomes an adrenalin rush devoid of substance. The result is the stuff of Greek tragedy, as the protagonist sews the seeds of his own destruction.
My advice for Tiger Woods: Radical Honesty. I just don't do anything anymore I have to lie about later. It doesn't mean you don't practice discretion, or that you tell Aunt Hilda the dress she is wearing is hideous. It means living a life of integrity, in the purest sense of the word. It means that you mean what you say and say what you mean, that there is the shortest possible distance between what others see and what they get.
In your news conference Tiger, don't lie anymore. If you're still a dawg and want to remain a dawg, than say so. There is no shame in saying yes to all the women who want to sleep with you. Just do it as a single man. (Though, ironically, you'll probably find yourself saying yes a lot less often when it's no longer "forbidden.")
Of course you owe your wife an apology. I'm sure you've delivered $70 million worth by now. Perhaps she's going to take you back, if she really believes you can be faithful. But if you don't believe it, this is what you need to say: "I intend to be the best ex-husband and father I can possibly be, but I recognize that I find monogamy too difficult to sustain. It may not be the way I imagined my life, but it's the way it is. I intend to remain at the top of my sport, and be as honest as I can be in the future in all my dealings, especially with women."
There is no one who knows me who doesn't know I've been to prison, live with AIDS and am in recovery from drug addiction. I can't tell you what a relief it is. When I recently touched on all these topics at a reading, I was told by every person who came up to me afterwards: "that was so brave." It would have been ungracious to argue, but it wasn't really. It was just telling the truth, and once you get used to it, honesty is incredibly addictive. And far less exhausting than duplicity.
Tiger, don't tell us what you think we want to hear, or what you think Elin, or your mother, or your managers or anyone else wants to hear. Just stick the truth. I promise you, it will win you back all the respect you've lost.