Hamilton's latest sober day is one closer to forever

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports
Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton discussed his lapse in sobriety at a Friday press conference in Arlington, Texas

Hamilton's latest sober day is one closer to forever

Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton discussed his lapse in sobriety at a Friday press conference in Arlington, Texas

Day 4 of forever was a bear. Because Josh Hamilton looks so natural sitting in front of cameras and speaking uninterrupted for 12 minutes about his addictions, it was easy to forget: On Monday, this man who projects such strength and courage couldn't withstand the full force of a disease with a ceaseless virulence. That is the power of addiction, ever nuclear in its ability to destroy.

Forever would need to start over again, and so it did with the vulnerability, the self-loathing, the apologies to his family and friends and colleagues – and then with the public admission that once again he had fallen off the wagon, seduced by a few drinks. He didn't say whether it was his first sip of alcohol since the infamous 2009 incident. That wasn't material. A lapse constitutes a reboot in his sobriety, where Hamilton once again must see every decision through that binary prism.

Drink or don't. Use or don't.

For Hamilton – for every addict – sobriety boils down to that. It is a battle between him and his disease, one studded with detours, landmines, temptations, problems, wickedness – life, really, only with an ever-present magnetism toward that which is worst for him. It's an unfair reality. It is his nonetheless.

So while Hamilton told a good story and offered a heartfelt apology, he understood how little those words will matter if his actions do not support them. Addicts can be wonderful purveyors of a warped truth. Hamilton himself copped to being "very deceptive, very sneaky in a lot of ways" when he drinks. Sobriety demands unrelenting honesty with himself and others – where he is, what he's feeling and how his disease is distorting those things and so many others.

"Just call somebody. Just talk to somebody," Hamilton said. "It's OK to be vulnerable. It's OK to show weakness. Everybody has 'em."

Vulnerability does not make Hamilton vulnerable. Weakness does not make him weak. All addicts cope with their addictions in the way that best suits them, and if Hamilton needs that – "Everybody can't be fine all the time," he said – good on him for knowing it.

Now it's just a matter of him capturing these feelings, bottling them up and using them as a reference point as best he can. Addicts' sense of power, so emboldened by using, disappears with a slip-up. They feel out of control. Susceptible. Helpless. One of addiction's great curses is that a fix offers that power, and as time goes on the despair that prevents a relapse can wane.

All of the talk of Hamilton needing a new accountability partner after Johnny Narron left the organization and his father-in-law turned down the job looks past the fact that perhaps it's time for the Texas Rangers and Major League Baseball to let Hamilton figure out how to stay sober on his own.

"I feel like I was fine to not have anybody," Hamilton told 103.3 KESN-FM in Dallas less than three weeks before the latest incident. For anyone who wants to interpret that as an addict attempting to free himself of others' chains, remember: Hamilton has stayed sober for years at a time, and not because of others. If his sobriety's path deviates from where others want it to go, so be it. The disease is his, and he knows it better than anyone.

There will come a time when baseball no longer occupies eight months of every year, and those are the times for which Hamilton must steel himself. The fact he consumed three or four drinks by himself? It pained him. The fact he called teammate Ian Kinsler to join him afterward? A good sign. The fact he told Kinsler he wouldn't go back out, proceeded to do just that and drank more? That, too, hurts.

"It was just wrong," Hamilton said. "That's all it comes down to. I needed to be in a different place. I needed to be responsible at that moment, that day period. I was not responsible. Those actions of mine have hurt a lot of people who are very close to me. …

"Understand I'm going to do everything I can and take all the steps necessary, whatever the steps may be. Go to counseling, talk to somebody – everything is open at this point. I don't want everybody out there watching or going to read about this think he's fine with it, he's not hurt by it. Well, I am hurt by it. Tremendously."

[ Big League Stew: Relapse puts contract talks "on the backburner" ]

Soon enough, Hamilton will fly to New York to meet with doctors from MLB and the players' association and discuss with them his sobriety plan. Addiction frightens baseball not only because the sport's history is rich with abuse but because Hamilton is one of the game's highest-profile players. When he tells them what he told the world Friday – "I mean what I say" – they will believe him.

What he said, of course, means very little unless his sobriety takes. Everybody in baseball is rooting for Hamilton to conquer this monster, and everybody wants to believe he will, and never is that belief more acute than right after a lapse, when emotions are strongest and resolve is an 11 on the Mohs scale.

"I'm getting to the point," Hamilton said, "where I understand – and like I told you, I do understand – I can't take a break."

Whatever it takes for Hamilton to stay at that point, may this latest try at sobriety come replete with it. It may be God. It may be his wife. It may be his four daughters. It may be something Hamilton hasn't yet found. He's starting over, playing out a cycle he knows well, and as far as sober days go, Day 4 was rough.

Day 5 will be better. The next day always is. It's one closer to forever.

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