We had the opportunity to speak with Eric Daddario, a former NCAA Division 1 hockey player. While Eric was pursuing his dreams of playing professional hockey, his brother was secretly struggling with addiction. Eric spent some time talking to us about the affect decisions have on you and your future, but more importantly the impact he is having on the youth he is speaking with.
The GM’s Perspective: Who is Eric Daddario?
Eric Daddario: I am a professional speaker that speaks to the youth about the importance of decision making and how the decisions they make now can have a long term effect on their future.
I had a younger brother who passed away a little over four years ago from a heroin overdose. Growing up in high school I was with him at the house parties when he was drinking and when he was smoking. I was with him in the woods when he was making those decisions and doing cocaine. And I thought to myself at the time it wasn’t a big deal. We live in a great neighborhood, our parents love us and make good money…this isn’t going to happen to him.
I found out that he was messing around with pills. I said to myself that this isn’t good and I have to do something. But I never did. I never did because I was so afraid of the judgment I would get from my brother and my friends by being labeled a snitch. So I kept my mouth shut and I walked around like everything was OK, but inside I was so nervous about what could happen.
It’s crazy to me right now looking back on it that I cared more about people’s judgment than what could happen to my brother. And he paid the ultimate price. He passed away at 26 years old in 2016 from a heroin overdose.
I’m devoting my life to having that conversation. It’s getting people to speak up for others who are making these choices or afraid to because of judgment from their peers.
GMs: What is Decisions by Eric?
ED: I’ve been speaking for a little over a year. My biggest point is the “decisions we make now” in high school or middle school put you on the road to where you’re going in life. If you really think about it, the decisions you make now predict just about everything that can and will happen to us. I believe we can get the youth to realize the importance of their and others decisions.
GMs: What kind of audience have you been speaking to?
ED: I’m focusing on youth (high school/middle school) audiences. Maybe someday college students for now I am focusing on the youth.
GMs: What’s been the response to your presentations?
ED: When I first started, I thought to myself I have to tell my brother’s story. I was trying to reach the kids who were abusing substances in the audience. But I would always have kids come up to me after asking what they should do about their friend or sibling who is making poor decisions like my brother was. I sat back and thought about how I could tailor my presentation to helping kids like me who know someone making poor decisions and inspire them to speak up. I recognized that being vulnerable with my story really impacted the students. Students often come up to me after and break down worried and nervous because they are scared for that friend or sibling making these choices. They want to say something to an adult but they are scared just like I was and don’t know how to approach the situation. My talk is raw and filled with authenticity. I take this very seriously.
GMs: Did you ever think that you’d be a person that would be looked at as a role model or someone that could change people’s lives?
ED: I don’t know if I could say yes? But I can tell you I would be the kid when others were making these poor decisions who would say “nah, I’m good” and I’d get out of a situation. Why…because of hockey.
Hockey was so important to me. As you know, when you play anything at a high level, you want to make it. I wanted to make it as far as I could. I lost vision in my eye in the eighth grade. When this happened to me I got made fun of and people called me hurtful names. I was very self conscious, had low self-esteem, but my saving grace was hockey. It motivated me and kept me going. So when kids would be out doing things, I’d be in my cellar shooting pucks trying to better my craft.
Additionally, I was away at prep school for hockey, so I was removed from the environment in my hometown high school. And that was probably one of the big things that saved me. I don’t know which road I would have gone down if I stayed in that environment, but I was able to go down a different path because of hockey.
GMs: What’s one takeaway or one piece of advice you could give to someone reading this?
ED: We need to know that we have a support system around us. We need to know that we have people that we can speak up to that will help if we’re nervous about decisions someone we care about is making.
Overall, we need to take a step back when we make these important decisions in our lives and ask how will this affect my life?