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An Arizona man overcame addiction to inspire others and raise funds for charity

Michael Murtaugh is heading to the Bay Area for a perilous swim to raise money for a good cause.

PHOENIX — Michael Murtaugh found drugs and alcohol at a young age.

"At 11 years old, right before 7th grade, I started smoking weed,” he said. “I started drinking beer before the dances."

It was more of an escape from his troubled home, but the habit turned into an addiction that consumed him for decades.

After seven arrests, the specter of addiction that haunted Murtaugh for years became too much. At a crossroads in his life, Michael chose health.  

"For the first time in my life I did something that I was brought up not to do, I snitched on myself,” he remembered. “I said, ‘I need help.’ And I was crying.”

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Murtaugh, who now lives in Arizona, became living proof that addiction can be overcome, but it’s not easy. He knows this first-hand, and he’s using his newfound health to help others.

Awareness and inspiration are what Murtaugh is hoping to spread when he plunges into the frigid waters of the Bay Area in California on Monday.

It’s all a part of his Race for Recovery event to raise money for families with relatives battling addiction.

Murtaugh will embark on a 1.6-mile swim from the notorious Alcatraz prison back to land without a wetsuit and while wearing handcuffs to symbolize the hardship addicts face.

“It’s to symbolize you can break the chains of addiction…to remind me of the seven times I was arrested,” he said on why he’s undertaking the swim with extra handicaps. “And then the third [reason] is it's the chakras that are aware of my legs.”

To mark the symbolism of his seven arrests, Murtaugh’s seventh swim on Monday will be his last. It marks the end of his journey of redemption.

But there’s still work to be done for thousands of other people battling addiction and who are seeking wellness.

The Race For Recovery supports Parents of Addicted Loved Ones. Click or tap here to learn how you can support Murtaugh.

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