Josh Hamilton, Addiction, and Human Frailty: Disasterpieces

Daniel McGowinCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2009

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 14:  American League All-Star Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers looks on before the 2009 MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

"I don’t feel like I’m a hypocrite. I feel like I’m human."

Those are Josh Hamilton's words on Saturday, Aug. 8, following the publication on Deadspin of pictures proving MLB's "Superman" had in fact relapsed.

The public acknowledgment of his relapse diminishes the shine from a great comeback story.  Unfortunately, "tainting" of baseball and baseball-related stories is becoming all too common.

While there are some that are outraged at Hamilton, the reaction does not seem to be as severe as the reaction towards Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz.  Both the relapse and the use of steroids tarnish the image of Major League Baseball.  And there are some who would argue that race/ethnicity plays a role in the differences in reaction.

Perhaps race is a factor here.  But I think there is something more than race or the fact that he jumped out in front of it as soon as it became public (he told the people that matter about the incident soon after it happened).  I believe that we see the "flaw" in Josh Hamilton that exists in all of us.

I am reminded of the song "Your Glass House" by the hip-hop group Atmosphere.  In that song, the rapper Slug sings about a person waking up the day after a drinking binge and not knowing whose house they are in or how they got there.  They can barely crawl to the bathroom, and noticing all the missed calls makes the person wonder how many people he or she pissed off.

But, in the end, we realize that it's not some stranger's house.  As Slug sings, "Maybe you don't recognize, but this is your home, this is where your life lives."

That entire song, and that last line in particular, is very powerful and a sobering reminder of what a life "out of control" is like.  That song is a narrative of what Hamilton's life was once like, and what the day after his relapse probably felt like. 

And, unfortunately, some of us can probably relate to the message of that song (at least in one instance) and thereby relate to Hamilton's battle.

How many of us have woke up the day after with a terrible hangover and wondered, "Wow, what happened?"  You recall those first couple of drinks, but beyond that everything is either a blur or simply does not exist in your mind.  Lying on the bathroom floor staring up at the ceiling, which seems to be spinning, you realize how easy it is to lose control.

It is through that lens that we see someone like Josh Hamilton.  That escapade in January likely began "in control" but ended up an empty spot in his mental history.  Well, with the exception of those photos.

Alcohol is something that most of us enjoy responsibly (well, at least I hope so).  But Hamilton is a reminder of how easy it is to allow the alcohol to consume us, rather than the other way around.

But Hamilton's story is more than just one night in January.  It recalls his entire story of a downward spiral into a world and lifestyle that for a time robbed him of his talent and nearly his own life.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote a column on how Hamilton's relapse offers us "pause."  In that article he wrote, "Addiction is a twisted creature, and no matter how long one stays sober, it is never enough."  He later adds that for Hamilton "there is no such thing as recovery."

Passan is correct, but it's not just Hamilton.  In the article I wrote on Brett Favre's addiction to football, I learned a lot about addiction in general, and alcoholism in particular.  And many of the items and points that I came across in researching that topic hold true with Hamilton and his battle.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) has noted that there is no known cure for alcoholism.  I believe that it is safe to state that this can also be applied to drug addiction.  The only thing that can be done is treatment.

In other words, there is no such thing as recovery for anyone consumed by this "disease."  A news release for a report on how addiction affects the brain notes that those addicts in so-called recovery "may remain hypersensitive to the drug and the cues that predict its presence. This can heighten the risk of relapse in addicts long after they stop taking the drug."

Thus, for anyone battling alcoholism and addiction, one is never simply "one" as a hypersensitive reaction to that one drink is likely exponentially more potent than it seemed.  It is no wonder that one became a Niagara Falls of alcohol.

And perhaps the most chilling aspect of Hamilton's relapse is that he very well might have asked where he could score some cocaine; he cannot remember!  Just the potential of him asking that question speaks to the frailty of our existence as humans.  It is a clear example of just how easily we can lose control.

We all like to think that we are in control.  That we can only have a couple of drinks or drive home safely after a few drinks.  But those couple of drinks can easily turn into mind-eraser night and buzzed driving can easily turn into a DUI arrest or worse.  We can easily lose control, and that is what Hamilton's relapse should remind us.

We can never fully relate to what Hamilton goes through on a daily basis.  Nor can we relate to his life story.  I mean, how many of us have been highly-touted No. 1 picks who also allowed drugs and alcohol to ruin our lives?

But in Hamilton, we see something that exists in all of us—the "ability" to make a wrong choice.  And it is from that ability that we can end up in situations that are extremely regrettable and even potentially dangerous.  But that ability to make choices, rational or otherwise, is part of our frailty as human beings.

Addiction is indeed a twisted creature.  And any attempt to build a life beyond an addiction of any kind will be a life filled with temptations.  Treatment can only do so much, as those temptations will fire off triggers in the brain that scream, "Do it again...just for old time sake."

Most of us are pulling for Hamilton not just because of his story and our relation to him as humans.  But also because we have seen what addictions can do to people.  From Darryl Strawberry to Elvis Presley to maybe even a close loved one, addictions can ruin lives.

We have seen how the mistakes people make can lead to disaster.  We try to learn from it, but we know how easy it is for us as humans to make the wrong choice or attempt to step into a situation where we think we are and will remain in control.  But, as Josh Hamilton's slip should remind us, we are not always in control, especially when that "twisted creature" of addiction is present.

Yes, Josh, you are indeed human.  And so are the rest of us.  We should remember that, always!