Athletes With Drug Addiction

Some Athletes With Drug Addiction Recovery Success

Josh Hamilton

Free agent Josh Hamilton is known for his illustrious Major League Baseball career with the Cincinatti Reds and Texas Rangers. A first overall draft pick in 1999, Hamilton spent years mired in the minors before failing his first drug test in 2003. Habitually late to spring training, Hamilton quickly developed a problem with both alcohol and crack cocaine that he picked up in a tattoo parlor. He quickly squandered his $4 million signing bonus on drugs and alcohol. After several attempts at rehab, he finally decided to stick with sobriety when confronted about his addiction by his grandmother.

Hamilton’s recovery story is a lesson in humility — and an inspiration. Roy Silver, a minor league player-manager, offered Hamilton the use of his facilities for practice, provided that Hamilton was willing to work there. He spent the next couple years getting his game back while taking care of the grounds and sleeping on an air mattress at night. By 2007, he finally entered the majors as a player for the Cincinnatti Reds. In 2010, he received his first MVP award. He now provides urine samples at least three times a week to ensure compliance with MLB’s wellness policy. He hasn’t failed a single one.

Hamilton has fallen off the wagon with alcohol twice but hasn’t used cocaine since October 2005. He has publicly apologized for his slip-ups each time, standing as a model for athletes with drug addiction recovery in major-league sports. While the path to sobriety is not perfectly smooth, Hamilton reminds us how important it is to stay on it.

Chris Herren

Chris Herren is a testament to the destructive nature of drug addiction and athletes with drug addiction. Part of a long line of Herren men playing basketball, he started his career at Fall River, MA’s Durfee High School, scoring over 2,000 points. While playing at Boston College, Herren was hyped as an NBA superstar of the future.

Herren began failing drug tests for marijuana and cocaine before he even took the court. He broke his wrist during his first game, sidelining him for the season. Shortly after the injury, he failed more drug tests, and the university threw him out.Then he transferred to Fresno State College, sat a year out per NCAA transfer rules, and got back into the thick of the game. Failed another drug test and went to a 28-day rehab facility to help him dry out. He eventually graduated and moved on to the NBA.

A second-round draft pick and 33rd overall, Herren’s NBA career was brief, ended by a knee injury in 2001. He averaged 2.4 assists and 3.2 points per game throughout his NBA career. After leaving the NBA, he traveled to play basketball internationally, appearing in such countries as Iran, China, Turkey, Poland, and Italy, but his drug habit followed him wherever he went. It was a tragic pattern for the troubled athlete.

Herren hit what most people would call “rock bottom” several times: He has seven drug-related felonies on his record, including possession of heroin, driving under the influence and driving without a license, and he was dead for 30 seconds when paramedics found him after he crashed into a telephone pole while overdosing on cocaine. After these dramatic events, Herren finally kicked his habit with intensive rehab therapy.

Herren has been drug and alcohol-free since August 2008. He currently works on player development and mentoring with his company Hoop Dreams. He has also written a memoir called Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.

Anthony Ervin

Anthony Ervin has triumphed at the very pinnacle of international competition. He won two Olympic medals in 2000, including a gold in the men’s 50-meter freestyle, making him the first African-American to win gold in swimming at the Olympics.

During college, Ervin began experimenting with marijuana and psychedelic drugs, lowering the dosage of his prescribed medication for Tourette’s syndrome in the process. Soon he was getting drunk on a daily basis. Ervin also suffered from sex addiction. While his first love was swimming, he later found powerful mistresses in the form of liquor, drugs, and sex.

Soon after the Olympics, Ervin stepped up his drinking and drugging, which, along with new sexual partners, replaced his training and studying. His life quickly unraveled. One morning he awoke in a jail cell, with no memory of how he got there. The trough in Ervin’s life culminated in a failed suicide attempt with painkillers.

Ervin finally decided to enter rehab, which included a return to swimming. He started training kids at his friends’ swimming academy, which helped him finally kick his addictions, despite a storm of depression that Ervin worked through by swimming consistently. It was that bout of depression that led him to train hard once again, preparing himself for the Olympics. He qualified in 2012, finishing fifth overall in the 50-meter freestyle finals — a remarkable feat for an athlete in his 30s.

These athletes with drug addiction overcame their battles and remind us that recovering from a serious addiction is possible — even under painful and dramatic circumstances — and that a commitment to one’s skills, interests and profession is an important component of successful recovery.

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