Most baseball fans know the story of Josh Hamilton’s journey to play major league baseball. After being the first overall pick at age 18 in 1999 with the Devil Rays, his subsequent addiction issues led him to be banned from MLB for longer than any other player in the game. Finally, in 2006, after getting himself clean, he accomplished his dream of making it to play in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds. From there, he’s been an All-Star, an MVP, and played in two World Series.
Recently, I stumbled across his autobiography, Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back, on Amazon while searching for cheap books for my Kindle. Why not, I figured, I’ve always liked Hamilton. At that point I wouldn’t have called myself a fan of his, more like a supporter. I was glad he made it to the majors, I liked watching him smack home runs one after another at the Home Run Derby, but it didn’t go any farther than that.
Then, I read the book. At first it was exactly what I expected: his life growing up and his dedication to baseball. That’s not why I was reading it, however, and soon enough I came to what interested me. As Hamilton began discussing his experimentation and addiction to alcohol, cocaine, and crack. It was very interesting to hear an addict speak so honestly and openly about his struggles.
When I was finished, I realized I had become a full-fledged fan of Josh Hamilton. After reading his autobiography, I also knew I would root for him to succeed for the rest of his days in baseball. There was one very distinct reason for this revelation.
The reason is deeply personal. I married at the age of 27. Three days after my thirtieth birthday I was divorced. Like Hamilton, my ex-wife struggled with alcohol and drug dependency. She was a completely different person when she was drunk or high. She was both angry and antagonistic. I lost track of how many times she would drink herself seemingly into a stupor only to explode with paranoid accusations moments later.
Over the course of reading Hamilton’s book, filled with soul-baring confessions about his drug abuse, I came to realize that I wasn’t responsible for my ex-wife’s issues. Nor were her problems an indictment of who I was as a person. Her actions, decisions, and choices were just that: hers. They didn’t reflect on me at all. Even though it was difficult for me to do so, I finally realized I didn’t need to feel responsible for her decisions.
It wasn’t until reading Hamilton’s autobiography that I realized this. It was an eye-opening moment in every sense of the word. During many passages Hamilton explained that his choices were of his own making, nobody else. Hearing a recovering addict admit to those mistakes helped me immeasurably.
Now, when I see Josh Hamilton take the field, I’ll cheer a little louder, knowing what he battled back from. I’ll cheer a little longer, as I remember how he helped me see what I needed to.
A. Orien Avery is a freelance writer as well as a Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. His work has appeared on sites such as Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo UK News.
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