Walker Hayes’ life could have gone in an entirely different direction. The singer-songwriter had a lengthy struggle with alcoholism, one he ultimately conquered, although he admits it is a battle he has to fight daily.
“I’m eight years sober this October,” Hayes tells Fox News. “I woke up one day when I was working at Costco. I was working at Costco from 4:00 to 11:00, and then writing, and then playing shows. And man, it caught up to me. And honestly, I had been drinking since I was probably like 13.”
Hayes had no idea when he stopped drinking one day that it was the unlikely beginning of his sobriety journey, one that includes many near-misses and heartache.
“I woke up one Saturday, and I just felt like I was going to die,” Hayes remembers. “I felt like physically if I did one more day, something was wrong. And so I stopped, and then one day turned into two, and then two turned into a week. And then a week turned into a month. And then I did the whole high on sobriety thing and got into working out and stuff. Kind of traded a bad addiction for some good ones. But then the good ones, they become bad also, so I went through that process.”
Hayes came precariously close to returning to drinking again, when he and his wife, Laney, lost their seventh child, Oakleigh, shortly after she was born.
“I have no idea how I stayed sober through the loss of our seventh child,” Hayes acknowledges. “But I had a best friend named Craig [Cooper] who really, really allowed the Lord through him to love on me through some nasty, nasty stuff. And I’m talking about stuff where most people would be drawn away from me, you know?”
In the immediate aftermath of losing Oakleigh, Hayes was angry — really angry — and decided he not only wanted to drink, he wanted to fight. He drove to a bar, only to realize he didn’t have his wallet. When he returned, Laney suggested he attend an AA meeting, and it changed his life.
“I remember going into that AA meeting,” Hayes recounts. “And the first dude that stood up – he was telling his story. And the first line he said was, ‘I was angry.’ And I was captivated. I was like, ‘Me, too.’ And I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even meet anybody. I just went to that AA meeting and went home. But that AA meeting saved my life that night.”
The 43-year-old also nearly gave up on his sobriety at the height of the pandemic, when he couldn’t tour or perform, and instead was stuck at home. It was a recipe for disaster, one he avoided thanks to his family, his friends and his faith.
“There were a couple of nights during COVID where all the mechanisms that I lean on were gone, and I was like, ‘Dang, nobody would know tonight if I just did it,’ Hayes shares. “But I had friends who supported me, and I support them as much as I can. But we’re good. Eight years, and it’s a day-to-day thing.”