THE BLOG
06/10/2015 06:54 BST | Updated 05/10/2016 06:12 BST

CC Sabathia and the Quandary of Addiction in Sports

It's not an actual injury though. Is it?

CC Sabathia is good at making headlines. He did it when he signed with the Yankees before the start of the 2009 season and became the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history.

There's nothing physically wrong with him.

He continued to do so well into his 14th year of professional baseball, having never had more losses than wins in a season.

And then things changed.

He had surgery on his right knee. He's 35. It happens. But it slowed his relentless pace down significantly. Now we were looking at a Sabathia who was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA. It's not unusual. It's just unfortunate. And expected. But he picked up. He adjusted and his form was returning.

Sabathia was now 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in five starts and he secured the win that clinched the Yankees first return to post season in two years.

If I was on his money, I'd be holding it together and getting help in my own time.

Until he announced that he would not in fact be joining his team mates to play Houston Astros in the wild-card game. He would not have his eye on the World Series at all.

He would instead be entering alcohol rehab.

He's an athlete. He should have more discipline.

We like stats, don't we? Us sporting geeks. Here's one: People who enter rehab under their own volition are 15% more likely to stay sober than those who are forced to. To take our stats one step further? This means to go at a time that feels right to Sabathia trebles his chances at successful long term recovery.

Addiction isn't a spectator sport. It can't be measured accurately from the sidelines. The chaos. The lies. The inability to control our own actions. The literal neurological inability to link the action of drinking to the horrendous consequences that follow.

The itch that can never be satisfied. The burning need that knows no respite. The ceaseless, relentlessness of it. The confusion. The fear.

And then? Beyond that? The drinking to hide from the pandemonium that the drinking itself has now created. The self-made nightmare that we are living in. The need to block out the people we have hurt and disappointed so very much.

The absolute knowing that there is no way of going back to before it all started. The unbearable thought of trying to get to the other side of it all. Trying to envision a future, but only being able to see yet more pitch black ahead.

Sabathia had so many well wishes after his knee injury. So much understanding. Yet he also did this harm to himself. He played professional baseball for a decade and a half. Surely that's also a lifestyle choice? It just happens to be one that brings massive amounts of joy and upliftment to the rest of us. A pressure that he will have felt very keenly.

Alcohol abuse loves a lack of routine. It thrives on fear and uncertainty. All three of these things come with injury and age in athletes. Whilst I cannot read Sabathia's mind, I do speak alcohol abuse fluently. Well enough to know that this man, like so many others, will have tried desperately to do this on his own. To try and hold on until this end of season. To just make it through.

The very nature of alcohol abuse is one of chronic denial. And let's face it, Sabathia had an iron clad reason to keep engaging in this denial and to not seek help right now. He had every excuse he needed to keep the chaos going. He had Thousands of baseball fans to be his willing alibis.

But he chose not to. He chose to face it all. Right now. And that takes an incredible amount of discipline. More strength than this 6'7", 290lb left hander has ever needed to show on the pitch.

The spotlight may be on Sabathia right now, but he is by no means alone. This week we will watch the athletes we admire play for the teams we love. We will do this without having a clue which of them are also fighting the demons of addiction. Ones who haven't yet admitted they are also struggling, alone. Terrified. Not yet uttering the words to describe their need for help.

Not to their team mates.

Not to their coaches.

Not to their sponsors.

Not to their loved ones.

Not even to themselves.