On the ice, Darren McCarty was known as one of the toughest, most selfless, run-through-a-wall-for-his-teammates type of guy that’s ever played.
Off of it, he was an alcoholic, insomniac and pill addict. Until he found cannabis.
McCarty’s well-documented spiral came to a head in November of 2015, when his blood pressure was spiking and his liver “was about to explode” after multiple decades of alcohol abuse — Jack Daniels and beer his wet weapons of choice. Years and years of self-medication with the bottle led to the end of two marriages and four trips to rehab. It nearly killed him.
Battling multiple major surgeries and concussions, while trying to deal with the day-to-day onslaught of physical and mental issues that arise from boasting an enforcer role such as the one McCarty played so well throughout his career, the four-time Stanley Cup champion turned to booze and prescription painkillers to deal with the pain.
It wasn’t until much later in his career that McCarty was introduced to the plant he would eventually credit for saving his life.
“For me, growing up, you were either a jock or stoner, so I never smoked pot growing up, but I've been drinking since I was 12 or 13 years old. That was acceptable in the hockey circles, it's just culturally what was accepted,” McCarty told Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press.
“So I would always say no to pot, until after my first surgery in 1999. I was on all these pills, and it was driving me crazy. And I'm an insomniac, so I can't sleep, and that had a lot to do with all the drinking.”
A friend suggested he try cannabis for his multitude of issues, and McCarty says "something went off in my head and it was like my body said yes."
Though that was the moment he was first introduced to cannabis as a therapeutic compound, his drinking continued heavily until the point of near-collapse for another 16 years. In 2015, a medical marijuana caregiver and several of McCarty’s close friends isolated him for a full week and gave him "gram after gram" of Rick Simpson Oil, an extra-potent cannabis oil concentrate that has shown almost miraculous results in some cancer patients, epileptics, and addicts.
“I was in a coma and when I woke up after seven days, I didn't have a physical addiction," he said. "I dropped to my knees and said, 'Thank God.'“
McCarty claims he hasn't had a drink since. He’s lost around 60 pounds, quit smoking cigarettes, and is off most of his prescription medications, according to the Free Press.
"If you've seen my progress over the past 10 years, you've seen me go through different stages from the alcoholism, which led me to this plant saving my life," he said. "I feel like I’m 35. I'm not lying. I feel like Benjamin Button."
McCarty, now a leading advocate on marijuana in sport and pursuing his own legal cannabis business ventures in Michigan, doesn’t buy for one second the notion that he’s simply “trading one substance for another” in regards to his regular, daily weed use.
“No, because it's a plant,” he said. “I live my life by the principles, the 12 steps. But you know what? There's a friggin’ garden in my program.
“And the bottom line is, I'm not drinking. I'm not doing coke. I'm not doing pills. I'm not smoking cigarettes. In my book, what you think about me is none of my business because I know I'm right. The big fella told me so.”
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