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Josh Hamilton’s Career Hangs in Balance After Recent Relapse

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josh hamilton drugsAfter years of substance abuse, Josh Hamilton had overcome his struggles and emerged as one of the most feared hitters in Major League Baseball (MLB). But after a recent relapse, Hamilton’s professional life hangs in the balance as the MLB decides what type of disciplinary action to take.

Josh Hamilton Drugs and Relapse

An untimely bump in the long road to recovery

In the final days of February, a source confirmed that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton had indeed suffered a relapse in his ongoing battle with substance abuse. While the specific substance has yet to be identified, it is a sad sign for someone who had already overcome such stacked odds.

Hamilton struggled with cocaine and alcohol abuse for years. The peak of his addiction nearly cost him his professional baseball career. After he was taken as the first overall pick in the 1999 MLB draft, he failed at least six drug tests. Hamilton served consecutive suspensions that took him out of baseball entirely. From 2004 to 2006, he was practically living on the streets of Florida. He was reinstated in 2006 under the condition that he would be subjected to three drug tests per week.

Hamilton found the strength to push past his substance abuse problems and shortly thereafter went on to become one of baseball’s biggest stars. But even at the height of his success, Hamilton, like many addicts, experienced setbacks. This most recent relapse marks his third since his reinstatement. The other two, one in 2009 and one in 2012, both included bouts with alcohol.

Disciplinary decision coming soon for Hamilton

Although Hamilton has taken full accountability for his relapses, it appears the latest one will again have professional consequences. According to Fox Sports, a disciplinary decision will be made by an independent arbitrator before opening day, and could even come as early as next week.

Hamilton’s case had to go to arbitration because the league’s four-member treatment board – made up of one doctor and one lawyer each from the MLB and the Players’ Association (MLBPA) – could not reach a majority decision on how to approach Hamilton’s situation. MLB officials believe that Hamilton should be suspended for a period of time ranging from 25 games to an entire year, while MLBPA representatives are fighting for a minimal punishment (of perhaps 15 games) and a stronger emphasis on treatment options.

Concern for Hamilton’s well-being should take center stage

While the media is primarily focused on the uncertainty of Hamilton’s baseball career, it’s important remember there is more to this story than an athlete violating a rule; there is a man fighting a daily battle with a disease that refuses to let go.

As Mark Whicker recently pointed out in The Los Angeles Daily News, substance abuse is not something one is ever truly cured from. As he puts it, “Hamilton did amazing things and made astounding money while fighting an incurable disease every day of his professional life. Every day that [he] navigates without taking drugs or alcohol is a win.”

There will be many who take the position that Hamilton is simply someone who does not appreciate what he has. They’ll mark him as someone who is willing to risk his fame and fortune to use drugs and alcohol. But addiction isn’t about moral decisions. Hamilton’s money and fame do not serve as motivation to choose to “do the right thing.” In fact, addiction strips a person of their inability to have a choice at all.

One could argue that if anything, Hamilton’s prosperity has only made his situation more difficult by adding increased temptation and immense pressure to his everyday life.

Get started on the road to recovery

Josh Hamilton’s most recent relapse is a very real reminder that addiction is a disease that will not surrender on its own. Recovery is a daily commitment, and even the most committed among us have falls from grace. Still, Hamilton’s story also serves as inspiration: even from the pits of despair, addicts can rise from the ashes.

If you or a loved one are suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, understand that you do not have to deal with that issue alone. Call The Watershed at 1-800-861-1768 and get started on the road to recovery today.




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