Abby Wambach’s progression through sports and life hasn’t come without great struggle.
The retired USA soccer superstar revealed Monday in an interview with The Associated Press that she abused drugs and alcohol for years. She said her DUI arrest in April forced her to face the reality of her addictions to vodka and prescription drugs like Vicodin, Ambien and Adderall.
“I was stubborn and I was in denial,” Wambach told the AP. “I didn’t want to face the truth.
“That night getting arrested was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Because if I don’t get so publicly shamed and publicly humiliated, I don’t think I wake up. I think I was asleep for a lot of years. Asleep to the pleas from my family and friends, and even myself, to get help. So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.”
In the aftermath of her arrest, she admitted to experimenting with cocaine and marijuana during her legendary playing career. But she hid the extent of her substance abuse until now.
Wambach, 36, will publish her memoir, “Forward,” on Tuesday and she spoke candidly to the AP as part of a promotional tour.
“Not only was I hiding this secret from the world for so long, so were the people that I loved — they loved me so fiercely they wanted to protect me as much as possible, almost from myself,” Wambach said. “Sarah (Wambach’s wife) was definitely one of my saving graces because she was one of the first people in my life who made me aware of the problems that I was having. And this was years ago. This isn’t something that just snuck up on me when I retired from soccer. This is something I’ve been dealing with for years now.”
It’s remarkable to think of what Wambach achieved in her career — she scored an international soccer record 184 goals and won a Women’s World Cup and two Olympic gold medals — and unsettling to think of what else she could have done if not for her addictions.
Wambach said she has been sober since her arrest and presumably is on the road to recovery.
Her best work just might be yet to come.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images