The highly publicized relapse of Major League Baseball’s Josh Hamilton has been the center of much controversy this week. Questions have been raised about how the league should punish him, how long he should be suspended and whether he should continue to play baseball. One question absent from this debate is how relapse affects Hamilton’s recovery from the disease of addiction.
Hamilton began his baseball career as the number one pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 MLB draft, but was suspended from baseball in 2003 due to his addiction.
“Drugs and alcohol, I never used one without the other,” says Hamilton in his I Am Second YouTube video interview. “The drugs were the closest thing for that adrenaline rush for me of throwing somebody out.”
Hamilton worked his way back into the major leagues in 2006 and went on to earn accolades as a five time MLB All-Star and was awarded the American League MVP in 2010. However, Hamilton’s success on the field has often been overshadowed by his off the field struggles with drugs and alcohol.
Hamilton’s most recent relapse may be uncovering how little is known about the role relapse plays in addiction recovery.
“Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic, progressive and potentially fatal disease,” says Will Radford, Director of the Men’s Program at Cumberland Heights an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located in Nashville, Tennessee. “Relapse does not have to be a part of recovery, but for some it is. It is important when relapse occurs that it is recognized and treated properly.”
The Cumberland Heights’ Drug Relapse Prevention Program is designed to do just that, recognize and properly treat relapse in recovery. It investigates specific obstacles to an individual’s recovery, and examines the underlying issues that contribute to the relapse process.
“Relapse actually happens before an individual uses substances,” says Melissa Hudgens, Director of the Women’s Program at Cumberland Heights. “We look for the warning signs and triggers to better prepare for their future. If you just focus on relapse there will be no growth in recovery.”
The program helps participants identify individual relapse warning signs and learn specific skills that will aid in preventing additional relapses. If needed, time is spent understanding substitute behavioral addictions that can contribute to post-treatment relapses. Such substitute addictions may include addiction to: food, sex, work or gambling.
“The best way to maintain sobriety is to surround yourself with people who understand addiction,” says Hudgens. “Work the steps with a sponsor, participate in a 12 Step community, and do service work.”
“Most people who relapse lose the willingness to follow the plan or direction given to them by a treatment center, their sponsor or the 12 Step community,” says Radford. “They think they can guide their recovery themselves. When desperation meets opportunity, we find recovery.”
Cumberland Heights’ Relapse Prevention Program offers a supportive environment and the particular assistance needed to understand and consciously disarm the unresolved issues that block a person’s ability to move forward in recovery. For more information on relapse treatment visit cumberlandheights.org.