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CC Sabathia opens up on addiction and recovery

▶ Watch Video: Yankees great CC Sabathia shares “ugly” details about drinking, message of resilience in new memoir

CC Sabathia’s left arm has taken him from the streets of Vallejo, California, to the mound at Yankee Stadium. One of the most dominating pitchers of his generation, Sabathia is a six-time All-Star, Cy Young Award Winner and ace of the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees. But his on-the-field success came with off-the-field heartbreak.

Sabathia lost his dad and a beloved cousin during his playing career, while his addiction to alcohol grew. In the opening lines of his new book “Till the End,” Sabathia called himself a “weird alcoholic.”

“I would pitch, and then the next three days, I would drink. So the day after, right after I came out of the game, I would need a drink and would drink the next three days, and I would take two days off, pitch and do it all over again,” Sabathia told CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King.”So I kind of had a routine where I would normalize drinking for three days, like a bender, and would detox myself, be able to pitch — and do it all over again.”

Sabathia told King that at one point, he thought his excessive drinking was normal. “It was just part of my routine. So much so that when I went to rehab, I came out and I was thinking ‘how am I going to do this without alcohol’ because it had become so much a part of my routine that it was a part of my pitching, I felt like,” he said.

In one of the more jaw-dropping moments outlined in the book, Sabathia described waking up naked at a Jay-Z party and discussed how he wet the bed on his wedding night. Sabathia is able to talk candidly about those dark times, with no shame.

“It’s no problem for me to tell the story, and like I told you before, I had normalized all this stuff. For me, people read the book, and it’s jaw-dropping stuff — but for me, it’s my life and normal, and I didn’t think people would think it was interesting or fascinating. It’s just something that I had dealt with and knew that I was alcohol dependent from the first time I had a drink when I was 14 years old,” he said.

Sabathia realized he hit rock bottom when he couldn’t stop drinking after a three-day bender in Baltimore, right before the MLB playoffs. “I didn’t want to wait until I hurt someone or I had a DUI, or I was court-ordered to go to rehab,” he said.

Instead, Sabathia “got in front” of his drinking problem and entered rehab on his own. “At this time, I needed to put my kids and my family and my health in front of my career,” he said.

Sabathia has been sober for six years and retired in 2019. The father of four now co-hosts the popular podcast “R2C2,” helps inner-city kids through his foundation and is working to stop the stigma around mental health and alcohol dependence. He told CBS News’ Jericka Duncan that he wrote his book to give people an understanding of alcoholism and the complicated dynamics behind addiction.

“I want everybody to be able to relate to it. And you can have all these things, all the money and all the stuff, but still struggle with mental health and be alcohol dependent. But you can get help,” he said. “The toughest thing about dealing with alcohol dependency is reaching out and saying that you need help and that you can’t fight this alone. Since I was able to do that, the last six years have been great.”


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