With his drinking days over, Warriors' Mullin renews life

November 03, 1991|By Lowell Cohn | Lowell Cohn,San Francisco Chronicle

An older, wiser Chris Mullin was sitting in front of his locker the other day at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, talking about his life and times.

A few years ago, Chris Mullin wouldn't have entered into such a discussion, because he didn't know himself well, and what he knew he didn't necessarily like.

He's engaged to be married, he was saying as he munched on a sandwich. He recently got engaged to a friend from St. John's named Liz, and he also bought a home in the San Francisco Bay Area. This perpetual New Yorker is putting down California roots.

"I wouldn't make a decision to get married unless I was able to take care of myself first," he said. "It took many years to learn to take care of myself. In college, my whole life was predicated on how I played. As long as I played well and my name was in the

papers, it didn't matter what else I did. Now my life is more complex. I'm not dependent on my performance to dictate if I'm happy."

He finished his sandwich and threw the used paper into a trash can. He thought about what his life had been like before he began to care about being in shape, before he announced to the world, four years ago, that he had a problem with alcohol and entered a treatment center.

"A lot of the time, I did nothing," he said. "It's very rare for me now to take a full day and lay around. Then, I would hang out late and tend to be lethargic. Even if I wasn't a lazy person, I tended to be lazy. I didn't have any initiative."

Things are different now. Mullin has a routine from which he never deviates. The minute he gets out of bed in the morning, he works out for 30 minutes on a stationary bike and on a StairMaster.

After the workout, Mullin drives to practice, then he lifts weights and goes home and does another 30 minutes on the bike and the StairMaster. Before he goes to bed, he puts in another 30-minute session. In the evening, he may watch television. He used to watch only sports. Now, he's amazed that he's curious about other programs and actually spends time reading.

He also works out faithfully on the road. After away games, he goes in search of a hotel security guard and gets him to open up the health club at an hour when most of the other guests are fast asleep. Mullin works out until he no longer feels hyper from the game.

This is quite a contrast to his first two years with the Warriors, when he was overweight and seemed to drift through life motivated solely by the thought of escaping to the East as soon as the Warriors' season ended. He would pack up everything he owned, including his dog, and go home. "It was almost like I was living two lives," he said.

But last summer was different. His family came to visit him in his new house. "I did it by design," he said. "I wanted to be here."

Everyone came to visit him except his father, who died a year before. "Thank God I was grown up before that happened," Mullin said. "If I hadn't progressed, I wouldn't have been able to handle his death. Before my rehabilitation, I wasn't in shape to handle anything like that. I'd have been a basket case. I didn't have the confidence to deal with anything. I used to always say to myself, 'I hope I die first, before my family and friends, because I won't be able to deal with the grief.' "

After his rehab, Mullin would go home and sit for hours in the back yard, talking to his father, who would ask him questions like "What's really important, Chris?"

"We'd talk about doing the right thing," Mullin said, "about being there for your brothers and mother and being able to listen to someone and to be open. I never wanted to express myself about things that were bothering me or to say I needed help. When I came forward with that [the drinking problem], a million things came out that I was holding in. I never wanted to cause any static, just wanted to blend in. It was like that with the Warriors my first year. I held out, joined the team so late. After that, I didn't want to shine. I just wanted to be a part of the team -- which I never really was. I can't remember my first year too well, to tell you the truth.

"When I was going into rehab, I felt like a total failure. But when I told my mom and dad, they were happy. They said, 'Congratulations, it's the best move you've ever made.' I said to myself, 'I can't believe I'm doing something right.' "

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