Staying Sober With Daniel Baldwin

Caught in a battle with addiction for nearly two decades, the actor reaches out.

March 28, 2008, 12:20 PM

March 28, 2008— -- For more than 18 years, actor Daniel Baldwin has battled an addiction to smoking cocaine. He has been in and out of rehab nine times, and in January, he joined the reality TV show "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew," planning to serve as a mentor to the other participants. But during the fourth episode, Baldwin left the show, saying it was "no longer conducive to my sobriety. Period."

At the end of 2006, he allowed ABC News cameras unprecedented access to his seven-month journey through rehab at Renaissance Malibu, one of the most exclusive rehab facilities in the country. He struggled to rid his body of drugs, dealt with mounting legal problems, resumed his acting career and began to rebuild relationships that were affected by his addiction.

The hourlong ABC News documentary received an overwhelming response last summer, and Baldwin received dozens of letters, some offering support and some asking for help.

One letter stuck out for Baldwin. It was a note written by Kristen O'Hara on the night the ABC News program ran. Kristen's 22-year-old son, Eamon, went from honor roll student and star athlete to a binge drinking, emotional, financial burden on his parents and loving younger brother and sister.

Baldwin remembers passages of the letter that were so vivid he can recite them from memory.

"'Eamon woke up yesterday morning on the freeway, to a face full of glass,'" he recalls."' He was drunk, passed out, and smashed his car up. No one was hurt, but he easily could have been killed, or could have killed someone else.'"

Kristen expressed her hope that it wasn't going to take Eamon 20 more years to hit rock bottom and figure out he had a problem, as it did for the 46-year-old Baldwin.

Baldwin remembered her final plea, "'Is there anything you can do to help me?' And I said, 'I'm going to go try to help this boy.'"

Baldwin says he's been sober since Nov. 22, 2006, and credits part of his success to working on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps of recovery. Helping other addicts by sharing the wisdom of the program is the 12th and final step.

"That's the continuum of life and sobriety here," explained Baldwin. "I'm not just doing this because I'm this great guy that wants to help. I'm doing it because I need to keep sober, and by putting it out there, my experience, strength and hope to the Eamons of the world, I stay sober."

Kristen and Baldwin met once face-to-face and then continued to speak during a number of long-distance phone calls. They worked out a plan to convince Eamon that he had a drinking problem and needed help. Many informal attempts in the past had failed to motivate Eamon to stop.

On Dec. 1, 2007, the day of the surprise intervention had arrived. Baldwin, who says he had participated in many interventions before, left a movie set in Toronto, where he had been filming "Grey Gardens" for HBO with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. He traveled by car with his sober entourage: Scotty Brown, Greg Hanley and John Tarasi.

As Baldwin and his sober friends made the four-hour drive toward central New York, the O'Haras were gathering in Eamon's boyhood home, where his mother and father still live. Pete, Eamon's cousin, was one of the family members in attendance. Pete was not only Eamon's best friend but his boss, too -- that is, when Eamon was sober enough to show up to work. Eamon's 20-year-old brother, Erinn, and 18-year-old sister, Maggie, made long trips home from college for the most important family gathering of their lives.

Maggie hoped her oldest brother would appreciate the family's intervention. But she feared Eamon might take one look at the family sitting in the telltale semicircle of chairs and make a run for it.

"He's such a strong person in certain ways that I really think he's just going to get mad at us. But if we can get him to sit down and actually, like, listen to what we have to say, I think he'll realize how much we're there for the right reasons."

Despite a wild Friday night of binge drinking, Eamon had managed to show up for work that Saturday. When his mother called and asked him to come to her house and help move something, he had no idea what the family had in mind.

As they waited for Eamon to arrive, Baldwin explained the ground rules. He wanted them each to tell Eamon how self-destructive his drinking was, and how that behavior makes them feel. He reminds them that it's important not to make Eamon feel defensive but instead feel loved and supported.

Erinn told Baldwin that the ABC News production equipment set-up to record the intervention would not interfere with what he needs to say to Eamon.

"I know that once my brother comes in here, my emotions are just going to take over," he said. And without warning, Eamon walked in the front door.

He was shocked to see Daniel Baldwin sitting with his entire family in his parent's living room.

