Walker Hayes Recalls ‘Gross’ Moment He Almost Lost His Sobriety

Walker Hayes battled alcoholism for years before becoming sober, but it hasn’t always been an easy demon to conquer. The 42-year-old recalls a moment, amid deep personal tragedy, when he almost gave it up, later feeling overwhelmed with sorrow at the path he came perilously close to choosing.

“I was two years sober when we lost Oakley, and I drove to this bar to just self-destruct,” Hayes recalls on Apple Music Country’s Country Faith Radio with Hillary Scott. “I didn’t care if I killed someone, got killed, got arrested… And when I got to this bar, my wallet wasn’t in the door of my Honda. So I turned around and went home, and when I walked in the home, I remember I still had dirt on my shoe from burying Oakley. And I saw Laney alone on the couch; the other kids were all playing together, and I was just broken. For once in my life I had no one to blame.”

Hayes’ selfishness in the moment turned out to be a pivotal moment in his life, when he realized he needed a healthier way to process his grief.

“I just was so icky,” Hayes recalls. “I just felt so gross. I was like, ‘Man, I just left my best friend to go and focus on me. I just left my kids to focus on me. But at the same time, they lost a sibling. She lost a daughter.’ All I could see was my own pain. And that frustrated me. Laney found me an AA meeting that night. I explained to her kind of what I was going through and she helped me find an AA meeting and it was amazing.”

Hayes still sometimes can’t believe he is now a successful country music singer, who wants to speak about his Christian faith as much as he wants to talk about his career. It’s a long way from where Hayes was early in his life, when he only wanted to focus on himself.

“I’m ashamed to say this, but I would’ve called myself an atheist, a humanist, for most of my married adult life,” Hayes admits. “Just like everybody, I come from a big family. We got some issues. There are issues with addiction. There’s absence. There’s a lot of heartbreak in all families, and sadly, that turned me to just kind of a godless phase, I would’ve said.”

Hayes’ struggle to get his music heard, and his failed record deals, only contributed to his self-destructive behavior.

“Laney and I walked through that together,” Hayes admits. “I’m an alcoholic. I’m seven years sober now, but I wasn’t thinking about becoming sober for a very long time. That was a problem in our marriage.”

Hayes is still sober, which he says is because of both his faith, and his commitment to AA, which he still attends.

“I actually do go to AA, and AA is great,” Hayes said on Southern Living‘s Biscuits & Jam podcast (via iHeartRadio). “It’s wonderful for me, and I will never stop going. It is awesome, but when I drank that first beer, when I was 13, 14, my end goal was not to go to AA. It wasn’t to go to rehab. It wasn’t to use something that would eventually control me.”

Hayes’ current single, “Y’all Life,” is in the Top 30. He is currently on his Glad You’re Here Tour. Find music and concert dates at WalkerHayes.com.

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