New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia admitted this week he's known about his alcohol problem for about three years. Yet, it wasn't until near the end of the regular season in Baltimore that he finally understood he needed help.
The 35-year-old former ace discussed his addiction to alcohol in an interview with Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. He insisted the issues never carried into his starts, stating he was "functioning as an alcoholic," but on the final day of the regular season, he decided it was time for change.
"I woke up on that Sunday and was like, 'I can't do this no more,'" Sabathia said. "I came in on Sunday and felt like I needed to get some help. I know it was bad timing, but I felt like if I didn't tell somebody then, I would have been in real trouble."
Sabathia decided to leave the Yankees as they were getting ready for the playoffs, and enter an alcohol rehabilitation center. His wife urged him to wait until the season played out, but the left-hander told her if he didn't make the move at that time, he probably never would.
The choice came after years of trying to control the problem by himself by setting various boundaries concerning when and what he would drink. He ultimately determined trying to make those types of decisions highlighted the problem, according to Feinsand:
I would go around my starts. If I knew I had a weekend or three or four days, where I would have two days to get back to be ready to pitch, I would do that. The planning out of it, what made me realize I was an alcoholic, I'm planning out when I can drink. If you've got to do that, I feel like you've got a problem.
He first felt the urge to get help after an incident outside a Toronto nightclub in August. He ended up staying the course, however, stating, per Feinsand: "Really at that time is when I felt like I needed it, but it was right in the middle of the season."
Now that he's gone through rehab and is feeling better about himself, he's hopeful about the future with a strong support system in place, including a sponsor. He said he knows the real test will come when it's time for the extended grind of a baseball season, though.
"It's going to be hard, but I have different things that I can do now," Sabathia said. "Pick up a book, play some video games, go out with my teammates, do stuff that I like to do and get back to my old self. I think the biggest thing for me is not isolating myself and feeling like I need something to do."
All told, Sabathia seeking professional help at a time when the Yankees were getting ready to start a potential playoff run proved he was serious about getting better. Based on his comments, everything is now moving in a positive direction.
Sabathia also spoke about trying to become an asset for the Yankees again after some lackluster seasons by his standards. That said, staying healthy must be the top priority.