Author, entrepreneur and sports and celebrity agent Darren Prince has done a lot in life. He says what motivates him most now is helping others struggling with addiction.
When he was 14, he started making enough money to look into securing insurance to protect the value of the baseball card collection he amassed and began selling.
It was also at that age when Prince was introduced to a prescription narcotic that would open the door to addiction and dependence that eventually put him at rock-bottom as an adult.
“It started with a green liquid I was given, by a nurse, for a stomachache at sleep-away summer camp,” Prince said. “But every inadequacy I had previously felt, went away just like that. I felt just as smart as everyone else, just as good looking, just as funny.”
Three months later, Prince had his wisdom teeth removed and felt the same euphoria from prescription pain-killers prescribed post-surgery.
“Now, having money on my side, from the baseball card business, I was able to get anything I needed,” Prince said. “For the next six or seven years, I just partied like a rock star, with no legal repercussions until at 21 I was arrested four times, possession charges.”
Prince shared some of that story with the Index-Journal in a sit-down interview last week at Inn on the Square and later that evening with Oaks Recovery of Greenwood, for a commencement ceremony.
Oaks Recovery of Greenwood provides short and long-term recovery residential programs for men seeking recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.
Prince said his Aiming High Foundation is helping to fund recovery treatment for a limited number of people locally, who could not otherwise afford it.
“I would buy, sell and trade baseball cards and my dad gave me all the support I needed,” Prince, now 51, said, noting it all started with a trade show at a Holiday Inn. “As of this past August, I got back into cards, as an investor, because the market’s on fire right now. ... Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and vintage cards from years ago.”
By the time he was 16, Prince said he was making a quarter of a million dollars. At age 19, he sold the company, Prince of Cards, and went into autograph signings with celebrities and athletes.
“I went for the biggest name in the word at the time, Muhammad Ali,” Prince said. Prince went on to grow his portfolio of representation with clients such as Magic Johnson, Hulk Hogan, Charlie Sheen, Dennis Rodman, Chevy Chase, Pamela Anderson, Denise Richards, Carmen Electra and the late Joe Frazier and Evel Knievel.
Prince’s business model evolved from autographs to celebrity and athlete agent representation through Prince Marketing Group.
In his book, “Aiming High” he talks about it all, including financial troubles when he was still in the memorabilia business.
Outpatient programs, and later, a massive concussion and waking up in an intensive care unit, after a friend fell asleep behind the wheel, weren’t the bottom yet, for Prince.
Prescription drug addiction followed.
“I guess opiates have a different effect on me than some other people,” Prince said. “It gave me a sense of euphoria, no matter how I ingested it ... but, it was a way of life that eventually beat me to my knees after a couple overdoses.”
At 38, Prince said someone close to him pointed out that he was an addict. She herself knew the struggle to get sober, he said.
Today, Prince said he has lived 12 years of sobriety, “a gift” he calls it, and credits 12-step programs with instilling him with hope and motivation for recovery.
“Now, I use the addictive Darren tendencies now to stay healthy,” Prince said. “I make sure I work out in the morning and my diet is religious. ... My sponsor says he doesn’t know one person that overdosed or relapsed from buying too many baseball cards and basketball cards.”
“One day at a time, I surrounded myself with all these spiritual brothers and sisters (in 12-step) and they made me feel so loved. ... You gotta watch out for people places and things. It’s easier to stay sober than to get sober again. We do Zoom meetings every Saturday. I just celebrated my 51st birthday.”
Addiction doesn’t discriminate, especially during a pandemic, Prince said, when people are coping with myriad mental health and socio-economic issues.
“The strength is in asking for the help,” Prince said.