There are several reasons why athletes rely on medications, steroids or other substances in order to keep playing. To be the best, they have to constantly improve themselves. Medication and substance abuse is a common “treatment” for their injuries, but it’s not the healthiest choice. After taking substances to cure their pain or illnesses, it becomes a dependency. It’s a daily routine, and it starts to take over their life. Addiction is an overwhelming chronic disease, but recovery is possible. Let’s give a shoutout to the athletes who are successful in their recovery.
Darryl Strawberry is a former major league baseball player. He was introduced to cocaine in his first week in the major leagues by another teammate. His first impression of coke was instant love and it began to hijack his life. He partied constantly, showed up to practices high or drunk, and missed several workouts. It ruined his baseball career and sent him to prison multiple times. He lost two marriages and was millions of dollars in debt.
He met his current wife, Tracy, in 2003 at the Narcotics Anonymous Convention. Their relationship wasn’t the healthiest, as Strawberry kept relapsing and Tracy was constantly pulling him out of crack houses. She left him and moved to her hometown in Missouri to work on her own recovery, but Strawberry followed. One morning, she woke up and finally reached the courage to leave him for good. It was the turning point for both of them, and Strawberry finally realized how strong she was to leave him after knowing how much he meant to her.
Strawberry moved in with his sister and her 3 kids in California to work on his recovery. He was 42 and a 2-time cancer survivor with no job, income, or money. He had a moment of truth one night while praying at his sister’s house. “God told me: ‘Don’t open the Bible; I’ve been waiting for you’… And I just cried.”
He turned his life around, got sober and returned to Missouri to be with Tracy. They got married and he’s been sober ever since. Now, he is a Christian minister and author and has four children.
Josh Hamilton started his baseball career in 1999 where he was selected the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Devil Rays. After playing for 4 years, he started abusing alcohol and crack cocaine. He was banned from 2003-2005 for his abuse and emerged as a 5-time all-star player for the Rangers. After his incredible comeback, he had multiple trips to the World Series and had an MVP title. He was unstoppable and was an incredible success story to those who battling addiction. The Angels signed him to a $125-milion contract and it seemed the world forgot he was a recovering addict who’s at risk of relapse.
After entering into his contract with The Angels, he slowly became a disappointment to many figures in the league. He was injured several different times, which resulted in extended absences. When he was playing, his stats only ranked “average”. He felt a lot of pressure to be the all-star he was before, and it resulted in a lot of stress which resulted in an unfortunate relapse in 2015.
It was a whirlwind of confusion when his league declared that Hamilton wouldn’t be suspected from playing. He was getting paid big bucks, playing baseball and getting away with substance abuse because it wasn’t against their contract.
Hamilton finished his 5-year contract in 2017 and is now a Free Agent. He’s been going through several different surgeries from severe injuries and we can only hope that he makes a comeback with his health and wellbeing before signing onto more contracts.
Michael Irvin was No. 92 on the list of the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of All-time. He was also caught in possession of cocaine and marijuana. He had an incredible 12-year career with the Cowboys, winning 3 Super Bowls, named to 5 Pro Bowl teams, and earned the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team honors.
In 1996, Irvin was arrested in a motel room after an employee called the police on noise complaints. He was found with hookers and had more than 10 grams of cocaine and 1 ounce of marijuana with his former teammate. Later on, Irvin and his two hookers were indicated on second-degree felony charges of cocaine possession and misdemeanor marijuana charges. He landed with 4 years of probation, $10,000 fine and 800 hours of community service. He was suspended for the first 5 games of the 1996 season, as well.
Irvin got in another incident while still on probation from his motel incident. He was reportedly engaged in a fight with another teammate that left his teammate with a deep cut in his neck. Sources said that deals were made between the two and owner Jerry Jones, and no charges were made. If he was charged, it would have violated his probation and he’d be subject to a potential 20-year prison sentence.
Those two incidents were his last, as he decided to adventure out and try acting. He was in a few films and then signed up for Dancing with the Stars. He’s been living a pretty normal life now, married to Sandy Harrell with four children.
“Coke was the only bright spot in my future”. Lawrence Taylor first struggled with cocaine through his rookie season of football. He was in and out of rehabs and struggling hard to keep his sobriety going. In 2014, he sat down with A Forever Recovery to talk about his recovery. He talked about how recovery should be a ‘want’, not something you’re forced into. There are so many instances where you hear family or friends forcing their loved ones into treatment. Taylor was in that situation as well, and it wasn’t until he learned he needed it for himself, that treatment started working. It’s that mentality that you’re in treatment because you want to change, not because you’re being forced into it. If you want to change, you need to be willing to change.
Taylor was one of NFL’s most feared players. He played a hell of a career, going to 10 Pro Bowls with 2 Super Bowl rings, and named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-time Team. He played his entire football career (13 years) for the New York Giants as a linebacker. Taylor was named first-team All-Pro in each of his first 9 seasons. He was on fire and concluded 13 seasons, 10 Pro-Bowls, 9 All-Pro, 132.5 Sacks, and 9 Interceptions.
Spending years in and out of rehabs for drugs and alcohol, you could say his life wasn’t all perfect. When he first entered treatment, he wanted to do things his way (doesn’t everyone?). But, he realized that he can’t do that and also be in recovery. His first 30 days didn’t change him at all because he insisted on having his own room, a TV, his phone, and other amenities. After those 30 days, his counselor asked if Taylor wanted to try doing it Charlie’s way instead, and Taylor agreed.
Taylor was finally able to understand addiction and recovery. He worked the program, got a roommate, went to meetings and stood strong. He still encounters problems, like anyone would in life, but he faces them with a sober attitude.
Dwight Gooden is a former baseball player for the New York Mets. He was known for his strikeouts and had a long, successful career. Playing baseball wasn’t the only thing on his mind, though. He came from a rough childhood of substance abuse, adultery, and violence. His father was a heavy drinker and coached young baseball. He was such an avid baseball lover that he brought Dwight up playing baseball, starting at the age of 7.
In high school, Gooden excelled on his baseball team and teams started scouting him for deals. He was offered college scholarships but ended up signing a deal worth $40,000 with an $85,000 signing bonus with The Mets.
In 1983, he was promoted to Lynchburg and that’s when he started to become a frequent drinker. That didn’t stop him from killing it in his games, though. He started playing at the big-league level and made his way up in his career. In 1985, when he was 20 years old, he started adventuring out into the nightlife of major-league baseball. He continued his heavy drinking and experimented with cocaine. Gooden became an active user but it didn’t affect his games – until it did.
He made it to the World Series where he was less successful. They still ended up winning the World Series, but Gooden celebrated by doing cocaine all night long, which resulted in him missing the Mets victory parade. Things started spiraling downhill and he continued abusing drugs. He admitted to rehabs, got sober and relapsed. This was the trend for awhile which got him sentenced to state prison. Afterwards, he admitted to rehab, gained some sobriety but ended up relapsing again. He’s appeared on Celebrity Rehab and in 2011, was placed in 5 years special probation from his last arrest.
Gooden has been sober since March 11, 2012. He lives in New York, married to Monique Moore and has five children.
These athletes have lived a long and stressful life. Being part of a professional league is a dream come true, but it brings some hurdles with it. From constant injuries to pain medication and celebrations, it’s definitely not easy. Recovery, in general, isn’t so easy, but these athletes are making the best of it. Relapses are common in recovery, and it’s nothing to be ashamed or looked down upon.