The headline pretty much says it all, Josh Hamilton has reportedly had a relapse with alcohol in the last week.
While details about the incident are still sparse, at best, this is major news as Hamilton is probably the most famous recovering addict in all of sports. Not only is there the obvious personal element of Hamilton’s ongoing struggles with substance abuse, but also the significant ripple effect this could have on the landscape of baseball. Baseball is clearly a distant second in the equation, but it is affected nonetheless.
Easily the most troubling aspect of what little we do know about Hamilton falling off the wagon is that it is the second time it has happened, both times in a public setting. When Hamilton had his first relapse back in 2009, he spoke at length about, apologizing sincerely and profusely. That night in 2009, he thought he might’ve had enough control to have a drink. He did not have enough control and there are embarrassing pictures that can be easily found on the internet to prove it.
That public shaming Hamilton suffered clearly affected Josh, thus the tearful apology. Yet, a few years later, here we are again. Hamilton drinking in public. One would hope he was not engaged in any lascivious acts like he was in 2009, but whatever he was doing, even if it was quietly sitting on a bar stool while nursing just one beer, got noticed. Noticed enough that teammate Ian Kinsler caught wind of it and came by the bar to intervene. Seeing him make a similar slip up will only fuel the fire as everyone engages in rampant speculation for why he fell off the wagon, because now “he should know better.”
That, of course, is patently ridiculous. Addiction is complicated and irrational. We all “should know better” than to habitually abuse any illegal substance, yet it happens all the time in all walks of life. Hamilton clearly is not immune to that and in no way should he be vilified for this behavior. He obviously has some serious demons that he is battling and probably will continue to do so for the rest of his life. That doesn’t give him a free pass, but it should prompt the general public to offer him understanding and support rather than mock or criticize him from afar, as is too often the case in the age of semi-anonymous social media.
More than anything, I would hope that nobody would presume to know why Hamilton ended up in that bar. This hope probably comes too late though as I have already seen in the few hours since the story was reported numerous outlets casually suggesting that the death of fan Shannon Stone, who died after falling reaching for a ball Hamilton threw into the stands, was a potential cause. Others have mentioned the pressure of his impending free agency after the season or the loss of his “accountability partner” Jerry Narron, who took a job with the Brewers this off-season. It could be any of those reasons, but it also easily could not be. We just don’t know.
We do know though that addiction is a monster and we know that Hamilton has slain that monster before but it just won’t seem to stay dead. Hopefully, Hamilton can slay the monster again, quickly and permanently.