I Have Empathy for Josh Hamilton
There are legions of fans around Major League Baseball worried, anxious and fearful of the recent events that have cast a dark shadow around Texas Ranger slugger Josh Hamilton. Some will cast the disconnected and justification analogy that it was “only a few beers”, while others who have fought addictions in the past know it is a steep decline once you let an old evil habit invade your recovery efforts, even for a slight moment.
The incident actually happened earlier in the week in a Dallas area watering hole, well within the eyesight of the community that has taken Hamilton in as one of their own and showered him with respect, admiration and support for his past addiction downfalls. I wan to, but I can’t blame the barkeep who set down that first temptation in front of Hamilton, it was Josh’s job to push it away with authority at that moment. Instead he heeded that temptation.
There is a reason most addicts believe there will be trials, tribulations and stumbling points along their journey to sobriety and abstinence. Addictive personalities are said to be hereditary, but I also know they are socially birthed. Commercials have glamorized certain adult beverages as social tools, useful instruments to become accepted, wanted and even desired. Its intoxicating effect can be alluring not only by taste but by the legions of people around you also downing this same elixir and providing the same cause and effect dance of “Adult beverage+People=Fun times”.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Most of us know this verse as the “Serenity Prayer”, adopted by 12-step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction clinics. In fact this was an unnamed prayer originally penned by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr during a sermon in 1943. Some might say they are simple words with elegant phrasing and the promise of strength, resolute and courage.
Addiction can be a mean and vengeful mistress. She doesn’t take responsibility for her actions, she tries to destroy even the most basic family unit and devoid s life’s simplest aspirations, and she tries to run your life by blinding our minds and bodies into another addictive realm always oblivious to the chaos and destruction she has produced. She is a malignant disease that has to be constantly tamed, trapped and secured, or she can en gulp you again with spite and vengeance
People might downplay the importance of the public and Hamilton’s inner circle forgiving him and accepting his tumble, but it is imperative he hears those well wishes, being embraces with encouraging comments by fans, friends and family to show firm affirmation that his efforts and struggle with his demons are respected. Acceptance can sometimes be the thin threads towards abstinence when fighting addictions
In the next few days Hamilton will probably board a plane for NYC, meet with the MLB’s staff and medical experts to again pull his life within the lines. Who knows the path from there. Whether the final outcome be more treatments, rehab or even time away from the game to gain fortitude and conviction again, Hamilton has the embrace of the baseball community during his fight.
Addicts accept within themselves that they could be tempted and fail. It is a reality they try and shutter out, but it is a situation that can pounce at every corner and segment of their lives. Internal strength, conviction and the knowledge of others behind your efforts means the world to someone struggling with addictions. I see addiction as a secondary passenger within us. It is inactive within us, then come out in moments of weakness hoping to capitalize when our walls are down and our emotions steeped to the rim of the glass.
I have admired Hamilton since the first time I met him. I was in the Rays Clubhouse in St. Petersburg, Florida delivering Pepsi products when Hamilton took the field again after MLB and the Rays gave him a chance to be a recovering role model and a ball player again. I truly believe the measure of a man is not how fast he gets up off the canvas when life sucker punches him, but how he takes that event and transforms it into a learning experience, and an enlightening moment for others to also use for inspiration.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I spent 6 months in a local drug program Straight Incorporated in my mid-teens. Addiction caught me spinning out of emotional control , bewildered and confused after a sequence of events from my father’s death and the euthanasia of my friend/dog Hansel plus the pressures of being a budding athlete. People wonder why I rarely drink a beer at games, now you know. I do tempt myself, but I think I have it under control…until I don’t.
I hope Josh knows there are people like me out here wanting the best for him. Hoping for the tendencies and addictive triggers to be invisible or vanquished. I hope Josh knows with clarity people like me will extend their hands to help in any way…Empathy has a way of helping you do that for others, especially your baseball friends.