Dwight Gooden: Substance-Free and Going Strong at 50Published on 06. 14. 2015
Dwight Gooden: Recovery is possible
Dwight “Doc” Gooden was a baseball phenomenon with an impressive career that spanned 16 years, and a hefty drug and alcohol habit that lasted even longer. Gooden is also proof that recovery is possible, even after numerous relapses, a stint in prison and at least six go-rounds in rehab.
During his career, Gooden pitched for the New York Mets, New York Yankees and others, gaining celebrity status for his impressive curveball and fast-as-lightning pitch. By the time he retired in 2000, he had amassed a long list of awards for his skills at the pitching mound, beginning with a National League Rookie of the Year in 1984, when he was the youngest player ever to play in an All-Star game. He added a Cy Young award and a Triple Crown in 1985. He was three-time World Series champion and a four-time MLB All-Star.
Life Spins Out of Control
Unfortunately, Gooden’s career was far from stellar away from the field. Instead of appearing in the 1986 World Series parade, he watched the event on a flophouse TV set, deeply depressed and coming down hard after a major alcohol and cocaine binge. The first two months of the 1987 season marked his failed first shot at rehab. Due to his affinity for cocaine, Gooden was suspended from baseball in 1994, and missed the entire 1995 season. In 2002, Gooden was cited for DUI and driving with a suspended license, and was arrested in 2003, again for driving with a suspended license. In 2005. Gooden earned a misdemeanor battery charge after a skirmish with his girlfriend. Later that year, a police officer noticed Gooden was driving erratically, noting that he had glassy eyes and smelled strongly of alcohol. Gooden left the scene, but turned himself in to police a few days later.
The downward spiral continued in 2006 when Gooden was arrested for a probation violation after testing positive for cocaine at a meeting with his probation officer. Offered a choice between extended probation and prison, Gooden opted for prison, most likely hoping to use the time to get clean. He was released after seven months in Gainesville Correctional and swore it would be his last visit to prison.
Unfortunately, he eventually relapsed, and in 2010, a bad decision to combine cocaine with sleeping pills was followed by an even worse decision to drive his five-year-old son to school while under the influence. After rear-ending another vehicle, Gooden was charged with several offenses, including leaving the scene of an accident, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless driving and DWI with a child passenger. Gooden pleaded guilty to child endangerment, received five years’ probation and was ordered to attend outpatient drug treatment.
Gooden later commented that he experienced deep depression after the incident, He also admitted that although he gave up illegal drugs after prison, he never completely gave up drinking. As often happens, use of alcohol soon led him back to other drugs.
Another Attempt at Recovery: Never Give Up
Gooden decided to make a very public attempt at recovery when he agreed to participate in the reality show, “Celebrity Rehab.” The timing was right. Gooden was ready for change, and he has been sober since that time. After the show ended, he continued rehab at a New Jersey treatment center and became a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Helping addicts and at-risk youth at churches, treatment centers, halfway houses and prisons help Gooden maintain his focus on recovery.
Writing is also therapeutic for Gooden, who authored “Doc, a Memoir” about his experiences. His future plans include creation of a baseball academy for kids in Newark.
Gooden played his last game, for the Yankees, in 2000, retired in 2001, and was inducted into the NY Mets Hall of Fame in 2010.
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