Abby Wambach said she intended to write her new memoir about her legendary soccer career, including holding the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players, but her April DUI arrest changed the course of the book.
“Once I got the DUI, I was like this has to be part of the story and now I have to actually really tell it,” Wambach, 36, said today on "Good Morning America." “I think it’s a story that needs to be told.”
Wambach was arrested in Portland, Oregon, in April after allegedly failing to stop for a red light and failing a sobriety test. She was charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII). Wambach pleaded guilty and agreed to enter a diversion program for first-time offenders that included treatment, according to The Associated Press.
Wambach reveals in her book, “Forward: A Memoir,” that she battled alcohol and prescription drug abuse for years leading up to her arrest.
“I was ashamed for a long time, that’s why I wasn’t capable of getting help,” said Wambach, a native of Rochester, New York. “My family, they’re a little bit stressed that I’ve like uncovered this news.”
She added: “They’re upset because I was in so much pain and they didn’t really even know because I kept it private for so long, she said of her family, which includes six siblings. This is like my call to people out there to not be ashamed of this, to ask for help.”
Wambach played her last official soccer game prior to her DUI, in December 2015, shortly after the U.S. women's national team celebrated its 2015 World Cup victory at the White House.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup champion with the U.S. women's national team said she was never under the influence while on the soccer field.
“This is something that happened obviously after games and during mostly off periods like off-seasons,” she said. “The prescription stuff didn’t happen until late in my career and alcohol, you know I’ve been drinking alcohol since I was 21 years old ... that was something that kind of evolved over the course of my career.”
Wambach won the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award six times and was honored earlier this year at the ESPYs with the Icon Award. Despite the accolades she earned over the course of her long career, she said she struggled to feel loved and find acceptance.
“I came from a fairly conservative, my family is Irish Catholic,” she said. “Being gay and having some of these demons that I felt like I had to numb away and some of the pain I had throughout my career, it was part of who I am.”
She continued: “This is kind of one of those things that being inside my own skin and being scared and being in pain, I just really wanted to feel love. I know my mom loves me. I know my family loves me, just sometimes for really deep feeling people it’s hard to actually feel that.”
In addition to her struggles with addiction, Wambach also revealed that she and her wife, Sarah Huffman, are divorcing. The couple shared a high-profile moment after the 2015 World Cup when their victory kiss was captured on camera.
“That moment was so iconic and something that I’m very, very proud of,” Wambach said of the kiss. “For me, this is really hard, obviously going through any divorce is difficult, but [I have] nothing but love for Sarah.
“This whole struggle that I went through, she saw firsthand,” Wambach said of Huffman. “She was literally on the front lines of this and was my biggest advocate, my biggest champion and was there for me in times when I didn’t even know I could be there for myself.”
Wambach’s memoir, “Forward: A Memoir,” is available in bookstores now.