It is not everyday that college students get a chance to meet an eight-time all-star baseball player and a four-time World Series champion at their own school. On Tuesday April 18, students were able to do so when MLB legend Darryl Strawberry came to Fairfield to speak about his past drug and alcohol abuse and subsequent recovery.
Strawberry’s presence on campus was co-sponsored by the Recovery Houses for students struggling with substance abuse, which is part of the Collegiate Recovery Program headed by Counseling & Psychological Services.
Strawberry also dined with the residents of the Recovery Houses. During his speech, Strawberry said, “I had an amazing time sharing experiences, strength and hope with the guys [at the Recovery Houses] to show that, no matter how far down the scale you fall, your life matters. God cares about you, and I’m a testament to that.”
During an exclusive interview with The Mirror, Strawberry discussed the role his faith in God had in his recovery.
“My faith is the major part of my recovery because that is how I got clean and sober, through church, God and faith. It really healed me inside.”
Strawberry emphasized the importance of letting those who are struggling with substance abuse know that they are loved and being supportive of them.
“If no one told you they love you today, I’m going to tell you I love you,” Strawberry said to the packed crowd at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. “And that’s why I’m here.”
“They don’t even love themselves because they are rejected by everyone for being drug addicts,” Strawberry said of those who struggle with substance abuse.
“Strawberry has used his hardships to help others,” commented Joleen Roberti ’19. “I was really moved at how he has chosen to live his life after overcoming his addictions in order to share his story and help as many people as he can. His strong faith and desire to show everyone that they are loved was uplifting and inspirational.”
To inspire those who are struggling with substance abuse, Strawberry spoke about his own life to encourage others not to make the same mistakes he did.
“I felt very at ease talking to him,” said Stephen Dierks ‘18 who attended the talk and was able to speak with Strawberry afterwards. “I felt inspired to be able to speak to someone who’s been through so much and is now having such a positive impact on those around him.”
While being a successful baseball player for the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees, Strawberry’s life was filled with drug and alcohol abuse and run-ins with the law. Strawberry spent a lot of time in and out of prison, until he turned his life around and got clean and sober.
“It doesn’t matter how successful I was as a person because I was broken inside and I had emptiness inside,” he said of his hard times.
Strawberry warned the young people in the audience against using “harmless” drugs like marijuana and prescription drugs.
“People say that marijuana doesn’t do anything and that it’s not dangerous, but marijuana is the gateway to everything else,” Strawberry said.
In regards to prescription drugs, Strawberry does not believe in doctors prescribing and parents allowing kids drugs.
“Take Ibuprofen, take Aleve or take something else, because if you take prescription drugs you’re going to need something else and it will get you hooked on other drugs.”
Strawberry commended the Recovery House program at Fairfield, which purposely houses students off-campus apart from the temptations typically associated with on-campus dorming.
“This program is remarkable,” Strawberry said. “I wish they had a program like this at every school.”
After getting clean, Strawberry began Strawberry Ministries with his wife, a group that helps those struggling with substance abuse through faith in God.
Strawberry has also become a minister after finding a deeper faith in God.
“You have to hit rock bottom when you struggle with substance abuse,” he said of the difficult times in his life. “Most people don’t think they ever will … but one day you’ll wake up and you’ll wonder ‘how did I get here?’ because it’ll happen so fast.”
According to Strawberry, religious faith needs to be brought back into the homes, schools and communities of young people for them to stay away from substance abuse dangers.
“It’s not about what I accomplish,” Strawberry said. “It’s about the legacy I leave … In the end, God’s not going to ask how many home runs I got; he’s going to ask me how I helped the broken people.”
When asked about it in the audience Q&A that followed the talk, Strawberry admitted that he is still proud of his accomplishments in baseball.
“I was pretty crazy back then. I knew how to play the game. I’m pretty proud of how crazy I was and what I did.”
Strawberry offered some final words of hope for the audience.
“If a miracle happened for me, a miracle will happen for you. Don’t quit before it does.”