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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Docoholics Anonymous

“I went to rehab. My friends embraced me when I got out. You relapse, it’s not like that. ‘Get away from me’ — that’s what it’s like.”
—Leo McGarry, “Bartlet for America,” The West Wing

Hello, my name is Greg, and I’m a Docoholic.

I’ve been hooked on Doc since 1984. It started when I was in college. I’d heard and read so much about Doc that I just had to see for myself what it was all about. My first time was in St. Petersburg.

Doc was everything they said it would be. It was exhilarating just to be around Doc. It was a rush. Everything just sped up. Things would rise. Things would break. It was a high like no other.

Before I knew it, I had to have Doc every fifth day.

I graduated from college in 1985 and went back to New York just so I could get as much Doc as I could. I wasn’t the only one, either. We were all addicted to Doc in those days. Every exposure to Doc made you want more. Doc was everywhere in ’85. Doc was all that mattered back then. I should have been out getting a job, starting a career, but all I wanted to do was sit in my room with my Doc paraphernalia and think about how amazing Doc was.

My Doc addiction — and yes, it was an addiction — was unstoppable, impenetrable. I would have taken Doc every fourth day if I could have. I didn’t think there could be any side effects. Doc was too awesome for that.

Thing is, you get hooked on Doc, you can’t believe anything can ever go wrong. It’s always gonna be a high, right? Always the rising, always the breaking, always these visions of letters, one after another, like you’ve really seen the light or something. Doc took you to places you never imagined really existed.

Then you find out they didn’t exist, not permanently. But you can’t help yourself from thinking it does. You think Doc is the answer to everything. I did, anyway. I kept up my Doc addiction in ’86. It didn’t feel quite the same, but I told myself that maybe it was just a bad batch. I took Doc as long as I could that year, a whole month longer than I did in ’85. But it wasn’t as good as ’85. Not bad, just not great.

Had to be a mistake, I figured. Doc’s good stuff, right? Doc won’t let me down. Next chance I had, I was ready for more. But then…oh man. I couldn’t get my hands on any Doc in ’87, not for a long while anyway. It was my first withdrawal and it was painful. That should have been a sign, y’know?

But I didn’t take it that way, and when the Doc supply became plentiful again, I was right there, ready to partake all over again like it was never missing.

You can’t fathom the lengths of self-deception you’ll go to when it comes to Doc. I mean all you want is that high again, that indescribable state of dizziness and euphoria. All the while, a little voice is telling you it’s not as potent as it once was, but you shut out the little voice. The little voice gets louder. Then your friends chime in: “Hey, maybe Doc’s not so great after all. Maybe it’s time we stop depending on Doc to get us high.”

So you break it off with your friends because how can they be your friends if they’re not into Doc the way you are? The addiction is so powerful that you refuse to acknowledge any evidence that Doc’s not as effective as it used to be. You can’t accept that Doc’s just not that great anymore.

How could Doc not be? Doc made you feel like the world was yours. Every fifth day nobody could lay a finger on you, man. You were the greatest because Doc was the greatest. How can you give up on that? How?

Time goes by and it’s getting clearer and clearer that not only is Doc not what you were sure it was, but that it’s actually kind of dangerous. It clouds your judgment. You’re so hooked, though, all you want to do is defend Doc, to keep Doc around, to take as much Doc as there is. “It’s still good,” you say to yourself. “It’s perfectly safe, too.”

The little voice telling you otherwise gets louder. All you want to do is drown it out. Doc was the best thing that ever happened to you. How could it not be all right?

Then one day you wake up and find out Doc’s not around anymore. They got rid of it as if it never existed…’94, I guess. Just like that, they cleaned it up. Everybody acted like it was a no-brainer, like you had to do this for the good of all concerned. It was so cold — left me positively shaking. I couldn’t stand the idea of being without Doc, even the diluted Doc, even the dangerous Doc. You’ve been on Doc for a decade. You thought you’d always have Doc to get you through those fifth days.

