CC Sabathia is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who put up major numbers over a 19-year career in the big leagues. He won a World Series, Cy Young Award and is a six-time American League All-Star. His longevity and numbers make him a strong candidate for the MLB Hall of Fame when he is eligible in 2025. But he also struggled with alcohol use throughout much of his career. On the final day of the 2015 regular season, CC told his manager, Joe Girardi, about his drinking problem and that he was going to rehab the next day. The team was in Baltimore that weekend and CC drank heavily on Friday and Saturday, reportedly alone in his hotel room, to the point of not remembering much of the weekend. The Yankees had a Wild Card game the next day, but CC knew if he delayed going to rehab, he would likely never go. With a possible playoff run looming, CC left the team and checked himself into Silver Hill Hospital. Using the tools he learned here over those next 30 days, CC is now six years sober and loving life more than ever.
CC Sabathia is often asked for advice about rehab. The former Yankee did a month-long stay at Silver Hill Hospital’s Scavetta House for alcohol rehabilitation in 2015. He has been open and public about his struggles and rehab, detailing his journey in podcasts, interviews, TV documentaries and his new book “Till the End.”
“My response is always the same: It was the greatest decision I ever made in my life,” CC said during an interview with Silver Hill Radio this summer. “The hardest thing about going to rehab or getting help is speaking up, seeking help and being dependent on someone else to help you figure this out. It was the best 30 days I’ve had as an adult.”
At Silver Hill, CC says, he sorted out the reasons why he drank. He identified the triggers that caused him to want to drink and how to avoid those situations. Silver Hill gave him “a bunch of different tools,” to help him navigate life while maintaining sobriety.
He said it was particularly powerful when former patients came back to visit Scavetta House to talk with the current residents at group sessions and relive their journeys to sobriety.
“I’d be in those meetings visualizing myself talking to that group and visualizing what sober life can be like,” he recalls. “That was the best part to me. To have people come back and walk the house and relive that. Just seeing people’s reaction to being back in that house was huge to me. That’s going to be me, I told myself. I’m going to come back and talk to the guys.”
The timing of his rehabilitation at Silver Hill played a key role in its success, he says. He recalls witnessing the struggles of two other patients, one younger and one older. The younger one, CC says, appeared to not be ready to quit drinking and partying. The older patient, a wealthy man, had lost his relationships with his sons. The man called his sons every night, but no one ever answered.
“I was still in a pretty good spot,” he says. “I hadn’t gotten a DUI yet, I wasn’t court ordered and my family was still intact. I could still make this right, I thought. I was in this sweet spot where I had this opportunity to get my life in order. I hadn’t ruined any relationships with my family, and I was old enough that I had gotten all my partying out. Just let me figure out how I can live my life in the best way possible and be as happy as I can with my family.
“I felt that was possible at Scavetta,” he adds. “I felt nothing was going to hold me back. This was going to play out the way I wanted it to.”
CC says he started drinking at age 14 and being drunk had become normalized to him. Waking up in urine-soaked sheets, throwing up or trashing a room was “no big deal” to him because that’s just what people did when they drank, he thought at the time.
“I was doing stuff I thought was normal, but normal people don’t live their life like that,” he says. “It took me a long time to understand that.”
Sobriety has worked out well for Sabathia. He went on to pitch four more seasons with the Yankees, allowing him to reach 250 career wins and 3,000 strikeouts – important milestones for Hall of Fame consideration. Before he went to rehab, he says, his body was breaking down from alcohol and he feels he believes he would have been able to pitch only one more season had he not become sober.
“When I went into rehab, I didn’t know if I could pitch without alcohol,” he says. “When I came out of rehab, I thought there’s no way I can pitch with alcohol.”
“That says a lot about how the mindset can shift,” Ryan Wade, MD, a Yale-trained addiction psychiatrist who currently works with patients at Scavetta House, said. “Being here can be a transformative experience.”
Not drinking alcohol, along with a change in diet and intense workout regimen, has transformed his body. He is 6-foot-6 and peaked at more than 340 pounds. He has lost more than 50 pounds, has a sculpted frame and appears on fitness videos.
“None of this stuff that is happening in my afterlife of baseball would be happening because my body was breaking down from alcohol,” CC says. “It’s poison now. I don’t even think about it or need it.”
CC’s sobriety faced a stern test only two weeks after his discharge from Silver Hill. He and his wife, Amber, had plans to attend a friend’s wedding and CC wondered if he could have a good time without alcohol and what others would say about him not drinking. He considered canceling the plans but did not want to let down his friend.
“I had the best time ever and it was just me being me. It was just my personality. It wasn’t the drunk CC trying to make up conversations and sound intelligent, it was just me having fun,” he recalls. “We danced all night and talked to friends and I woke up the next morning and remembered everything. It was the greatest night ever. After that wedding, it shifted for me. I thought, I don’t need to drink to have a good time. I am a good time. The people you are around, and your spirit is good enough.”
To hear the full interview, visit the “Silver Hill Radio” page on YouTube.