"I've said all along that I would retire if I couldn't do it anymore or if I couldn't be away from my family anymore," Helling said Monday. "I couldn't handle being away from my family."
Helling, a 36-year-old right-hander, was 93-81 with a 4.68 ERA for Milwaukee, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Baltimore. His best season was 1998, when he went 20-7 for the Rangers.
He spent his final two seasons as a reliever with the Brewers, going 0-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 35 innings last year. He was on the disabled list from April 16 to June 20 with a sprained right elbow, then didn't pitch after Sept. 9 because of torn cartilage in his left knee.
"I had been weighing this decision all winter," Helling said. "In the end, it really wasn't a difficult decision."
Helling won a pair of World Series titles with the Florida Marlins in 1997 and 2003.
"I have been very lucky to play on some great teams," Helling said. "I've been very lucky to play as long as I have. I have no regrets."
A former member of the executive board of the players' association, Helling has spoken out against steroids and in favor of drug testing.
"I feel like I played the game the right way," Helling said. "I never cheated in any way."
Helling is married and has three children who are 7, 5 and 16 months.
"When the kids get older like this, it's a lot harder to be away," Helling said. "When they were younger, I could take them with me, but now there's school and hockey practice. Now I can be there every day. Most parents would kill to have that option."