I rarely talk about my substance recovery process even with people I can trust. We live in a society that humiliates the addict, vilifies the drug, and then shuns any legitimate discussion on the topic.
We also throw around the topic of positive role modeling — whether it’s Rick Santorum and his crusade against gay people or the action of professional athletes like A.J. Hawk. In the meantime, the most inspirational comeback story in sports has barely been reported, his act of selflessness was ignored, and the educational moment from his 2011 World Series experience is also being muffled.
I am talking about Josh Hamilton.
His story transcends sports. It actually has nothing to do with sports, it only seems that way because his profession puts him in the spotlight.
As the Yahoo! article says, “Hamilton is one of the most gifted players baseball has ever seen.” He was the #1 overall pick in 1999 by Tampa Bay, but before he could out the minor leagues he was in a car crash. During rehab, he drank, used cocaine, and smoked crack. He was out of baseball by 2003.
It would take three years, until 2006, before he would return. Because of addiction.
By 2008, he led the league in RBI’s and started in the All-Star game.
In 2009, he relapsed. After 3 years of sobriety under his belt. Alone, he went to a bar. He ordered a vodka cranberry. And another. Then another bar. More drinks. After awhile, as a celebrity, you end up embarrassed online.
His family continued to support him.
He won the MVP in 2010 and played in his first World Series. This year, he didn’t relapse after the falling death of a fan earlier this year. He could’ve easily blamed himself and fallen off the wagon.
After another solid season, he finds himself in another World Series. Except he is injured, and in major pain.
Most athletes would take medication for pain issues, especially when the benefit is playing in the World Series. However, Hamilton has had series issues with addiction and recovery and all drugs bring an addict face-to-face with relapse. Even more importantly, they give the addict a built-in excuse. Effective painkillers take away the pain and make you “happy”, a feeling that an addict refuses the relinquish.
His doctors have told him he cannot use painkillers, and it is unclear whether or not he has headed the advice of his doctors or the advice of Ranger fans. Either way, his lifelong struggle must be getting worse. The pain he is feeling must be awful, because he has admitted that he would be on the disabled list if this were the regular season and he is a former MVP that should be playing like Albert Pujols, but is instead batting 1-for-12.
He could take cortisone injections as those are not considered addictive painkillers. Athletes without addiction problems have had problems kicking painkillers, like Brett Favre and Vicodin.
His story is truly inspirational, but we don’t talk about it or use it as a teaching tool for youth because people think it’s complicated or confusing. If you don’t understand how a story like this, directly from the person, could help so many people — then you just don’t understand the disease of addiction.
It is like being stranded on an island. There is no one there to help you and there is really no reason to help yourself. It is because of that reality that makes a story that Josh Hamilton so amazing.