Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 2/3/12
If you know anything about battling drug and alcohol addiction, you weren't surprised that Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton had another relapse Monday night. When your struggle is as powerful as Hamilton's one so strong that is risky for him to be out alone or carry more than 10 in his wallet - relapses are considered normal. "It's a chronic relapsing disorder," said Dr. Christy Graham, chair of the department of counselor education at Bridgewater (Mass.) State University. "Relapsing is part of recovery." Dr. Graham is a licensed marriage and family therapist and teaches a course in substance abuse counseling. While she has not personally counseled Hamilton, she said he has displayed the classic signs of a person struggling with addictions. "People have this expectation that since somebody told you to stop, so you can just stop," Dr. Graham said. "It's an illness. You really have zero control over it, especially if you're using it in stressful situations. If you don't have any other way of dealing with it, that's what you're going to turn to." While facing the media Friday, Hamilton basically said he was dealing with stress when he decided to have several drinks at a Dallas restaurant Monday night. He called it a "weak moment" brought on by "personal reasons with a family member." This is the second time Hamilton has lapsed since joining the Rangers. An incident three years ago in an Arizona bar also happened during the offseason when Hamilton doesn't have the game to occupy his time. The Rangers are contemplating whether to give Hamilton a long-term contract. He is eligible to become a free agent after the upcoming season. If the Rangers do proceed with a long-term contract, Dr. Graham said they should so knowing there will likely be more relapses in the future. "He's not at a point yet where he has figured out how to stay away, how to stay clean," Dr. Graham said. "It may take a few more relapses, but it's not uncommon to have those relapses. It's part of this illness and people should support him as much as possible." Dr. Graham calls drug and alcohol addiction a "lifestyle illness" just like asthma or diabetes. An individual has to dramatically change their lifestyle to beat such an illness, and she said only about 30 percent of people are successful at it. Even with those odds, Dr. Graham said the Rangers are doing the right thing by providing Hamilton an accountability partner someone to be a confidant and help steer him away from temptation. The Rangers are in the process of hiring a new accountability partner after Jerry Narron left to be the Brewers' hitting coach this off-season. While showing support and compassion, Dr. Graham said the Rangers also need to show Hamilton that there are consequences to his actions. "The last thing that alcoholics and substance abusers give up is their job," Dr. Graham said. "You don't want to enable that by not having consequences. Sometimes people need to feel the pain, or hit bottom." So would the Rangers be taking too much of a risk if they offer Hamilton a big contract? "I would have conditions," Dr. Graham said. "I would be very specific about those conditionsOtherwise, 'No, we can't have you. You're negatively affecting our team.'" Hamilton famously hit bottom when he was out of baseball for three years, 2003-05, and spent most of that time on a drug and alcohol binge. Hamilton was in and out of rehab clinics eight times before finally getting sober. He also experienced a spiritual transformation. His Christianity is now as much a part of him as his addiction. "My recovery is Christ," Hamilton said Friday. Dr. Graham pointed out that spirituality is a component of the famed 12-step program employed by Alcoholics Anonymous, which has helped millions deal with their addictions. While spirituality can help recovering addicts, it's a reminder of the power of addiction that someone so strong in his faith can still be weakened by the taste, even the smell, of alcohol. "Clearly, he needs more rehab," Dr. Graham said. "In my opinion, anyone with substance addiction needs long-term rehabilitation." If the Rangers do offer Hamilton a contract extension, it has to be done with a certain acceptance. Baseball is often played by the numbers, and the numbers say this probably isn't the last time Hamilton suffers a lapse in sobriety. But the research also shows that falling down is part of learning to stand on your own feet, where one day he may not need an accountability partner. While the Rangers struggle with whether to add a few years to a contract, Hamilton's struggle is one that lasts a lifetime. Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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