The hazards facing a chronic relapser

Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton speaks during a baseball news conference at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.
AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texas Rangers star outfielder Josh Hamilton has waged a public battle with addiction. On Friday, he admitted to drinking once again.

"For everybody who I have hurt - fans, kids, people who have addictions look to me, look up to me - I apologize to you," he said.

Hamilton told reporters he had a weak moment Monday night, connected to personal issues with a family member. He went out for dinner and wound up drinking in a Dallas bar.

Josh Hamilton: Alcohol relapse a "weak moment"

The four-time All-Star and the American League's 2010 Most Valuable Player has been fighting addiction for years, reports Anna Warner. Tampa Bay made him the top pick in 1999, but drug and alcohol abuse sidelined his career for years.

Hamilton has spoken openly about his substance abuse problem, and credited his religion with saving his life and his career. But this incident is the second in recent years. In 2009 Hamilton was photographed shirtless in a bar with several women in Tempe, Arizona.

This week, he says, it was the same: "Like I said before, I feel terrible about this. I feel like I let a lot of people down. Nobody feels worse than I do."

The incident comes at a bad time for Hamilton. He was in the middle of negotiating a contract extension with the Rangers. The team says, for now, those talks have been put on hold.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning: Saturday," author and TV host Jane Velez-Mitchell - who has written about her own addiction - talked about the problems facing Hamilton and his relapse.

Velez-Mitchell, who says she has been sober 17 years in April, remarked, "I have tremendous compassion for him. We have to give him credit for immediately acknowledging that he had a relapse. Some people go out and they binge and they stay out for years, so that we have to give him credit for and we have to have compassion for him.

"But he is a chronic relapser. He has relapsed several times and what we have to realize is that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful, and it is doing pushups the entire time that you are sober, waiting for a moment of weakness."

Velez-Mitchell said there are important steps to take to prevent a relapse, such as avoiding the people, places and things you associate with drinking.

In Hamilton case, she notes, both reported relapses occurred when he was in a bar: "Right there: Do not go into a bar."

She discounted the notion of Hamilton needing someone with him at all times to monitor his behavior. "I think it was a huge mistake for him to have an accountability partner - that is kind of like a glorified babysitter that's watching you, and that's really not the way to deal with addiction.

"The miracle of 12 steps is one alcoholic talking to another, and there is absolutely no replacement for that," she said, "because nobody [else] can understand, if they are not an alcoholic or a drug addict, what that craving is like; how it takes over your body and turns you into a zombie. And when you have that craving, the intellect is no defense."

She also said fame is not an excuse.

"Alcoholism will wait for a moment of weakness. Sometimes there is an emotional trigger, and he was in this contract renegotiation, he wanted to sign a contract. He also apparently had a fight. These are all emotional triggers, and you have to prepare yourself against that, because these emotional triggers will come in your life," she said.

According to Velez-Mitchell, a chronic relapser begins losing confidence in himself. "You start thinking, 'Maybe I can't make it.' But anybody can make it. The key is not to use will power. Will power is a self-defeating mechanism. Will power creates stress, stress creates craving. What you have to do is surrender to the fact that you're powerless. The only power an alcoholic ro a drug addict has is to admit that you are powerless. Our thinking doesn't help. We have to surrender and go to a higher power."

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