Abby Wambach writes in her new memoir that she stopped abusing drugs and alcohol after her DUI arrest in April

By Sam Gillette
Updated September 12, 2016 05:55 PM
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Abby Wambach‘s DUI arrest in April was the wake-up call she needed to get help.

In her new memoir, Forward, due out on Tuesday, the former U.S. national team soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist writes that she abused alcohol and a mix of prescription drugs – including Ambien, Vicodin and Adderall – for years before her arrest helped her realize she had a problem.

“I was stubborn and I was in denial. I didn’t want to face the truth,” Wambach, 36, says in a new interview with The Associated Press.

“That night getting arrested was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Because if I don’t get so publicly shamed and publicly humiliated, I don’t think I wake up,” she adds. “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. So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.”

Wambach was arrested for driving under the influence in April after she left a dinner party in Portland, Oregon. She later pled guilty and wrote a heartfelt apology on Facebook in which she said, “This is all on me.”

Wambach, who retired from professional soccer late last year, also revealed in her memoir that she and her wife, fellow soccer star Sarah Huffman, are divorcing. The news comes a little more than a year after the couple made headlines for their memorable televised kiss at the World Cup in July 2015.

Beyond marital issues, Wambach writes that she also struggled to find direction after her retirement. She says she once again turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the stress, explaining in her book that it was a behavior that grew over time. Eventually her friends noticed her excessive drinking and were concerned.

“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 tells The Associated Press. “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.”

Since her retirement, Wambach has fought to find a new sense of purpose. A longtime activist, she continues to champion social issues and gender equality. She also has a weekly podcast for ESPN and has campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Wambach says her greatest goal is to become a “whole human being.” That includes being open about her past struggles.

“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.”