Baseball MVP Josh Hamilton Suffers Addiction Relapse

Feb 3, 2012 12:53pm
gty josh hamilton jp 120203 wblog Baseball MVP Josh Hamilton Suffers Addiction Relapse

Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton suffered an alcohol addiction relapse this week, despite personal struggles to stay sober. Image credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP who has battled alcohol and drug addictions for over a decade, admitted Friday he relapsed and had several drinks on Monday night.

In a press conference, Hamilton, 30, said while dealing with personal issues, he went to a Dallas restaurant and in a “weak moment,” had about three or four drinks.

Teammate Ian Kinsler joined him later and the two left and eventually went to another restaurant across the street.  Kinsler drove Hamilton home and asked Hamilton if he was planning to go back out.  Hamilton said he wasn’t planning to go anywhere.

But, the All-Star confessed, he ended up back at the same restaurant he and Kinsler visited earlier.

“It was just wrong.  That’s what it comes down to,” Hamilton said.  “I needed to be responsible at that moment.”

He later reported the incident to the team and to Major League Baseball and underwent two drug tests.

Hamilton said he plans to meet with the league’s doctors in New York in the next few days, and stressed he is serious about staying clean and sober.

“I cannot take a break from my recovery.  My recovery is an everyday process.”

The relapse is not Hamilton’s first. In August 2009, Hamilton was photographed drinking in a bar in Tempe, Ariz., which he said was the first drink he had since he vowed to stay sober in October 2005.

Dr. David Sack, chief executive officer of Promises Treatment Centers in Los Angeles and Malibu, said stumbles like Hamilton’s are pretty common on an addict’s road to recovery.

“Most people who achieve long-term sobriety have failed multiple times before they’ve succeeded,” Sack told ABC News. “But an athlete has strong motivation to keep pursuing treatment because their livelihood and career depend on it. In our experience, they do remarkably well with treatment.”

Hamilton has gotten significant support from baseball management and his teammates in his efforts to stay alcohol-free. After the 2009 incident, he had an “accountability partner,” Johnny Narron, with him throughout the season. His teammates stopped drinking in front of him, even shielding him from the smell of alcohol. The 2011 American League champion team’s postseason celebrations eschewed the traditional champagne showers for ginger ale and water.

But Sack said there are a range of cues and environmental triggers that may cause addicts to fall off the wagon, especially times of stress and anxiety.

“It’s hard for me to imagine anything more stressful than being a pro athlete where every day you have to go out and prove yourself,” Sack said, adding that the strain of unpredictable performance, travel and separation from the support of family and friends can also be challenging for athletes struggling with addiction.

ESPN reported that the Texas Rangers are working to get Hamilton recovery-related support, which Sack said may include a combination of addiction medications like Naltrexone and individual therapy to explore what factors triggered his alcohol relapse.

According to ESPN, Hamilton’s struggles with alcohol, cocaine and heroin have impacted his career since 1999, when he was the first-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2003, he was banned from baseball for drug and alcohol use. He was reinstated in 2006 after his vow to get sober, but continued to undergo drug testing three times each week.

The ESPN report said Hamilton’s relapse this week was with alcohol alone, and no drugs were involved.

ABC News’ Kim Carollo contributed to this report.

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