Soccer legend Abby Wambach retired in December with a laundry list of dizzying highs that included last year's Women's World Cup title, two Olympic gold medals, a marriage to fellow soccer player Sarah Huffman—not to mention her status as the top goal scorer that international soccer has ever seen, male or female. By April, she found herself knocked to her lowest low: Charged with DUI in Portland, Ore., her bleary-eyed mugshot splashed all over creation. That night wasn't an aberration, she tells the AP ahead of the Tuesday release of her memoir, Forward. It was the culmination of years of substance abuse, washing her successes down with vodka, Vicodin, Ambien, and Adderall. "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 says.
"Not only was I hiding this secret from the world for so long, so were the people that I loved—they loved me so fiercely they wanted to protect me as much as possible, almost from myself," she says. Wambach says she's been sober since that night. She publicly took responsibility, pleaded guilty, and completed treatment. Since retiring, she's campaigned for Hillary Clinton, worked for ESPN, and, in her words, worked on becoming a "whole human being," though ultimately her marriage did not survive. "It's really hard to talk about things when you're ashamed," she says. "And I'm not ashamed about what happened to me anymore because it led me to where I'm at right now. I'm proud of where I'm at." (Former teammate Hope Solo had a much more controversial exit from the sport.)