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I have a very special person I’d love to introduce you to today. His name is Darryl Hagar and he is a fighter. I once wrote a post, on another one of my blogs, entirely about fighters. There’s something remarkable about a person who steps up to a demon, looks him squarely in the eye and refuses to back down or even blink. But when its the reflection in the mirror that a person is up against, it’s especially remarkable.
After all, who knows us better than… well, us? Who else knows our weaknesses, our soft spots, our vulnerabilities? Make no mistake about it, battling oneself is the fiercest of battles.
But, boy can it ever be done! Darryl Hagar, and millions of strong people like him prove that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.
If you refuse to blink.
Hi All! Darryl Hagar, “The Man Overboard” here.
My memoir is finally finished and in print. What a weight off my shoulders. Writing about your entire life, especially when it includes 27 years of alcohol and drug abuse is challenging to say the least. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my entire life and that includes my 20 years of navigating 900 foot supertankers around the world.
I am now onto the stage of carrying my life story to the masses to hopefully prevent many people from getting pulled into the dark hole of alcoholism and drug addiction. I always have to remember that my recovery comes first no matter what. Unless I remain mentally healthy, sober and clean, I can not be of use to anyone on this planet, especially my 9 year old little boy whom I love and adore.
I continue to pray at the foot of my bed every morning when I awaken, hit 12 step meetings, ask others in recovery for advice and support, and stay humble and grounded. My life continues to improve each day and I believe I am on the path of fulfilling my lot in life of helping others help themselves.
I think I’m going to Make it, One Day at a Time
It was May 12th, 2008 and was three years to the day that I had gotten sober. I had tucked my little boy in my bed the night before and we slept through the night. We I woke up I looked over at the sleeping 9 yr old boy. I was so proud of him and I was also so thankful to God that he had given me this gift. My love for my son had gotten me sober and three years later he was one of the main reasons I was able to stay sober.
I lay there with him remembering how wild and crazy I was in the first five years of his life. God was with me because in all reality I shouldn’t be alive. I had flirted with death many times with guns, all night drug abuse, slept with prostitutes all over the world, drove drunk and ran from the police, fought with hoodlums and drug addicts, and yet here I was, looking at my beautiful little boy and three years sober.
I don’t deserve to be alive. I don’t deserve the love that my son shows me every day. I don’t deserve my family and friends love. I don’t deserve the economic security and home that I enjoy. I don’t deserve my relatively good health from all the things I’ve put my body through.
I believe in my heart God has a plan for me and that is why I’m alive. I believe I have a purpose that I had envisioned back in 1985 while attending a state mandated drinking and driving prevention program. I heard a man tell his story of alcoholism and way back then I thought my life would go in one of two directions. I would die tragically overdosing on drugs and alcohol or I would survive and go out and share my experiences with the world. I believe God wants me to tell people how drugs and alcohol nearly ruined my life. How they ravaged my body and ate away at my brain causing me continual irritability, restlessness, and discontent.
God has work for me and I pray on my knees at the foot of my bed for him to show me what he wants me to do. If it’s to write a book about my mistakes and recovery, I will do it. If it’s to go around the country and the world talking about the dangers of drinking, drugs, and prostitution, I will gladly do that also. I ask him to put people in my life to help me help others.
I also ask God in my prayers to keep me humble and true to my cause of helping the still sick and suffering with alcoholism and drug addiction. To keep my heart pure and to keep my work concentrated on not myself but in the mission of showing and talking about change and recovery. I ask him for courage, knowledge, perserverance, wisdom, serenity, patience, and peace. I can do this and I will.
I lay there watching my son and reflecting as he stirred awake. He opened his little eyes and smiled at me.
“Hi Dad” He said lovingly.
“Hi buddy. Do you know what today is?” I asked him.
“Monday. Today is Monday and I have to eat breakfast and go to school.” Darryl II said to me.
“Yes, it’s Monday, but today is our special day man, its May 12th. Three years ago today I stopped drinking and you stopped sucking your thumb. We made it three years, how to go my son.” I said to him joyfully. We got up and both of us got on our knees, put our elbows against my bed and said our prayers.
“I go first, I go first!” Darryl said as he does every day.
“God, thank you for this day. Help people have food and water and clothes. Have people that are sick, people who who don’t have a home and our soldiers in the war. Amen” My son finished praying and I began.
“God, please keep me from a drink and a drug today. Thank you for this special little boy in my life and thank you for being with us all the time. Help me help others and bring the holy spirit inside me so that I will not be hurtful to others, that I will be loving to all and that I will do your will. Amen.”
We got up and got ready and I dropped him off to school. I went back to the place where I had first started going to 12 step meetings and signed up to chair the meetings. I sat in the seat at the front of the room and one by one people came in that I had met in early sobriety. It was like a homecoming of sorts and I was feeling very blessed.
