Today it was tough to listen to Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton tell the Dallas/Fort Worth media and Rangers fans everywhere about his recent alcohol relapse. His voice mixed with emotion, self-anger, sadness and resolution, Josh told of a night when he found himself emotionally off-guard at a restaurant and ordered one drink, then two. Three drinks, then four. He stopped drinking when he called a teammate, who joined him for a candid conversation about family and life at a bar across the street. But Hamilton hid the fact that he had been drinking. When it came time to be dropped off at a “safe” location, the slugger told his teammate that he wasn’t going back to the bar and bid him goodnight. But Hamilton was lying and he went back for more alcohol. It was heartbreaking to hear the once-proud ballplayer confess his latest relapse.
His story is an extremely common one for an addict. Just one moment of weakness reveals the still-present desire for something that is not healthy or responsible. And if that weakness is not dealt with immediately, it leads to relapse and regret. I wish, to some small extent, that I knew how the mind of such an addict works so I could know how to help such a person. But by God’s grace I have been spared of the major addictions that torture a soul. I mean, when sunflower seeds and Mexican food are your addictions, all is pretty good. I can’t even imagine what Josh is going through.
Sadly, several things I have learned about addiction ring true once again in Hamilton’s story. First, addiction doesn’t necessarily go away with sobriety. A person can be booze-free for 10 years and still be an addict. For when they let their guard down like Hamilton, the appeal of the drink can be overwhelming and relapse is but a taste away. Second, if you let yourself even be around addiction’s temptation, it will tempt. Jesus said (with hyperbole) that if your right eye causes you to sin, it is better to pluck it out (gross!) and live happily than leave it in and ruin your life. Or so I read that passage in Matthew 6. The principle is plain: if something causes you to stumble, get rid of it! Even more, try your best to avoid even being in the vicinity of it. For someone like Josh Hamilton, maybe that involves avoiding all restaurants that even serve alcohol, especially those that have a bar. If you can’t avoid them (say the baseball team is staying at a hotel with a restaurant/bar), have a trusted friend by your side who you respect enough to do what they say. They will have your best interest in mind. Josh had such a person with him until recently. Now he needs someone new. And I’m sure he will get that help.
It’s tough week for the Hamiltons. Please pray for them, especially Josh who has to deal with the shame and regret of his actions. But I’m ever thankful that our God is a god of second chances, and third chances, and fourth… There is no end to His grace.