New York Yankee star CC Sabathia was one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball for two decades until the six-time All-Star and World Series champion of 2009 retired in 2019.

But today, Sabathia, 40, says he’s in the best mental and physical shape of his life – better than ever as a professional athlete.

“Getting sober six years ago definitely gave me some clarity,” Sabathia told CNBC Make It.

For most of his playing career, Sabathia battled alcoholism, even as he rose to the top of his game.

“I was just born to throw a baseball,” says Sabathia. “And I knew that. So sometimes in my career I didn’t have to work as hard as others.”

According to Sabathia, he was a “disciplined drunk”: for 15 years he was “so good at timing my tamers that I won a Cy Young Prize and a championship ring and paid $ 260 million,” he says in his memoir, “Bis.” to the end “, will be released on Tuesday.

“Suppose I pitched on Monday. That night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, I was hammered. Thursday, Friday – detox, nothing but water and Gatorade. Saturday, when I got out of the game, I needed a crown and a Sprite in my locker, ”he writes.

That was until 2015 when Sabathia hit rock bottom and entered rehab.

Asking for help is “the hardest part,” he told CNBC Make It, but the decision changed his life.

“The last six years of my life have been great, but before that it was miserable,” he says. “The fear was great.”

In June, Sabathia became the spokesperson for the My Relationship With Alcohol campaign, sponsored by the biopharmaceutical company Alkermes, to raise awareness of alcohol addiction.

“As black people in the black community, we don’t really talk about these things,” says Sabathia. “It is important for me to be visible and let people know that if you are secretly suffering from alcohol addiction, there is help for you and you can change things.”

“It is not a taboo and we need to remove this stigma in our community.”

Here Sabathia talks to CNBC Make It about how he discovered his passion, routine, and mindset during his Yankee days, and how he reinvented himself in retirement.

What do you think contributed to your success?

I was just born to throw a baseball. That was something I knew I could do at a young age. And when you read [my upcoming] Memoir, it tells of me when I was 7 years old, in my grandma’s backyard, grabbing grapefruits. She didn’t let me get the good ones, I had to get those on the way. And I would put this folding chair in our yard and I could always throw the ball through the back of the folding chair. I would start close and I would toss it and soft [then I would] Throw it harder and harder and I’d back away as far as I could. It was a baseball for me.

What was your mindset before a game?

Most of the starting pitchers on the day of the game don’t talk to him. You have put on the headphones. I am the exact opposite. Most of the time I throw a soccer ball, kick a soccer ball like I’m doing something to distract myself from the game because I’m so intense. But as soon as I get out on the hill and cross the line, I’m a whole different guy. For me it was just flipping the switch as soon as I was outside.

I remember Game 1 of the World Series. I was running up and down the hall doing crazy things. And [Derek] Jeter came [up to me] and he said, ‘Bro, are you introducing tonight?’ … ‘I think you need to put on headphones and get ready like it’s game 1 of the World Series.’ I thought, ‘Man at eight, I’m done, brother.’ I hated practicing. I just wanted to get myself into the game and I’m ready to go.

How was your gaming routine?

When I got into the big leagues, I was 20 years old. So at 20 you are invincible. I ate Wendy’s before the games. If I ate a Wendy’s burger and tried to do anything now, I couldn’t move.

At the end of my career. I trained every day. I had a cook, I had the personal trainer, and I had the masseuse. But baseball was a different culture in the late 90s and early 2000s. We didn’t train in the off-season, we came to spring training to prepare.

I grew up with Chuck Finley, Dave Burba, and all these older pitchers who came up in the 80s and 90s and didn’t work out in the off-season. When the season is over, you go home and hang out.

I wish I knew I shouldn’t eat Wendy’s before the games. I wish I had known how to take care of myself and exercise. Nobody ever taught me that.

In June you said you had lost 50 pounds. What helped you get in shape?

One of my close friends is actually Action Bronson. He’s a rapper, a chef, and has lost over 160 pounds. We did this together. At the end of 2018, a stent was placed in my heart. So I just wanted to try to get as healthy as possible.

I wish there was [a secret] to lose weight. It was just the change in diet. I started on the ketogenic diet and now I just don’t do soy and gluten. I literally lift every day. I can do squats and split squats that I couldn’t as a player because I was worried about getting injured. So now I’m just training like a madman.

What helps you in the daily fight against your addiction?

Really understanding where I was six years ago and not forgetting how bad things were. My family and my life are good. My wife and I have been married for 18 years. It’s just waking up and fighting [my addiction] every day and knowing that hopefully today is the day I won’t drink anything.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

The best career advice I’ve ever been given is owning my body. When I was younger I weighed 310.315 pounds [and 6-foot-6] and people always tried to make me lose weight. I had a strength trainer who said, ‘Bro, I saw pictures of you. When you were a kid and always grew up. Just be great. That’s them.’

I was 22 and thought, “You know what, I’m just that.” I’m different so that’s what you’ll get

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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