I’ve been a Mets fan for as long as I can remember. I have a vague memory of watching a baseball game very young, on my parents’ black and white television in the living room of our house. I’m fairly certain that was one of the 1969 World Series games. How that was on our television, I do not know. Neither of my parents were big sports fans. That was just something I was born with. In 1974, I started watching Mets games on my own and I learned all of the rules of baseball as I watched (same for football). Sports was in my blood, and Mets baseball was my first love.
Dwight Gooden and I are nearly the same age, so following his career when he came up was exciting. It was the first time a player seemed to be my contemporary, rather than a great deal older than me. Of course, now they are all young enough to be my kids. Gooden was the story of someone who seemed to have it all and then threw it away with both hands. As is the case most of the time, there’s a lot more to the story.
In his memoir, Gooden is quite candid about his life. He talks about the good and bad and doesn’t sugar-coat it. He accepts responsibility for his actions and for things that happened that he had a part in. Doc is not a book full of excuses, which is very refreshing.
Although he had a home life with two parents growing up, Gooden is candid about the flaws in his nuclear family. He comes back to this once he seriously gets help for his drug problem as some of what happened in those early years shaped him in ways he never realized. Credit goes to his father who drilled him in his baseball skills at a young age and followed through with him.
New York can be a tough place, and Gooden is honest about how it felt to be there. He fit in well, but it was also a place where anything and everything was available to the young ballplayer on a silver platter. He recounts memories of the games there in his rookie year and the events that led to many different circumstances he found himself in. I wouldn’t say there is no tell-all feel about any of his fellow players. Most of them he speaks very kindly of. The only one he’s somewhat negative about is Daryl Strawberry, and there’s a reason behind it that evolves as the events are told from Gooden’s perspective. Even after all he went through, though, he harbors no ill-will against his former teammate.
Although he claims to have never pitched when he was high, Gooden’s addiction to alcohol and cocaine was his eventual downfall. He details how a cocaine-fueled binge was responsible for him missing the Victory Parade for the Mets in New York City after winning the World Series in 1986. Many times he went into rehab, but it was more because he had to do it to continue playing, rather than really wanting to do it.
For this bit of candidness, I thank him. I lost my daughter to suicide due to drug addiction seven years ago now. All that time, I’ve gone over everything in my head and thought about what I could have done differently in dealing with her drug problems. Gooden’s honesty about what was going on in his head during all those times in rehab and why he ended up using again was a real eye-opener for me. It made me realize that if my daughter wasn’t willing to go into rehab on her own, it likely would not have helped her kick her addiction. I could have forced her all I wanted and we would have ended up right back where we were until she was ready to fight for the life she could have. I don’t know that she would ever have been able to do that, though, and I think even if I’d managed to get her into a rehab facility before she killed herself, we would likely be kicking the problem down the road. The disappointment they feel in themselves for letting people down is there, and that and the fact that we all now knew what was going on were factors in her decision to end her life instead of saying “I want to get help for this.”
Gooden details why going on Celebrity Rehab actually worked for him and why he thought everyone else was there for the wrong reason. He’s honest about confronting the demons of his past and apologizing to his children, especially his oldest son, for letting them down in their lives.
I’d like to say that’s it and he’s been clean since then, but it isn’t and he hasn’t. Just last year (2019) he was arrested again for DUI and possession of cocaine. This is why addiction is a sickness. It’s not like a cold or flu where you get better and that’s it. The desire is always there to feel the way you did when you drank or did whatever was your drug of choice. It’s a battle for the rest of your life.
I found the Doc to be something that really helped me shed light on the mind of an addict and give me knowledge that no matter what I did, the outcome likely wouldn’t have been any different. No matter what I did, it had to come from inside my daughter to change her life and even then there were no guarantees. I wish Dwight Gooden well and I hope he can finally conquer his demons before they take him too.
Categories: Book Reviews