Former Philadelphia sportscaster Don Tollefson, 61, who was arrested in February for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from unsuspecting victims in a series of charity scams, has opened up about his struggles with addiction.

Separated from his wife and living in a North Philadelphia apartment, Tollefson was 223 days clean as of Thursday, according to a report from The Bucks County Courier-Times.

Tollefson told the paper his battle with alcohol addiction spanned nearly five decades, beginning when he was just 16 years old. He was initially able to hide the abuse from his family and coworkers. "There were days when I would drink and then go do the sports on TV, and I'd be fine," he said. "You couldn't tell."

But, Tollefson said, the alcoholism was compounded by a prescription painkiller habit he picked up after a car accident in 2008, and he began suffering from blackouts. Tollefson checked into a rehabilitation facility in October, four months before his arrest.

There, he said, he learned of the havoc addiction is wreaking on families across the country. "We are in danger of losing a large part of our generation to drugs," Tollefson said. "It is happening in every American community. Young people are starting earlier and they're using more serious drugs. The ones I met in rehab didn't know where to turn."

Tollefson told The Courier-Times that he hopes to eventually use his experiences to become a motivational speaker, educating schoolchildren and families about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. "I want to tell them that they are not alone, that there are people who can help them," he said. "I lived with a hidden addiction, so I can talk to families about how kids are hiding theirs."

Tollefson is due in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing in connection with the theft charges.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.
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