I understand he’s revised his opening ‘graf to reflect some concerns he got on his twitter account, so I’d encourage you to re-read the column as it is here, right now
1. “The worst part about Josh Hamilton’s relapse is that he didn’t care.”
I didn’t quit drinking on February 5th, 2007 out of the blue. I had been trying for months, if not a year. And every time I wound up with a drink in my hand after promising myself and people who loved me that I wouldn’t do it again, I had first had the toxic thought of “I just don’t care.” It’s also known as a case of the “fuckits” and I would get them when my disease kicked up or the opportunity presented itself and I had no defense against the first drink. I don’t read “didn’t care” as “made a poor choice,” “consciously decided to throw everything away,” or “was weak and selfish.”
I read it as I felt it, part of a depressed state of mind and hopeless bodily condition, a physical allergy and a mental obsession, not a moral failing or a lapse of virtue. It was an alcoholic wanting alcohol to the exclusion of everything else. Which is what alcoholics do. I can say that because that’s what I do, and it’s only grace and luck that I haven’t drank in 5 years. It doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to.
2. “The particulars don’t matter. . . don’t matter as much as the act. With addicts they never do. Sobriety is black and white.”
This is what people are pissed about, I think because getting sober is a complex process, and slips don’t necessarily mean you’re “off the wagon” as long as you turn it around and recommit to sobriety. People can define their progress, count their days, evaluate their sober status however they want, and that’s an individual choice. Absolutely fine. Has nothing to do with me. For me, drunk was drunk. Deliberately taking a drink I know has alcohol in it is a slip. Not drinking one day at a time is sober. But the particulars don’t matter — when I lost my job, when I got dumped, when I broke up with someone, when I lost my keys…none of that was allowed to be a justification for my picking up a drink because as soon as something was a “good reason,” anything would be.
3. “And because he can’t beat it. . . the severity of the consequences are hastening.”
Consequences get worse, whether you’re high profile or low, the more active your alcoholism is. This is just true, and it’s not cruel or unusual to point it out. Kicking a guy while he’s down, maybe–that might be a fair criticism to level at Passan, but it’s even truer for the less compassionate media swarming like vultures, misrepresenting alcoholism as a willful dissolution, and Twitterati currently saying things like “Get off Hamilton’s nuts and let him drink.” It’d be great if we could all leave him alone, but if we’re going to talk about him, might as well be honest, fact-based and straightforward.
4. “That’s all addicts can offer. There will be those who call them hypocritical or weak-minded or full of excuses. Such ignorance never ceases. Sobriety for those who struggle the most is merely a moment between relapses – hopefully a moment longer than the last, one that eventually lasts forever.”
This paragraph in particular makes it hard for me to relate to the pissed-off-edness. I think Passan, though his article was peppered with annoying phrases like “the devil in him is strong” was clearly being compassionate and making an honest point. Maybe Passan’s not an alcoholic, maybe nobody in his family is. But neither was Craig Calcaterra when he rebutted him.
I am, and people in my family are, and while I don’t think of it as the devil, I do think it is something that sucks. We’re not bad people getting good, we’re sick people getting well. And however we do it is the best way we know how.
In that moment, Hamilton didn’t care, and it wasn’t a choice.