I started the meeting and shared my story of how I was progressively getting better in my sobriety. My head was calming down and my anger, impatience, anxiety, and lack of serenity was all receding by the day. It wasn’t too say that my life was perfect. I had gone through some tough sobriety months and learned some hard sobriety lessons. I had not drunk or drugged but my old self started to rear its ugly head at times because I was stretched too thin.
I told the room that perhaps my biggest mistake in my third year of sobriety was not laziness or lack of participation but just the opposite. I had been volunteering and sharing my story at the Cumberland County Jail many times. I had again been participating at the Maine Correctional Center, a pretty big prison and I had been speaking every Friday to clients at Mercy Hospital Recovery Center/Detox. On top of that I had a sponsor, I was sponsoring another man, and I tried to go to my own 12 step meetings to help my own recovery. I was raising a 9 yr old boy, coaching his basketball and little league teams, and trying to write my memoir.
I had gotten so busy trying to save the world and help others that my own recovery took back seat and that is dangerous and unwise. One cannot help anyone if they are not healthy themselves and I recognized this after 6 months of doing too many volunteering jobs. I was trying so hard to do everything I ran out of energy to do simple things. I was over extended and had to make some adjustments. The Prison volunteering stopped and then I decided to give the Detox up also for the time being.
I told the audience I had decided to stay active with the jail, keep a sponsor as well as a sponsee and start going to more 12 step meetings which helped me personally the most. I would continue to work the twelve steps and pay attention to my own sobriety. I would listen to my inner self, my emotions, and would pay attention to signs of my anger and impatience coming back. I know when I’m working a good program I’m happy, serene, and at peace with myself. I would not let myself forget about my own well being again.
I finished my talk and opened up the meeting to the rest of the people in attendance. One by one my old friends spoke about how I had changed and grown in three years. Of how they were proud of me and my mission of sharing my story of recovery with the world. One gentleman talked about how he knew a lot of merchant marines who went away on ships for months at a time and they would come home with a pocket full of money, plenty of time off, and lots of steam to blow off. He mentioned that no everyone could live that rugged life and lots of sailors get caught up into alcoholism.
One of my friends, Paulie from Philadelphia talked about how he was homeless for awhile and had stayed at my house and I had given him rides occasionally. He also told the room that I had put him to work when he was out of cash and we had had meals together. He said he liked being around the A Team and I was tickled he thought highly of me. Paulie was a great guy and was recovering very well from a serious problem with shooting heroin for many years. I had heard his remarkable story several times and I quickly came to love him. We also went to a Rush concert together, two addicts, two drunks, enjoying a rock and roll, both sober as a judge.
One woman talked about how our kids can sometimes give us the strength to realize we’re making the wrong choices in life and to fight this disease of alcoholism. Sometimes people are successful in attaining sobriety and lots of times they aren’t. It’s a difficult road and people don’t realize or accept that it is a disease and it’s a malady.
We had the chip club to celebrate your time in sobriety marking the time of sobriety. A white chip for first day and then a different color for each month up to 6 months and then a medallion for 18 months. They also gave yearly chips for each year of your sobriety and it is a very powerful way for people to strive for more and more sobriety. It was a marker for your efforts of perseverance and persistence. I was presented with a three year medallion by Alan, a man I had met at the beginning of my sobriety and who had helped me along the way with invaluable advice.
“It’s my pleasure to give Darryl this three year medallion to mark his hard work and efforts. I see Darryl all over the city at different 12 step meetings, at Mercy Hospital volunteering every week and have seen him grow as a person and a friend. Congratulations Darryl, keep going!” Alan said shaking my hand, handing me the medallion and then giving me a big bear hug.
I put this bright shiny brand new medallion with a roman numeral three in my pocket. I had plans for it. I would give it to my son to show him that we both made it. He quit sucking his thumb and I quit drinking alcohol as per our agreement on May 12th, 2005 and neither one of us had relapsed.
The meeting wrapped up and I felt good that I was able to celebrate my 3 years of sobriety on the exact date, May 12th. Now I would wait a couple of weeks and celebrate one more time with my home group. A home group is a group of people who run a meeting for other alcoholics by renting a place or using a church, setting up the chairs, making coffee and providing literature and help for anyone who asks or attends.
My home group celebrates anniversaries on the last week of the month and so I would have to wait a few weeks to receive my 3 year sobriety medallion. I had celebrated my one year anniversary at this meeting and had taken my son Darryl II to his first 12 step meeting and presented him with a yellow plastic chip(normally given to an alcoholic after 4 months of sobriety) for not sucking his thumb for one year.