Cold turkey is tough. I tried, sort of. I’d still find myself watching my old Doc videos late at night, staring at my old Doc magazines. That was how I tried to put Doc in the past. I told myself it was working. I mean, what was the harm of looking at images of Doc, right? Then, suddenly, I hear Doc’s back. Yeah, they said, you can get some Doc for yourself — all you gotta do is go to a really bad part of town and they’ll fix you up good.

I did it. I’m ashamed of myself, but I did it. Real seedy characters, not the kind of place you’d be caught dead. Maybe I was dead, in my soul anyway. Maybe I was just a Doc junkie. All that Doc had done something to me. Still, there was a night in ’96, beautiful night, and I couldn’t believe how much I wanted Doc. I just let myself go. Fell in with a very bad crowd for that one night, but I swear I thought it was worth it.

That should have been a wakeup call. For a little while maybe it was. I tried not to think about Doc even though it was right over there on that other side of town. I got involved in other things and I stayed clean for a while, I really did. Sure, now and then I’d think about Doc, but fleetingly, like nostalgia for when I was young and gullible. It was harmless. I’d moved on.

Truth is you never move on from Doc, not when you’re an addict the way I am. The years went by and I never got the taste out of my mouth or out of my veins. If they’d just bring Doc back, just a little. I understood perfectly the Doc you were gonna get these days wasn’t the Doc I remembered, but I just wanted, I dunno…I wanted it to feel like it was. I wanted to see Doc, to hear Doc, y’know? I wanted to know Doc was with me, not just in my memory.

They didn’t bring Doc back, though. I always thought they would, but something always prevented it. What would have been the harm? At this point it would just be recreational, for fun. That’s all, just a little reminder of the good times. I didn’t have to have the full dose I used to have. Just a taste, I swear. Didn’t happen. Instead, I kept hearing about how bad Doc had gone, how nobody should want anything to do with it anymore.

Intellectually, I understood Doc was probably bad news. But I couldn’t get Doc out of my head. Bring Doc back, I said, and everything will be all right. Just bring Doc back. Please. I gotta have Doc.

Then it happened, it really did. They brought Doc back. Brought it back to that place where you used to be able to get it all the time. It was right before they closed it. I couldn’t believe they were doing it. This was 2008. Fourteen years I’d waited for a taste.

It was so, so good. I don’t know if it was flashbacks I was having, but I swear for a minute or two it was like 1985 all over again. Things were rising. Things were breaking. It was like I was up on my feet clapping and cheering and crying and losing my mind, as if nobody had ever found anything wrong with Doc in the first place.

Oh I wanted it so badly to keep going. They were building this new place next door to the old place and I heard rumors they were gonna have Doc there, like it had gone mainstream again. I knew it could never be like it was, but somehow just to have some permanent reminder of Doc…that was gonna be enough. That was gonna make me feel it again.

One day in January they did it. They said Doc was OK. Doc was a part of everything. It was my dream come true. Doc had been my reason for living 25 years ago and now they were gonna enshrine Doc. They were gonna have a day for Doc. Imagine that, a whole day devoted to Doc! All that talk about how bad Doc was for us couldn’t be true if they were doing that, right?

But the little voice returned. I tried to shut it out, but it kept whispering to me. It said, “When’s the day for Doc? They oughta have it as soon as possible because ya never know. There might not be any Doc by the time they say they’re gonna have it.”

That little voice, man…that little voice is scary for what it knows.

I guess you heard the same things I heard yesterday about Doc, that it looks like Doc is way more dangerous than they said, that Doc is potentially lethal, that Doc, given the circumstances, could kill you.

I’ve always thought that sort of thing was overblown, that you could handle Doc. I’ve always thought that no matter what they said, that I could handle Doc. Doc gave me the best moments of my life. I didn’t want to quit Doc. But now, it’s finally dawned on me there really isn’t any more Doc, not the way I idealized it.