"What the hell is going on?" he asked.

Baldwin asked Eamon to have a seat, listen and trust that what is about to happen is very important. One by one the family faced Eamon and shared their love for him, and their fears.

His mother, Kristen, spoke first and declared, "I love you so much, Eamon. And I'm scared all the time." His dad, Tim, echoed the sentiment, saying, "I can remember going over to the house wondering sometimes, and trying to wake you up, if you were still going to be breathing."

Later on, Baldwin described his intervention strategy to ABC News. "I feel like a coach that's recruiting a college athlete," Baldwin said. "The way I set it up, it took some prodding. I guess, you could say I'm trying to trick them into getting emotional in some ways, because I need the subject to see the father cry, to see the mother cry, to see the sister cry, to see how desperate it's gotten."

When Eamon's brother, Erinn, began to wander away from the talking points, Baldwin challenged him by asking a provocative question. "Do you remember what you said when I asked you what you love about Eamon right now?"

"I love nothing about you right now," Erinn told Eamon. "It's heartbreaking. I want you in my life. The way it used to be."

Eamon sat still for 40 minutes during the emotional testimonials. Then Baldwin explained that he had arranged for Eamon to attend a 28-day rehab program at The Malibu Beach Recovery Center (known at the time as the Marshak Rehabilitation Clinic) in Malibu, Calif. if he agreed to get on a plane that night.

And if he graduated from rehab, he would be allowed to join the Club Soba sober-living facility.

The support of his family and the evidence of his addiction became overwhelming. Tears rolled down Eamon's face, and he agreed to go.

"Thank you. I need help, and I guess I'm going to get it. Yesterday, I probably drank around 40 beers. I didn't see it was a problem until all the people who cared about me, my family and friends, showed me what a problem it was to them. They're giving me hard facts, and I just didn't see them as big a deal as they actually are."

Eamon left behind his beer-bottle-strewn apartment for Malibu, the rehab mecca of California, and for the first time in more than five years, Kristen O'Hara felt she would be able to get a good night's sleep.

"It's like a big boulder's been taken off all of our shoulders," she said. "We've been walking on pins and needles for years. And, you know, now we know he's in a safe place; he's going to get better."

According to Dr. Yakov Marshak, addicts often crave alcohol and drugs because they consume too much sugar and neglect important nutrients. During the Marshak Clinic's 28-day detox and educational rehabilitation program, Eamon was introduced to a low glycemic diet augmented by supplements and intense yoga sessions. Dr. Marshak said his clients find the yoga challenging at first, but often learn to implement it into their lives once they leave.

Graduates work with a therapist on an outpatient basis and many return for weekly alumni events that are used to motivate current clients.

While living at Marshak, Eamon began learning how to live in a different way: sober. After 14 days in treatment, his parents, Tim and Kristen, visited to see how much their son had accomplished.

"I'm just really proud of you," Kristen said, reaching over to touch his hand. Eamon's family entered group counseling and began to work through some of their problems.

Soon January arrived, and Eamon's time at the Marshak Clinic had come to an end. Baldwin arranged for him to stay at Club Soba, the same sober living facility where he currently lives. Eamon began attending daily AA meetings, spending time with others who were also trying to stay clean.

Then, after 60 days of sobriety, Eamon said he felt like a new person.

"I don't really even know who this person is because it's been so long since I've been drunk or using drugs on a daily basis," he said.

Baldwin, who had stayed by his side throughout the monthlong ordeal, offered words of advice. "If you could learn anything from my having to go to rehab the number of times that I've had to go … Stay consistent," Baldwin advised him. "I'm really proud of you, bro."

Since becoming sober, Eamon has taken up photography, started working, and is helping share his experience with other addicts at Club Soba.

"It's better than being drunk," he said. "I got a smile on my face, and I got no substance in me and I'm having a great time."

As Eamon reflected on the benefits of his newfound sobriety, Baldwin realized that Eamon had made a positive impact on him as well.

"Eamon reminds me every day of what it is that I'm supposed to be doing with my life … in order to stay sober myself," he said. "So Eamon was a gift for me, too."

CLICK HERE to read Eamon's first-person account detailing his journey from alcoholism to sobriety.

To learn more about online resources for battling drug and alcohol addiction, please CLICK HERE.