A few weeks went by and I talked to both Jen and Darryl II about joining me at my home group so I could celebrate our accomplishments. He had no idea how important it had been to me to quit sucking his thumb on the day I quit drinking alcohol. He would not totally realize until he got older how he had saved my life and now he would have a sober dad to grow up with instead of a drunken crazed madman. I sat down with him and had this conversation.
“Darryl, will you come see me get my 3 year chip for quitting drinking. The meeting is next week and I want you to be there.”
“Ok dad. I’ll go.”
“Do you remember when I gave you your one year chip for not sucking your thumb and I received a one year medallion for not drinking” I asked my son.
“Yes, I remember. It was a yellow chip” He said back to me.
“I’d like to give you a 3 year metal chip that has a three on it to show you made it three years without sucking your thumb, would that be ok?” I asked him.
“Will you come up to the podium where I’m speaking to receive it or do you want me to walk to you where you’re sitting?” I asked him.
“You come to me.” He said quickly.
“Dad, what about my two year chip? You never gave me one of those.” He stated.
“Darryl, you weren’t at the meeting when I celebrated my 2nd year. I think you were with mom at Sunday School” I said laughing from the cute and candid question.
“These chips are really for people that stop drinking but because we made an agreement on the day I got sober that if you quit sucking your thumb, I would quit drinking, you deserve a chip too. I want to give you with a three year chip to show you and everyone else how proud I am, ok?” I told my 9 year old son.
I talked to Darryl’s mom Jen and asked her to attend this special meeting. She was surprised and excited to go. She knew I was very serious about my recovery and she also knew how much our son meant to me. She had been a wonderful mother and she was very supportive of my recovery. We would not get back together as a couple but we loved each other as friends and proud parents and were always able to work out our differences for the sake of raising Darryl II to the best of our abilities.
The day came and I drove to the meeting hall and met Jen and Darryl II. I was a bit nervous since I was asked to chair the meeting by surprise. There were over 100 people there and I would be sharing some very personal and intimate experiences. I was ready for it. I sat Darryl II and Jen down front so that I could easily see them and could also walk over to him during the meeting.
The crowd settled in and I took my seat in front of the room at a table with a podium next t it. There was a microphone set up next to the podium and we had two speakers lined up. One of my friends, Dave, was celebrating two years of sobriety. He was doing well and was a good speaker with a good story. I was looking forward to hearing his story and celebrating with him.
I banged the gavel so everyone would quiet down and approached the microphone.
“Good morning everyone, I’m Darryl, and I’m an alcoholic” I said.
“Hi Darryl” The crowd answered together.
I looked out and saw my little boy and his mom watching me. I knew he was as nervous as me but I knew he would be all right. He was brave and he loved his dad.
I read some announcements and policies and then called on Dave to speak to the large group.
“Hi everyone, I’m Dave and I’m an alcoholic” He said a bit anxiously.
“Hi Dave” the crowd answered back.
Dave gave a wonderful talk about how excited he was to have been able to achieve two years of sobriety and how crazy his life had been before. He talked about how comforting it was not to use alcohol everyday as an escape and a pressure reliever and how much happier he was now. He spoke for about 20 minutes and the crowd gave him a warm ovation.
After he was finished we took a break to have a raffle to give away 12 step literature and to pass a basket where people throw in a dollar to help pay for our rent, coffee, cookies, books, etc. It was a typical 12 step meeting and it is a beautiful thing when you get a 100 people together who are dedicated to living a better life and supporting each other in fighting their disease of alcoholism. There is an unbelievable sense of love and unity at these meetings and in a weird way we are lucky to have somewhere to turn to help fight this awful disease. I again approached the podium and microphone and repeated my name and began my talk.
“I’m Darryl and I’m an alcoholic” I again said humbly.
“Hi Darryl” they all chimed in.
I took a deep breath and sighed.
“I’m a little nervous but that’s ok. It’s good for me to get out of my comfort zone. That’s when we grow the most” I said to the large crowd.
“I want to talk about my experience, strength and hope today” I started.
“My drinking was like most alcoholics although I always took it to the extremes. My drinking would turn into hours of drunkenness. Then Days of drunkenness. Then months of drunkenness until I went back out on a ship and sobered up. Then years and years of months at a time of drinking and drugging and then going back to my ship. My alcoholism progressed through the years as I became more reckless, more unstable, and less healthy. I was turning into a madman. I had walked a long ways into the woods and it would take me a long time to walk back out and reclaim my life.” I said to the audience.
