Not that long ago, there were nights I went to sleep in strange places praying I wouldn’t wake up. After another night of bad decisions, I’d lie down with my heart speeding inside my chest like it was about to burst through the skin. My thinking was clouded, and my talent was one day closer to being totally wasted.
I prayed to be spared another day of guilt and depression and addiction. I couldn’t continue living the life of a crack addict, and I couldn’t stop, either. It was a horrible downward spiral that I had to pull out of, or die. I lay there — in a hot and dirty trailer in the North Carolina countryside, in a stranger’s house, in the cab of my pickup — and prayed the Lord would take me away from the nightmare my life had become.
When I think of those terrible times, there’s one memory that stands out. I was walking down the double-yellow of a two-lane country highway outside Raleigh when I woke up out of a trance.
I was so out of it I had lost consciousness, but my body had kept going, down the middle of the road, cars whizzing by on either side. I had run out of gas on my way to a drug dealer’s house, and from there I left the truck and started walking. I had taken Klonopin, a prescription antianxiety drug, along with whatever else I was using at the time, and the combination had put me over the edge. It’s the perfect example of what I was: a dead man walking.
And now, as I stand on the green grass of a major league outfield or walk to the batter’s box with people cheering for me, I repeatedly ask myself one simple question: How did I get here from there?
I’ve been in the big leagues as a member of the Cincinnati Reds for half a season, but I still find myself taking off my cap between pitches and taking a good look around. The uniform, the ballparks, the fans — it doesn’t seem real. How am I here? It makes no sense to anybody, and I feel almost guilty when I have to tell people, over and over, that I can’t answer that one simple question.
I go to sleep every night with a clear mind and a clear conscience. Every day, I walk into an immaculate clubhouse with 10 TVs and all the food I can eat, a far cry from the rat-infested hellholes of my user past. I walk to my locker and change into a perfectly clean and pressed uniform that someone else hung up for me. I grab a bat and a glove and walk onto a beautifully manicured field to play a game for a living.
How am I here? I can only shrug and say, “It’s a God thing.” It’s the only possible explanation.
Definitely read this article, even if you’re not a baseball fan. Josh Hamilton, center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds, details his life as a crack addict, how he overcame it and what it’s like playing major league baseball as a recovering addict. Very inspirational.
Hat Tip: Baseball Think Factory