In this interview, Darryl Hagar, author of The Man Overboard shares how he suffered from drug addiction and alcoholism for two decades before beginning recovery in May of 2005. Darryl graduated with a Bachelor of Nautical Science from Maine Maritime Academy and received his United States Coast Guard Chief Mate license. His battle with alcoholism began while he was a student at the academy and continued, along with drug addiction, into his career as a Merchant Maine Marine officer. His addiction led him to a life of crime, chaos and trauma.
Darryl now uses his experiences as teaching lessons. He is a public speaker and author helping addiction sufferers. He visits prisons, jails and colleges to share his story and give addicts hope for living a fulfilling and happy life free from drugs and alcohol.
Interview: Man Overboard, One Man's Struggle with Addiction
LTK: Darryl, your book, The Man Overboard, is a personal account of a life of addiction. What do you hope to accomplish by telling your story?
Darryl Hagar: I hope my book, The Man Overboard, will be read by thousands and thousands of people struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction and that it will inspire them to look at their own lives. I navigated 900-foot supertankers for 20 years, and although that was a huge accomplishment for me, it's not my legacy. I'm hoping my legacy will be that I helped, in some small way, save a lot of people's lives. In addition to that, alcoholism and addiction directly touches 14 other people other than the alcoholic and addict. I would be especially pleased to help families come back together and especially help the children involved by helping the alcoholic and/or addict.
The Seed of Addiction
LTK: What happened in your life that contributed to the beginning of your battle with addiction?
Darryl Hagar: I believe some people are born with a gene of alcoholism and addiction and when the switch is turned on, their disease takes off. The longer they use the worse it gets, progressing into late stage alcoholism and addiction. I also believe that a person can develop an alcohol and drug problem by beginning to use more and more, and then becoming addicted to their substance(s) of choice.
Looking back at my own disease, I drank like an alcoholic from the very first time I got drunk, blacking out and passing out in my own vomit. What I thought was just an inexperienced drinker was in fact a brand new drinker who had the alcoholic/addict gene. I believe that when my dad committed suicide when I was attending Maine Maritime Academy, I turned to drugs and alcohol even more to mask my pain. The alcoholism/drug addiction was turned on with heavier substance abuse.
I had fun with drugs and alcohol for ten years, and then they had fun with me. I finally surrendered after 27 years of severe alcoholism and drug addiction.
LTK: What was the lowest point in your addiction?
Darryl Hagar: Probably being in a sports bar drunk while my girlfriend was in labor and close to giving birth to our son, Darryl II. She called me at the bar and told me she was getting close. I stayed in the bar as the hockey playoff game went into overtime. Drugs and alcohol owned me, and I am very embarrassed about that story looking back.
The Turning Point
LTK: What pivotal moment led you to begin recovery from drugs and alcohol?
Darryl Hagar: My son's mother told me if I didn't quit drinking and drugging, I would lose the right to see him. Although I didn't quit immediately, it was the thing that made me begin considering a change. I went awhile longer, and then attended an oil company safety conference drunk. I finally approached the oil company executives and asked for help dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse. I felt like a 10,000-pound gorilla had been removed from my shoulders. I knew if I relapsed I'd be fired, but I finally felt free admitting that I was an alcoholic and drug addict. Admitting that I was an alcoholic was the most freeing event of my entire life.
LTK: What do you think is the first step in recovery?
Darryl Hagar: Admitting to yourself that you are powerless over drugs and alcohol. Until you admit that, you have a problem with substance abuse; you don't have a prayer. Everyone around you can tell you that you have a drinking/drug problem, but until you admit it to yourself, you won't begin to recover. The man or woman in the mirror is the most important person to be honest with.
LTK: What is one of the most important parts of recovery?
Darryl Hagar: Getting into a 12-step program, no matter what your addiction is, will be the most important part of your recovery. Whether it's drugs and alcohol, gambling, sex, food or other addictions, a 12-step program will teach you how to recover, how to stay recovered and to understand your disease.
One Day at a Time
LTK: Since you began recovery, have you had any relapses, and how do you deal with them if you have?
Darryl Hagar: I have not relapsed since I got sober and clean on May 12, 2005. I know I have to work a strong 12-step program to re-enforce my sobriety every day. If a person relapses, it's important to forgive him/herself immediately and try again. Go pick up a beginner's chip and start over. Get back on the horse and try even harder. Ask yourself, where did I go wrong, and what am I going to do differently this time? I ask my higher power every day, at the foot of my bed, to help keep me away from a drink and a drug for another day. I live my life one day at a time.
LTK: What would you like to say to family and friends of people who suffer from addiction?
Darryl Hagar: People can't make other people change. They can only support and make suggestions to the sick and suffering addict. Do not feel guilty or ashamed; alcoholism and addiction are a disease, and people who go through it have to hit bottom before they realize they need to change their life in order to save it.
I believe people like myself who have gone to the bottom and survived by God's grace have the highest chance of reaching active alcoholics and addicts because they can relate to us. When I wrote The Man Overboard I hoped that by writing everything that I went through including the prostitution, the cocaine and alcohol abuse - the sheer lawlessness - would make people think. I hoped that when I finally wrote about my recovery, the struggling alcoholic/addict might feel a sense of hope. If a person that was as out of control as me could recover, I hoped that others would be encouraged to give sobriety a try.
I write in my memoir everything I do to stay sober and clean. It is not easy, but I believe there are many important lessons in this book that will help many people recover who are searching for ways to finally overcome their alcoholism and other addictions.
Advice and Encouragement
LTK: What piece of advice or words of encouragement do you have for people with addictions?
Darryl Hagar: Never give up. Never allow yourself to think you're not worthy of a happy stable life. Action precedes understanding. Go through a professional rehabilitation if possible. There is help available; show some humility and save your life. You have to surrender to win. Get in a 12-step program and begin living the life you always dreamed of. If I can do it, anyone can.
LTK: Is there anything you would like to add that would help people with addiction and/or their loved ones?
Darryl Hagar: Don't be afraid to ask for help. People in recovery want to help others struggling. I will help anyone as best I can that reaches out to me on my website, The Man Overboard. Look in your yellow pages for a 12-step program or a crisis hot line, and make the call. It was the best day of my life when I asked for help with my alcoholism and drug addiction. I was stuck at 20 years old, emotionally speaking, for 20 years. When I finally surrendered and admitted my alcoholism and drug addiction to myself and others, I began to grow again.
The Man Overboard is available at Amazon.
Interview contributed by Marcelina Hardy