Allow me to totally fanboy right here. Darryl Strawberry was one of my childhood heroes growing up; I remember looking up to the New York Mets star as I started my own baseball career in Little League. Below is the ultra-rare, limited edition trading card for yours truly. And to reiterate the main point, Darryl was my favorite baseball player (see the back card):
Darryl is a former MLB All-Star who led the Mets and the Yankees to four World Series Championships combined, but the yin to his All-Star yang was his battle and MLB suspensions for substance abuse. Darryl is now a minister who seeks to combat the growing opiod addiction epidemic. Darryl to help others find the light away from substance abuse with his recent work Don't Give Up on Me, an intriguing look into his personal experience and journey.
Step Up to the Plate
Darryl Strawberry, Right Fielder.
Throws: L, Bats: L. 6'6", 190 lbs.
335 home runs, 1000 runs batted in, 221 stolen bases, 0.259 career batting average, 0.357 on-base percentage. 42.2 wins above replacement.
1983 Rookie of the Year, 2x Silver Slugger, 8x All-Star, 3x World Series Champion.
Numbers aside, Darryl was a star in the MLB. He was a champion. So many young baseball players looked up to him and dreamed of his celebrity status. But that's only part of the story.
There's Darryl Strawberry the amazing baseball player, with an array of numbers that make MLB front offices giddy with excitement or red hot jealous. Heck, I just described him as an array of numbers above.
But there's also Darryl Strawberry, the man. And Darryl had to deal with his own personal demons and problems, just as we're all working on our own fixes. For him, Darryl had to beat back drug addiction and childhood pain.
A rocky relationship with his father was troubling to Darryl. Here was a man who never saw him play Little League, who hadn't been around for Darryl's formative years. So to mask these pains, in came alcohol, substance abuse to medicate, with baseball success as the attractive cherry on top.
How could it be that for someone who was a celebrity and sports star that he were dogged by this issue of addiction, or any problems at all? You just won the World Series, your salary counts in the millions! In some peoples' heads, those things did not mix.
But there's what goes on in peoples' heads, and there's the reality of the situation. Darryl could swing for the fences at the MLB level, but could he had to step up to the plate against an even tougher problem: his addiction.
Baseball almost became an escape for Darryl, as he relates that the sport "never hurt me." Even with all the celebrity and stardom, baseball was just that, an escape. Bandages for a festering wound.
Baseball would never solve his personal problems, no matter how many homers he socked, no matter how many All-Star awards he garnered, and no matter how many World Series he won. This was the realization Darryl slowly came to as he came to separate Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player, from Darryl Strawberry, the man.
By Darryl's account, his wife said it best:
"For you to grow up and become a man, you have to take off the baseball uniform."
Darryl's most important at-bat would be without any MLB uniform. And he was able to take the pitch and hit it out of the park like he'd done so many times before.
Only this time he didn't smash a baseball; he smashed his problems with addiction.
"Decide to be an overcomer, not a victim."
I became real interested in how Darryl beat back addiction. If you think of it, addiction doesn't have to be limited to substances. Someone could be addicted to candy, or to coffee, to the smartphone, or even to social media.
What were his tips for beating addiction? I had to ask Darryl, and this is what he replied:
Starve the Flesh, Feed the Spirit
If you want to beat addiction, Darryl recommends that you have to starve the flesh. What's the deal with starve the flesh?
All addictions are traced to some physical imbalance in some way, and this extends beyond drug use. For substance abuse, it's those withdrawl symptoms that flare when someone doesn't get a hit. Someone who's addicted to food may simply feel hungry all the time, or get fast-food cravings. A serial gambler may pile on loss after loss, but just gets the feeling that he'll score big on the next hand...
I myself love sweets; I even tell myself that a life without sweets ain't a sweet life! But these addictions are all the same, because there's a part of your physical flesh and body that tells you that you need one more hit. Darryl's solution to beat addiction? Starve the flesh.
What if you want to just enjoy in moderation? Sounds great in theory, but in practice it doesn't turn out well. Just one night of partying turns into a weeklong bender. Just one potato chip turns into two, and before you know it, you've crushed the entire bag! Do you see the theme here too? Instant gratification to remove cravings of the flesh. So if you truly cannot have something in moderation, don't even touch it! Starve the flesh.
In contrast, starving your flesh takes discipline. Discipline to stave off that craving for instant gratification, and to know that you'll be better in the long run of things. There's a great quote that goes:
"Discipline weighs ounces, and regret weighs tons."
According to Darryl, the problem of addiction boils down to one question: Do you want to be well?
If the answer is yes, then starve the flesh and feed the spirit.
Renewed, Redeemed, Restored
Darryl was able to beat his substance addition through starving the flesh, but there was the lingering question of his childhood pain-his rocky relationship with his father.
No more bandaging problems over with baseball, and no more covering over his childhood pain with substance abuse. Darryl was able to visit his father who hurt him and ask for his father's forgiveness for leaving him out of his MLB All Star life.
It was when Darryl could accomplish this step that he became renewed, redeemed, and restored. This wasn't Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player. He already took off the uniform and left the baseball diamond behind him.
This was Darryl Strawberry, a man of God, now focused on helping out others avoid the same pitfalls of addiction.
One part of Darryl's new book Don't Give Up On Me that's really intriguing is how applicable his story is. It's certainly not the MLB experience, but it's the reflections on how difficult it can be to deal with addiction and how important it is to understand someone's story should you need to help them find the light at the end of the tunnel.
"When you understand someone's story, you can never hate them."
But how to deal with sporadic behavior and relapsing for a recovering addict. Darryl saw this from his own perspective as a recovering addict, and with full skin in the game, he advises:
"Always love them. Don't tolerate their behavior, but love them. You may need to remove yourself from the situation so you're not hurt from it, but love them. Wait for people to come up to your level."
Remember: the information in the podcast just by itself? Not going to help one bit. But the implementation of this information? Beats back addiction, spreads a positive message to the world. What's not to love about that?
Sending you a big old high five: YOU ARE AWESOME! *high five*