Dwight Gooden talks about 'Celebrity Rehab' stint

Fri, Jun 24

Dwight Gooden is a relatively private man, so it's a little surprising to see him on VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," which begins its fifth season Sunday.

Gooden -- once one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball during a career mostly spent with the New York Mets -- has been dealing with a substance abuse problem for about 20 years.

A cocaine problem threatened to derail the 1985 Cy Young Award winner's career as early as 1987, when he spent the first two months of the season in a rehabilitation facility. He was suspended in 1994 for cocaine use and missed the entire 1995 season after he again tested positive for the drug. He actually missed the 1986 World Series victory parade because he was on a cocaine binge.

Problems have continued to haunt him even in recent years. In 2006, he chose six months in prison over extended probation, hoping to avoid temptations of his addiction.

This spring, Gooden was sentenced to five years of probation for driving under the influence of cocaine and sleeping pills while taking his 5-year-old son to school.

So, Gooden decided he needed to ramp up rehabilitation and join the reality show, which chronicles a group of celebrities as they are treated for alcohol and drug addiction by Dr. Drew Pinsky and his staff at the Pasadena Recovery Center in California.

Season 5 includes Gooden, actress Sean Young, actress Bai Ling, actress Jessica Kiper, actor Jeremy Jackson, "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher, former Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler and Michael Lohan, father of actress Lindsay Lohan.

The stars spent three weeks in March in front of cameras trying to understand their addictions and find the right steps to kick the habit. At one point, Gooden's buddy Lenny Dykstra paid him a visit trying to "break him out."

Well, that was March, and Gooden said he's feeling much better these days, still continuing with Alcoholics Anonymous and working with the Evergreen Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment Center at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, N.J.

"I'm very happy now. At 46, I'm still learning about myself, but I am getting more comfortable in my skin," Gooden said. "Fans have always been supportive of me, and it brings back memories each time I go out to the ballparks to think about all those great accomplishments."

Gooden still plans to open his baseball academy in Newark, N.J., to help teach youngsters how to play the game.

"I'm just blessed to be here these days," Gooden said. "It's a good feeling. I have two boys in high school who are playing sports and I get to give back to them. That's a good feeling."