Abby Wambach Says She Abused Alcohol, Prescription Drugs for Years

Retired U.S. women’s soccer star Abby Wambach has faced adversity throughout her life.

As an athlete, she’s responded to crippling defeats. As a woman, she’s fought against gender inequality. As a lesbian, she’s battled discrimination.

However, Wambach, 36, didn’t realize her biggest fight until she was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants in April.

Addiction.

“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,” Wambach told The Associated Press. “So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.”

She opened up about her battles with drug and alcohol abuse in her book, “Forward: A Memoir.” In the book, Wambach talks about her successes and setbacks. These include her career, her relationships and her battles with Vodka and prescription medications.

Wambach had long planned to write a book chronicling her storybook athletic career — highlighted by world records, championships and Olympic gold. She did not intend to open up about her substance abuse problems.

Her DUI changed that mindset.

“Once I got the DUI, I was like this has to be part of the story,” Wambach told Good Morning America. “I think it’s a story that needs to be told.”

The Highs and Lows

Wambach grew up in Rochester, New York. She starred on the Florida Gators women’s soccer team from 1998 to 2001. In 2002, she was selected in the first round of the now-defunct Women’s United Soccer Association College Draft.

The 5-foot-11-inch forward helped lead the U.S. women’s national soccer team to a third place finish in 2003 and 2007, and a second place finish in 2011. She was a part of the 2004 and 2012 Olympic team that took home gold.

Wambach is a six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2012. She is the leading scorer in the history of international soccer.

On the field, she was a star. However, she battled alcohol abuse off the field, especially during off seasons. Later in her career, she became addicted to prescription painkillers.

Her family knew about her struggles. But Wambach never took these problems seriously. In fact, she avoided talking about her substance abuse issues altogether.

“It’s really hard to talk about things when you’re ashamed,” she told the AP.

Then there was the night in Portland, Oregon, when her life changed forever. After dinner with friends, she was arrested for drinking and driving. Her face was plastered all over television screens and the internet — not for her athletic achievements, but for breaking the law.

She had hit rock bottom.

Upon her release from jail the next day, Wambach issued a statement on Facebook. She apologized to her friends, family and fans, and took responsibility for her actions.

She would later plead guilty to drunken driving and enter a diversion program, where she attended a substance abuse treatment facility.

“I kept it private for so long,” she told Good Morning America. In her interview with the AP, she added, “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.”

Moving ‘Forward’

In “Forward,” Wambach covers various topics: her childhood, her life as a lesbian and her drug and alcohol problems.

Wambach says her alcohol addiction was a gradual process. She began drinking at age 21. It steadily worsened over the years. She eventually began abusing Vicodin, Ambien and Adderall.

These problems culminated in her April arrest, she said.

However, Wambach maintains she’s been sober since the night of her arrest. Today, she run a weekly podcast and provides soccer commentary for ESPN.

She hopes her experience can help others seek necessary assistance.

“I was ashamed about it for a long time, that’s why I was incapable of getting help,” she said. “This is my call to people out there to not be ashamed of this, to ask for help.”



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