NEW YORK — CC Sabathia first realized three years ago he was an alcoholic.
But he didn’t address it with professional help until last month, when he left the New York Yankees for treatment ahead of their loss to Houston in the one-game AL wild-card playoff and then went public with his problem.
“In 2012, I kind of came to the realization I was an alcoholic, and I was kind of battling it without any help,” he told ABC in an interview broadcast Friday, his first remarks to media since treatment. “I would go a couple, you know, two, three months at a time sober, and then I would just relapse, and, you know, go on these weekends when I thought nobody was paying attention, and I would get in a hotel room and drink out of the minibar, pretty much everything.”
He informed the Yankees of his problem while the team was in Baltimore on Oct. 4, the last day of the regular season.
“That weekend I had started drinking and, you know, thought nobody was paying attention and, you know, was isolated by myself, staying in my room the whole weekend,” he said.
Sabathia, a Vallejo native, said he “woke up and just felt like I needed help. It was a tough decision to make because I felt like I was leaving my teammates, but I definitely needed the help to be a better husband, father, teammate, you know, player.”
He defended the timing of his decision, two days before what turned out to be the Yankees’ only postseason game, a 3-0 loss.
“I understand where, you know, fans would be upset and people don’t understand, but it’s a disease,” he said. “If it was my knee or it was anything else, then people wouldn’t have a problem with it. But, you know, it being alcoholism, it’s tough for people to swallow, but it’s the same thing.”
The 35-year-old left-hander was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA this season, slowed by a chronic knee injury. A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, Sabathia has struggled through three straight subpar seasons, going 23-27 while trying to adjust to decreased velocity and pitching through knee pain.
“I was just tired of hiding,” he said. “I just felt such a relief that everybody knows now. … I can start the healing process and take the steps forward to get myself better.”
Sabathia said he did not drink before his outings.
“That was one of the things I think I wanted to clear up,” he said. “You don’t ever drink before games or anything like that.”
Sabathia was not allowed to have a telephone during his time in rehab. His wife Amber, who was interviewed along with her husband, said she heard from Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Brian McCann all on the same day. The pitcher said David Ortiz and Torii Hunter were among those who called.
“I’ve got to thank those guys, and I’m truly blessed to be able to have friends like that,” Sabathia said.
Sabathia made a deliberate decision to admit his problem publicly.
“I look to be a role model in staying sober and kind of leading by example,” he said. “I’m just here to say this disease has no color, you know, no age, and it’s very serious, so I advise anybody if they’re out there feeling like they need help to get it.”