I told them of how I went up to Moosehead Lake with my buddies one week-end on leave from Maine Maritime Academy. How we had gone to three different happy hours and at the last one I was putting my tongue in this woman’s ear with her husband sitting right there and watching in disbelief. How my roommate and buddies hauled me out of that bar without getting beat on and going home and drinking beers. I talked about going outside to get the beer out of the trunk of a car in a snowstorm and instead of bringing the beer back inside to everyone; I climbed into the trunk and passed out.
Some of the audience laughed while others shook their heads. Everyone there related to how crazy things get when we are drunk. I told the audience how my dad had took his own life and how I mistakenly tried to drink that whole experience away. Instead of getting professional therapy, instead of asking God to help me, I turned to the bottle and my life got out of control and stayed out of control for 22 years. I told the crowd how I had not been able to talk to my family about my father’s suicide for 23 yrs but after 18 months of sobriety and the 12 step program, I had been able to talk to my mom and oldest brother about dad’s death.
I then talked about Jen and I deciding to have a son in 1998 and thinking after he was born, both of us would have the answer to life and have a purpose. This worked perfectly for Jen immediately as he was born n 1999 and she turned into the protective loving mother. Unfortunately I was still the loving alcoholic father who did not get magically sober because I now had a child.
I told the crowd how I struggled with drugs and alcohol for my son’s first five years of life and how Jen finally insisted that I would lose him if I kept drinking the way I did. I spoke about how I asked God to help me as I didn’t want to lose the most precious thing in my life, the one person who loved me no matter what. I asked God to help me make the right decisions and to fight this awful disease of alcoholism and addiction. I spoke from my heart which is something I never thought or imagined me doing in front of 100 people.
“I want to tell my son congratulations on not sucking his thumb for 3 years now. He quit on the day that I quit drinking. We made an agreement and both of us made it so far, one day at a time.”
I looked at him and he was sitting quietly listening and watching me.
“Darryl, you saved my life. I’ll always be here for you and dad is going to try his best to never drink again and to be the best dad I can be. I love you buddy and I want to give you this 3 year medallion for helping me stay sober.”
The crowd started applauding and I walked over to my son and got down on my knees. His mom was crying and I looked at him squarely in the eyes and said “thank you buddy, I love you.”
I leaned in and he leaned forward and I kissed him on the lips. I might be able to pull this off. I might be able to help others get sober too. God is with me and he knows how bad I want this. He knows I don’t want to go back. I fight this battle every single day. The battle of addiction. It wants me back but I am resisting with all my power and all my prayers. Every single day I pray on my knees at the foot of my bed.
“God, please keep me away from a drink and a drug today. Help me continue to grow as a person and help me help other alcoholics and addicts find you and recover from this insane disease.”
I might make it. I might grow old to see my son graduate from high school. Graduate from college and meet a woman and get married. I think I will get to meet my grandchildren, something my dad never got to do. I will see them grow up and love their dad, my son. Thank you God, I think I’m going to make it, One day at a time.
About Author Darryl Hagar:
Darryl Hagar is passionate about his recovery and committed to helping others find the strength and support needed to reclaim their lives from the insidious affects of addiction. As a motivational speaker, Darryl has addressed hundreds of groups and shared his message of empowerment and responsibility. Today, Darryl adds the title of author to his resume with the release of his memoir, The Man Overboard “How a Merchant Marine Officer Survived the Raging Storm of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction”.
A graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, class of ‘85, Hagar went to sea as an Able Body Seaman with Military Sealift Command where his role focused on ship maintenance, maintaining mooring lines as the ship’s cargo was loaded and unloaded, and steering the ship in and out of port. After a year-long stint with Crest Oil Tankers, in 1987 he moved on to Maritime Overseas Corporation and gained the designation Third Mate where he was responsible for standing the bridge watch, supervising the able body seaman, ensuring shipboard safety practices were adhered to and was in charge of running the ship’s pumps and valves during the loading and unloading process. Promoted to Second Mate in 1990 Hagar attained his professional goal of becoming the ship’s navigator. The navigator’s primary role is laying out the voyage, maintaining charts, radar and other electronics and includes the responsibility of ship’s radio operator. Moving on to Alaska Tanker Company in 1999, Hagar earned Chief Mate status. He retired from the industry in 2005.
Darryl Hagar is a native Mainer and a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy. He rose through the ranks to attain Chief Mate of Motor and Steam of any Gross Tons=2 0Upon Oceans. Clean and sober for four years, and retired from the shipping industry since 2005, Hagar lives in recovery and hopes to reach people in crisis and help them on their voyage to sobriety.
For more information, please click HERE. If you, or someone you love, is battling an addiction, consider this your life preserver. Darryl has tossed it out to you, all you have to do it hang on!
Best of luck, Darryl. Thanks for sharing your story with Out of Bounds – we greatly appreciate it.
Make each moment count double,