Alcoholism isn’t necessarily something that can be cured. For New York Yankees SP CC Sabathia this could mean battling addiction for the rest of his life.
The New York Yankees were moving, or better yet, stumbling along, preparing to play the Houston Astros in the American League Wildcard game.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Sabathia revealed (the day before the game) that he was checking himself into alcohol rehab. This was unheard of. We’ve heard of numerous stories involving sports stars being selfish, but seldom do we hear about stars, particularly ones that have substance abuse problems recognizing that they needed help and doing whatever it took to get better.
In this case Sabathia chose his present (and long-term) health and the relationships he has with his family over a game that has given him everything. For that, and that alone, he should be commended.
Contrary to what outsiders might think, it takes a considerable amount of courage to do what he did that day in October. Most people that have a problem with alcohol don’t realize that the problem exists. And when confronted by loved ones they are quick to lash out, claiming that perhaps the other person is the problem.
What shouldn’t go unsaid is the fact that alcoholism can lead to mental (and physical) illnesses, and can also lead to compulsive behavior. When Sabathia had that altercation up in Toronto, it can be argued that alcohol had something to do with it.
The Yankees, however, weren’t deterred by that development.
As expected of a team with a history so rich it would make Scrooge McDuck blush, the Yankees were quick to back-up a player that had given so much to the team. After all, Sabathia was arguably the heart and soul of the 2009 team that won their 27th world title.
Those sentiments were echoed by Alex Rodriguez who stated before the wildcard game that the team was firmly behind Sabathia.
“We play for CC now,” said Rodriguez to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. “CC has gone to the mat for us many, many times… So now we go to the mat for him.”
For Rodriguez and the Yankees though, this went far beyond what takes place on the baseball field. This was about something that was above the game. This was about the livelihood of a brother.
“CC is a friend and a great teammate; like a brother to me,” said Rodriguez. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a championship ring from ’09. What he did was very courageous. It takes a very tough guy to do what he did.”
So now here we are. It’s mid-December, and almost (exactly) two months until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, and Sabathia is gearing up for a comeback that is bigger than any words used to describe it.
It isn’t about a return to the dominant CC Sabathia of years past. It isn’t about being the heart and soul of the team. Heck, it isn’t even about performing well, at all. This is about a man taking control of his life, turning it around, and showing people, particularly those that have problems with alcohol, that there is hope.
Sabathia, however, understands that his journey, no matter how important, pales in comparison to what is further ahead.
“It’s in the early stages. I will always be in recovery,’’ said Sabathia to George A. King III of the New York Post. “I have the support of my family and my team. I feel pretty good where I’m at. I have a sponsor, he is a great guy and helps out a lot. From [Brian] Cashman, the Steinbrenners, Joe [Girardi] and my teammates, they have been 100 percent behind me.”
Sabathia understands that one does not simply beat alcoholism. You have to be prepared to fight it for the rest of your life.
Take what has happened to Josh Hamilton as an example of what happens when you relapse. It’s not fun. It can lead to behavior and actions that are detrimental to the health of both the person with the problem and those closest to the individual.
Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, is now primed for the biggest comeback he’ll probably ever make. He isn’t coming back from Tommy John Surgery. While he had a down year, he isn’t coming back from that, either.
He is coming back from something much more precious to the human soul. He’s coming back from something that has defeated countless individuals. He is coming back from a disease so debilitating, it has claimed lives all over the world. He is coming back from his fight with alcohol.
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