Life

Abby Wambach: I abused alcohol and prescription drugs for years

In the book, she never pins down a moment that alcohol and drugs started to become a problem. Like so many who have shared her experience, it developed over time. Those closest to her tried to reach out, including Huffman, fellow national team player Sydney Leroux and friend Kara Mirarchi.

“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. Sarah 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,” Wambach said. “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.”

Wambach capped her illustrious career with the sport’s most prestigious championship when the United States defeated Japan 5-2 in Canada last summer for the Women’s World Cup. It was the third World Cup title for the U.S. women and first since 1999.

The FIFA World Player of the Year in 2012, Wambach appeared in four World Cups with the national team. She also has a pair of Olympic gold medals from the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2012 Games in London. She did not compete in the Beijing Games because of a broken leg.

Wambach announced her retirement last October and played her last match with the team in December, a 1-0 victory tour loss to China in New Orleans. She said she looks back at pictures from that game and her eyes seem hollow.

Wambach became more active tackling social and political issues in the later years of her career, and has been outspoken about gender equity in particular. She led a group of players in protesting FIFA’s decision to play the 2015 World Cup on artificial turf, which is considered by many to be inferior to grass.

In retirement, she has campaigned for Hillary Clinton for president. She also has a weekly podcast and other work for ESPN. But most importantly, she’s working on becoming a “whole human being” now that she’s not numbing herself.

Wambach and Huffman, whose kiss following the World Cup victory became one of the most memorable photos of the tournament, could not work out their differences and are divorcing.

In her interview with the AP, Wambach was far less guarded than she’d been in past conversations. After earlier this year proclaiming “I don’t get nervous,” her emotions were more on the surface as she sincerely admitted her foibles.

“It’s really hard to talk about things when you’re ashamed,” she said. “And I’m not ashamed about what happened to me anymore because it led me to where I’m at right now. I’m proud of where I’m at.”

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