A Baseball Star Who Knows His Weakness

We all need help as we seek to flee whatever temptations we face in life.

by Dave Boehi

When a professional team captures a big title, it’s common for players to soak each other with champagne in the locker room. In recent weeks the Texas Rangers baseball team has performed this ritual three times–for winning their conference title and then for triumphing in two straight playoff series. But there was one big difference–when they sprayed star hitter Josh Hamilton, they used ginger ale rather than alcohol.

The Rangers, who are currently battling the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, know that their teammate is a recovering drug and alcohol addict, and is going to great lengths to avoid temptation. After earning the Most Valuable Player award for his role in the American League Championship series, Hamilton gratefully acknowledged the way his teammates were helping him stay off drugs and alcohol: “It says so much about the guys and the organization how sensitive they are to my situation, but at the same time wanting me to feel like a part of the team and the celebration.”

But avoiding celebratory champagne baths is just one boundary Hamilton has put in place to help him with his addiction. As S.C. Gwynne of the Dallas Morning News writes, Hamilton is “assisted by a complex, multilayered support system of his own design that is probably without precedent at this level of professional sports.”

It is rooted in his Christian beliefs and his rigorous daily devotions. Its primary components are his wife, his parents, and a host of “accountability partners” that include a Texas Rangers coach, pastors from three churches, his Christian sports agent and his father-in-law. A set of strict rules dictates what he can and can’t do.

The foundation of Hamilton’s recovery is his religion, which dominates his life and his conversation. … Josh and [wife] Katie are very much a team, and have come a long way since the darkest days of his addiction in 2005, when she went to court to get a restraining order against him. The two of them, with help from their pastor Jimmy Carroll in Raleigh, designed the system that is now in place to keep Josh sober. …

“They are all Josh’s good friends,” says Katie. “He seeks advice from them, and godly counsel. “

Says Josh: “It is very important to my recovery and my walk with Christ that I have people like that around me. They always call or text at the right time.”

The Texas Rangers even hired Johnny Narron, an old friend and coach, to act as a personal assistant and minder for Hamilton. Narron travels with Hamilton–they eat and pray together, and Narron keeps Josh’s money. He makes sure Josh doesn’t spend any long period of time by himself.

You might think this all sounds extreme. But Josh has been to the bottom of the pit. He is determined to live out the words of 2 Timothy 2:22, which tells us, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Basically what he and Katie are saying is, “We need help! We can’t do this alone.”

Josh and Katie got a reminder of the power of addiction in January of 2009 when he went to a pizza parlor alone while attending a training camp. He ordered a glass of alcohol for the first time in over three years, and that drink led to another, then another …

When he woke up the next morning, he immediately called Katie, in tears, to confess. He said embarrassing photos of the night might appear on the Internet (they did, seven months later). He confessed his transgression to his team, and he told Major League Baseball.

Josh and Katie realized they had allowed the support system to grow too lax. “Though his relapse only lasted one night,” Gwynne wrote, “it held critical lessons for Hamilton, his family, and his team. The first was, now that he had become a star, any sins he committed would be instant headline news. Second, and far more important, was the notion that Hamilton had not beaten his addiction at all. While he had made enormous strides in his recovery, he was in some ways still the hair-trigger addict he had been since he started using cocaine and whiskey in 2001.”

I’ve got to admire Hamilton for his humility and his openness in acknowledging his inability to beat this addiction on his own. And for his partnership with Katie in creating this remarkable support system.

I often think that each of us is prone to some sort of addiction. It may not be alcohol or drugs, or even vices like cigarettes, gambling, or illicit sex. It may be food, or soft drinks, or television, or video games, or work. Reading about Josh Hamilton leads me to wonder if we all need that same type of help from our spouses, friends, and extended family as we seek to flee whatever temptations we face in life.

Click here for another excellent story about Josh Hamilton, his faith, and his recovery.

This article originally appeared in the November 1, 2010 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.

 

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