“I live by a simple philosophy: nobody can insult me as much as I have insulted myself. I’ve learned that I have to keep doing the right things and not worry about what people think.” Josh Hamilton
The above quote has been taped to my dashboard for the past four years. Why? Because Josh Hamilton is an inspiration to me and many other people fighting for recovery from many different addictions. Recently, an uninformed ESPN writer wrote an article describing how Hamilton lacks mental toughness and shouldn’t be valued as a player. He asserted that Hamilton’s lack of mental toughness showed in his leaving a game early due to blurry vision caused by a sinus infection. This writer went on to describe how other players in the MLB play with much worse injuries—implying that Hamilton is not a tough player. He failed to mention the most important part of the story…Hamilton’s immense amount of mental toughness (or perhaps his 4-home run game, being the first round draft pick in 1999 for the Tampa Bay Rays, being a 5-tool player, being named to All-Star teams, being part of the Home Run derby, being MVP of the AL championship series as well as MVP of the entire AL…oh, and, most importantly, how he used his faith to overcome drug and alcohol addictions to become one of the best players in all of the MLB).
After a car accident early on in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, Hamilton began abusing drugs to heal the physical and emotional pain from the accident. Soon, as with all addictions, his entire world became about his drug use and subsequent alcoholism. This came at the expense of his MLB career as it violated their substance abuse policy. After two years away from the game, numerous trips to rehab and finding faith in Jesus Christ…Hamilton returned to baseball. He found an accountability partner in Johnny Narron who worked with him as both a Cincinnati Red and Texas Ranger. Although he has had two known relapses, Hamilton continues to strive for complete drug and alcohol recovery. During the traditional champagne shower after winning the AL division playoffs, Hamilton’s teammates, respecting this continued efforts in sobriety/recovery, doused him with ginger ale instead.
Others, however, are not as supportive of his recovery. He receives a lot of abuse from both “fans” and other MLB players. Many mock his past. His struggles. His goal to become clean. Why? Because unless people have personally struggled with addiction they will never understand the constant thoughts that go through your head, the ever present temptation to engage in unhealthy behaviors, the barrage from the general population that we have a problem and should be treated poorly, that often times we treat ourselves even worse than they do, that recovery is an ongoing process that does not happen overnight, that every day is a struggle to remain on the path towards recovery, and everything else we deal with on a daily basis. We’re judged during relapses because everyone is under the misguided perception that recovery means perfection, and that we will never engage in unhealthy behaviors again. We’re judged during periods of health by being reminded or ridiculed for the behaviors from which we are recovering. For Hamilton, this may be worse as he has irresponsible and ill-informed ESPN writers misleading the general public on the cycle of addition, and saying that Hamilton lacks mental toughness for trying to take care of himself. Mental toughness is ALL about taking care of yourself. Mental toughness is required for recovery. Mental toughness is a skill you learn by making mistakes and learning to take care of yourself; it is not something you are born with. I admire Hamilton for his ability to overcome his addictions, remain a strong Christian, and help others who are in similar situations. As Hamilton put it “I am proof that hope is never lost”. You can be that proof too…just keep moving down the pathway to recovery and ignore the pressures from the outside. You are recovering for you and no one else; only you know what is going on inside your head and only you can make the choices to recover. Don’t pay any mind to those that judge your recovery. Having the courage to recover means you already possess more courage and strength than those who try to put you down. Never give up hope. You are worth it. Recovery is possible.