Wineskins Archive

December 9, 2013

Beyond Belief – Literary Roller Coaster (May 2012)

Filed under: — @ 7:56 pm and

By Andrew Tuttle

I’ve read a number of books over the years and especially in the last few months. Recently, I’ve dived into biographies or memoirs of people. Thanks to the Goodreads application on Facebook which provides recommendations based on the books I catalogue I discovered Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton.

I know who Hamilton is and about his faith and that he struggled with substance abuse, almost lost his gift of playing baseball and then his rise from the ashes. Always a sap for feel-good stories, especially in pro sports, I can remember pulling for him in the 2008 All Star Home Run Derby — and last year I rooted for the Texas Rangers in the playoffs primarily because of Hamilton. What I didn’t know was his story and exactly how far down the road of drugs he went.

Beyond Belief is as close to a literary roller coaster as I have ever read. The first 50 pages or so is like the long slow climb up a steep grade. It’s as if you can hear the chink-chink-chink of the chains carrying you to the top. At one point it does take a while as the book outlines more or less just how great of an athlete Hamilton was as a kid and how he was nearly groomed from the start to play professional baseball. A little bit of tediousness sets in and much like the slow ascent on a roller coaster you start to get a little impatient for the ride to take off. Then the subtle “here-we-go” pause at the top …

That’s when Hamilton tries cocaine for the first time and then the insane drops, bottoming-out, unforgiving sharp turns and loops, screaming to get off until finally the last sharp turn and the slow take-a-breath pace back to safety. At times I openly yelled at Hamilton and there was a point I might have stopped reading had I not known the eventual outcome. By all accounts, Josh Hamilton should not be alive.

<blockquote(Alert: Graphic Description!) I used so much the cocaine tore through my sinuses. I would sit in that room with a T-shirt in my hands, blowing six- to eight-inch-long strings of tissue out of my nose and into the shirt. I could feel them hanging loose behind the bridge of my nose and I would blow and blow until they came out. The T-shirts were covered in blood and the meaty flesh of my sinuses. — Page 114</blockquote>

The book is not for the weak-hearted. It is a raw and authentic account of drug addiction and how far a person will go to feed that addiction. Beyond Belief is four years old now, so the reader can venture forth knowing Hamilton is playing ball and living up to his childhood expectations. Pray for him.

It’s clear that Hamilton will never shake his addiction image and likely will always be answering questions about his past and of course his future. So I’d like to point out a subtle fact in the book that I believe is often overlooked. It is certainly one I did not know and since the media likes to focus so much on the negative I have to wonder if anyone has ever asked Hamilton about his role as a step-father.

A fast reader may gloss over the first mention of his daughter Julia. Only once does Hamilton mention his wife, upon dating her, as a single mother. The rest of the book Hamilton refers to Julia as his daughter and when Hamilton’s first biological daughter is born the two are referred to as daughters. I am a step-dad so perhaps that’s why it stood out to me. In 11 years of marriage only one person, who is not even a ‘close’ friend, has asked me about my role as a step-dad. I can testify it is not easy.

The big picture with Hamilton is of course his addiction, the road to recovery and how his faith in Christ led him to sobriety. The name of the book is absolutely fitting because the fact that Hamilton is not only alive but playing for the Texas Rangers at such a high level is indeed beyond belief. As with all good dramas there is the larger plot that drives the story but there is always a background narrative that often goes unnoticed.

For Hamilton, his role as a step-father has taken the backseat to the much larger plot. Clearly it should as it’s a testimony to Christ’s love, forgiveness and redemption. But I wonder how he’s handling being a step-dad? Maybe someone should ask him.

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