Monday, April 13, 2009

Merchant Marine's Tale Not Pretty, But Impactful

The 5th of Alcoholics Anonymous' famous 12 Steps is: Admitt[ing] to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. With The Man Overboard: How A Merchant Marine Officer Survived the Raging Storm of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, I'd say Darryl Hagar has fulfilled that step in a big way. His 604-page memoir recounts in exacting detail just how much harm drugs and alcohol addiction did to him, his family, his career, and everyone around him.

Beginning around the time he entered Marine Maritime Academy, Hagar drank and experimented with drugs. At first, it was to relax, to fit in with his buddies, and to deal with a family crisis. As school became more demanding, however, Hagar turned to cocaine to keep him "up" so he could study as much as he partied. Despite numerous close calls and several demerits, he managed to keep his addictions under enough control to graduate from college. Later, as a Merchant Marine, he was assigned positions on various vessels which took him all over the world. Although work on the ships helped control his urge to drink, offshore trips did the opposite. Furloughs at home were even worse. Hagar managed to accomplish some amazing feats, even while drunk as a skunk or high as a kite, but the idea that resonates most from his book is the deep regret he feels over all that he missed out on and all the damage he caused. The amazing thing is how much didn't happen considering he drove cars, steered boats, hunted and babysat under the influence.

Despite all the ugliness, Hagar's book maintains an upbeat tone. He writes in the honest, straight-forward manner of a child. It's a no-frills, no pretty adjectives, no excuses kind of book. It describes everything - truly, Hagar could have summarized his experiences in half the pages and still gotten the point across. Still, there are some funny scenes (like how he was so drunk he tried to sleep in the trunk of a car during a snowstorm or how he scared the living daylights out of his neighbor when she saw him with a shovel) and some poignant scenes (in which he mourns his father and destroys important relationships), all of which help to create a moving narrative. The words are not pretty - the writing needs a lot of polish and the "colorful language" (to put it mildly) will make you feel as if you are aboard a shipful of rough, lonely men, but The Man Overboard actually manages to be hopeful and inspiring. Most touching of all is Hagar's determination to beat his addictions for his son, Darryl Jr. The Darryls' pact to work on Jr.'s thumb-sucking and Sr.'s addictions at the same time is tender and real. The reason Hagar's book remains positive is because the story has a happy ending - Darryl Hagar has been clean and sober for 5 years (his son has been thumb-free for the same). Now an enthusiastic advocate for sobriety, Darryl Hagar takes his message to schools, prisons, hospitals, etc.

As someone who has never been drunk or stoned, I found The Man Overboard to be equal parts illuminating and disturbing. I was intrigued by the events that transformed a good kid into a hardened, depressed adult. I was disturbed by how easily this happened, and how little Darryl's friends and family seemed to care. To me, his story highlights the need for intervention as well as the importance of not giving up on those whose lives have been taken over by drugs and alcohol. I know from personal experience that it's difficult to forgive and forget when you've been hurt by someone who's so desperate to score that they'll lie, cheat, steal or harm just to get a taste of their particular drug. Even as Hagar's story made me seethe (How could he mistreat and endanger so many people?), it made me ache with compassion. It made me want that compassion when dealing with the Darryls in my life (of which there are, thankfully, few).


The Man Overboard desperately needs some good editing, but its simple, honest style does make an impact. I could have done without the detailed play-by-play of Hagar's every drunken move - still, in the end, it made me think. And it made me hope. Tighter, more focused writing could have improved the read tremendously, but The Man Overboard still touched me. Bravo to Darryl for his courage and determination in sharing his story with the world.

Grade: C

A Note From Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours: Each time a blog visitor comments on any or all of The Man Overboard blog tour stops, they will be entered in two random drawings. The first is a weekly drawing. Weekly winners have the chance to win one of Darryl Hagar's graphic novels. Commenters who participate on the tour also will be placed in a random drawing to win a copy of Darryl Hagar's The Man Overboard. One copy will be given away midway through the eight-week tour and the second at the conclusion.

Stop by and share your thoughts and comments with author Darryl Hagar. He 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. He will check in throughout the day to answer questions. You’ll learn more and have a chance to win a graphic novel or a copy of The Man Overboard (released March 24). To order a copy of his book, click here.


1 comment:

  1. I too love books, and have read all different kinds. That is why I stopped by your blog. I have not read this particular book yet, but it looks quite similar to "bipolar bare." Author Carlton Davis writes about his struggle with bipolar, addictions, and the 12 step program. Personally, I thought he wrote very well, and I learned a lot from his experiences.

    Maybe we can do a book swap!

    ReplyDelete

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