Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton may have pulled out from the depths of alcoholism and drug abuse through his relationship with Christ, but he’s not completely out of the woods, as evidenced by a one-night relapse made public recently after the posting of several incriminating photos.
“Things happen. To be honest with you, I should have seen signs leading up to making a bad decision like this,” Hamilton told reporters, referring to the incident in January that was captured on film.
“I hate that this happened,” he added. “But, it is what it is. You deal with it. And I realize that, obviously, I'm not perfect and that it's an on-going struggle, battle that is very real. A lot of people don't understand how real it is.”
Though Hamilton today is one of the Rangers’ top players, the one-time No. 1 draft pick had for four years had been going “down a path toward destruction,” starting in 2001, when he took his first drink and snorted cocaine for the first time.
Hamilton’s drug addiction eventually led to eight trips to rehab, 26 tattoos, a heartbroken family, and three years away from baseball.
It wasn’t until 2005 – when a paltry 180-pound Hamilton covered with tattoos of demons without eyes showed up on his grandmother's doorstep – that Hamilton was challenged to surrender to God, began reading the Bible, and gave up drugs and alcohol.
Since then, Hamilton’s life and baseball career have been taking off. Last year Hamilton made headlines when he belted a record-breaking 28 home runs in the first round of the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby.
“It kind of humbles me to continue to every day have people come up to me and say what an influence I've been as far as staying clean and sober,” he said Saturday. “That continues to be a big deal with me. Any time I can hear that, it helps reinforce that I'm doing a good deed as far as continuing to be honest about what's going on.”
And that’s one of the things that make January’s incident so disheartening.
“Obviously, it's one of those things that reinforce that I can't have alcohol,” he told reporters.
According to Hamilton, the relapse occurred when he “wasn’t mentally fit” nor “spiritually fit" to go into the restaurant-bar he chose to eat at that night.
After deciding that he could have one drink, Hamilton went on to have another. “And then two snowballs into 10 or 12,” Hamilton said.
What happened after that, Hamilton can’t recall completely (remembering "vaguely in and out, bits and pieces"), but the roughly dozen photos posted in Deadspin.com revealed the major leaguer in a number of compromising poses with at least three different women – none of which were his wife.
“Obviously, I did something very wrong,” Hamilton confessed Saturday. “That hurts me very deeply, too, but the biggest one is Katie. The question gets asked, 'What if I saw something like that with her?' Obviously, it stirs up a lot of thoughts. It's tough.”
As she had done during the time of his addiction, Hamilton’s wife forgave him for what he had done after he told her what had happened.
“Katie and I have a strong relationship,” Hamilton said. “She told me she forgives me, and she meant it.”
Hamilton told reporters that as soon as the incident took place, he called his wife, his support team, the Rangers, and even the Major League Baseball organization.
“I was absolutely open and honest about it,” the 23-year-old North Carolina native stated.
Though Hamilton said repeatedly that he’s embarrassed about his conduct, he said he doesn’t feel like he’s a hypocrite.
“I feel like I'm human, and, honestly, it is what it is,” he said, noting later that a high percentage of people who have gone through an addiction will encounter a relapse.
According to Relapse Prevention, studies have shown that 54 percent of all alcohol and other drug abuse patients can be expected to relapse, and that 61 percent of that number will have multiple periods of relapse.
“I got away from the one thing that keeps me straightened out and moving in the right direction, and that was that relationship with the Lord,” said Hamilton Saturday.
But Hamilton hopes that the incident will be “something that works for good and help people realize that if you are trying to recover, if you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. You can get back on track right where you were.”
“It's just a point of realizing that it is a mistake and not getting down or depressed or dwelling on it. It is very real, and, I'm praying that this experience can help a lot of folks,” he added.
According to Hamilton, all year round, he never goes three days without being tested – usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And though the MLB hasn’t banned Hamilton from consuming alcohol, the organization has recommended that he avoid consumption.
“[A]nd obviously for a good reason,” Hamilton added Saturday.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, meanwhile, said Hamilton will not be taking a leave of absence over January's relapse nor for future incidents as doing so "would be counterproductive."
"We knew that going in when we acquired Josh. We know the risks of dealing with someone with substance abuse problems," he said. "Ultimately, he's a grown man and he has to make his own decisions. Nobody's here to baby-sit him, but we should help him make the right decisions and help him get through this."
The Rangers are currently 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West with less than two months remaining in the season.
The Cincinnati Reds had traded Hamilton to the Rangers on Dec. 21, 2007, for two other players.