Retired American striker Abby Wambach has admitted to abusing alcohol and prescription drugs for years, including during her time as a national team player.
In an interview with the Associated Press, international soccer’s all-time leading goal-scorer said she struggled with substance abuse up until her arrest in April for driving under the influence. The morning after the arrest, her mugshot was splashed on news outlets across the country.
"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 said in the interview released Monday. "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."
The interview comes as Wambach is promoting her new book, “Forward: A Memoir,” that is due out this week. But she was also very open about a subject that she had been reluctant to discuss in the past.
I have interviewed Abby Wambach more times than I can count. This was the most sincere and brutally honest I've ever seen.
Wambach is the world’s most prolific goal-scorer, her 184 international goals the most of any man or woman to play the game. She retired from soccer in December with a towering legacy that includes one World Cup trophy, two Olympic gold medals and one FIFA Player of the Year honor from 2012.
In the book, Wambach also discusses her marriage to fellow soccer player Sarah Huffman. Their kiss after Wambach won the World Cup became one of the most powerful images to come out of the tournament in Canada, but now the couple is divorcing, with her substance abuse being a contributing factor among others, like spending long stretches of time apart.
“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.”