Dwight Gooden recalled the day his teammates on the New York Mets were celebrating their 1986 World Series win as "one of the worst days of my life."
The 49-year-old former Roslyn resident explained: "I was getting high in an apartment and missed the parade."
The retired pitcher who from 1984 through 2000 played for the Mets, Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, spoke about that day and others that he spent abusing alcohol and drugs Saturday during Nassau's annual Health, Fitness & Sports Expo.
"Playing baseball I got to live my childhood dream, but [today] I get more pleasure talking about my recovery," Gooden told an audience of about 20 that had gathered at the Mitchel Field Athletic Complex in Uniondale to hear his story. Just before his talk, he signed autographs and took photos with about 50 people who waited for a moment with the former baseball star.
"I bet you don't know who that is," said one man as he passed with a young boy and girl. He walked up to a photo of Gooden with his name on it to refresh his own memory. "That's Dwight Gooden."
Gooden, who noted that he marked three years of sobriety on March 11, said his bouts with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine resulted in the downswing in his baseball career and his family life. But his troubles started much earlier, he said.
"My dad was an alcoholic who kept beer around the house, so I took my first drink at 11 years old," Gooden recalled. "A lot of times with kids, if you see your parents do it, you do it."
"I carry the guilt and embarrassment of missing birthdays and my kids' activities," he said. But today he has a sponsor and is in a 12-step recovery program. "I'm an addict, but not an active addict."
The expo was sponsored by Winthrop-University Hospital, K98.3, the PGA Tour Superstore, Health Plus, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, NuHealth, Medytox, St. Joseph's Hospital, Blu Chip Marketing, Hofstra University, the New York Cosmos, St. Francis Hospital and PinkTie.org.