UPDATE: The agent for Dwight Gooden tells the Record of North Jersey it was Ambien that caused the car accident in question. Docoholics everywhere who are powerless over their addiction to Doc hope it’s true…’cause that’s what Docoholics do.

17 comments to Docoholics Anonymous

  • /slow clap

    It’s like you’re inside my head every single day, writing the things I wish I was eloquent enough to write.

  • Funny, I hear that little voice sometimes, too. Thanks for again putting into words what I was feeling yesterday.

  • Inside Pitcher

    I just remember that look that he had in his eyes when he pitched in 1984 and 1985. Total focus. Scary concentration. No batter could own him.

    After the first rehab, that look was gone forever. He was never the same after that.

  • srt

    As a life long fan just a couple of years older than you, I too have the same memories of Doc back in the day. Never missed a game he pitched if I could help it. Disappointed in ’87 when his problems first surfaced. Knew in my head, if not in my heart yet, that was the beginning of the end.

    That being said, I’m sad to hear years removed from him being on top of the world, his demons might still be chasing him. I wish him all the luck in the world with finally conquering them.

  • CharlieH

    Hi. My name is Charlie…

    Well done, mein freund.

  • Bluenatic

    Doc’s agent says it was only Ambien:

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe! and metspolice, Greg Prince. Greg Prince said: A 26-year ddiction to Doc Gooden is a hard habit for a #Mets fan to break. […]

  • Joel Lugo

    I remember you during those early years of your addiction; it was much worse and more intense than your Craig Swan addiction. Luckily, when you “experimented” with Mardie Cornejo it was just recreational and short lived. I was worried about your use of Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura and Mike Piazza but by then you were more mature and better able to “control” your cravings. But I again have Dr. Drew on speed dial just in case Ike Davis makes the team…

  • Joe D.

    Just a sad situation and as a person I feel sorry to see this happen to anybody but Doc has run out of apologies to himself and his family.

    As a fan I’m still in disbelief, even a quarter-century later (that sounds a lot more than 25 years, doesn’t it?), that he never recaptured the glory of his first three years. While he had a strong 1986, something seemed different more than it just being impossible to have duplicated anything near his 1985 career year and though he remained a very good pitcher, he was no longer top echelon, never even a serious factor in the Cy Young voting after the one time he captured all 24 first place votes.

  • DW

    Well put, and so true to what I feel about Doc.
    I remember running to People Express flights out of Newark, where for some outrageously low round-trip fare one could be in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh for an evening to watch Dr. K mow down those Reds and Phillies. Doc’s got to come to terms with those demons, and fast.

  • Andee

    At the very least, Doc should not be driving. His addictions cease to be his and his family’s business alone if he gets behind the wheel in an altered state. He’s lucky nobody got hurt…this time.

    Didn’t Doc say once that he thought the alcohol did more damage to his pitching than the coke, because he did a lot more drinking than snorting and it screwed up his reaction time? I can’t help but think he was another Sam McDowell, who similarly drank himself out of the game after mowing down the universe for about five years.

  • Tom in Sunnyside

    I met him very briefly at an autograph session at ComiCon here in NY in October. Couldn’t have been nicer, appeared to be in good spirits. I’m very sorry to hear about this latest episode.

    Fortunately I learned as a teenager, around the 1986 Mets, that sports heroes are heroes because they can hit a ball, run or throw much better than your average human being, not because they are better people. That allows me to feel sorry for Doc, but not feel let down by him. I’m just glad no one got hurt and hope he doesn’t do it again, for his sake and for the people around him.

  • there IS a support group for this. it meets one Tuesday night each month during the season at a pizza joint in Manhattan.

  • […] weeks when the Mets honor their new Hall of Fame class, Dwight Gooden in particular. You know how we twist ourselves into contortions to “forgive” Doc his continual transgressions when if he were anybody else we’d write him off as an inveterate addict? Of course it’s because […]