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Professional Sports Sober Athlete Highlight – Baseball Star Celebrity CC Sabathia

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In Nov. 2016, New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia opened up about his struggles with alcoholism in an interview with the New York Daily News. During the interview he admitted that he had known he needed professional help for around three years. However, it wasn’t until the end of his regular season in Baltimore, Maryland that he finally reached out and asked for help to stop drinking. In the interview he referred to himself as a functioning alcoholic, noting that his excessive drinking never affected his ability to play baseball. But the emotional turmoil he felt on a day-to-day basis eventually led him to seek alcohol rehab. In 2015 – on the final day of the Yankees’ first postseason appearance in three years – CC Sabathia announced that he was going to check into inpatient treatment and work on his ongoing problems with alcohol abuse. “I woke up on that Sunday and was like, ‘I can’t do this no more,’” said Sabathia during the interview. “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.”

The Monday that he checked himself into rehab the Yankees made a public statement that read, “”Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease. I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series. It hurts me deeply to do this now but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease and I want to be a better man, father and player. I want to thank the New York Yankees organization for their encouragement and understanding. Their support gives me great strength and has allowed me to move forward with this decision with a clear mind.”

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Alcoholism in Professional Sports

CC Sabathia is far from the only professional athlete to check himself into rehab for alcoholism or drug abuse. Those who have extremely high-stress jobs and feel as if they’re always under public scrutiny have a greater chance of hiding any substance abuse problems they may develop during their professional careers. It’s well known that Babe Ruth struggled with alcohol abuse. It is currently estimated that around 15 million American adults struggle with some form of alcohol abuse or dependency disorder. It’s important to remember that professional athletes are normal people just like the rest of us and that the disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate – no matter what your career or social standing.

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According to a survey conducted and published by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2018, nearly 90 percent of people 18 and older had engaged in alcohol consumption at some point in their lives. Alcohol is deeply ingrained in our society and going out for a beer or two is just as socially acceptable as eating a sandwich for lunch or going to bed at night – for many, drinking alcohol is just a part of life. Of course, drinking alcohol doesn’t pose a serious threat to most people. On the other hand, those that are prone to alcoholism can rarely ever drink safely. The same study reported that in 2018, 26.45 American adults admitted to binge drinking within the past month (binge drinking essentially means that alcohol is consumed more quickly than the body can metabolize it). A total of 14.4 million adults struggled with a serious alcohol use disorder during the same year. Alcoholism is not uncommon, thus it makes sense that professional athletes would also suffer from alcoholism at high rates.

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Just like alcoholism isn’t uncommon, neither is seeking recovery – anyone can choose to get sober at any point in time. In an interview with The Washington Post, Sabathia said that the day he checked himself into rehab he told his wife, “I know that if I wait, I’m not going to go. You don’t understand.” His wife encouraged him not to miss the playoffs but he knew that he needed help immediately – if he waited he may have changed his mind. It can be extremely difficult to admit that you need help no matter who you are and what you do. However, those that feel as if they have a personal responsibility to excel in something, take care of someone, or fulfill their personal goals might have a more difficult time reaching out for help. “As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide,” Sabathia said in the original statement issued by the Yankees in 2015. “Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do. I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness.” No matter who you are or where you come from, recovery is always an option. If you or someone you love has been struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, Guardian Recovery is available to help. Not only do we provide comprehensive and effective care, we also know how important privacy and confidentiality are. We have worked with celebrities and we understand that while privacy is crucial the actual treatment process consists of the same fundamental modalities. For more information give us a call – we’re equipped to answer any and all questions, and we’re more than ready to help you get started on your own personal journey of recovery.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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