Darren’s Story of Addiction and Triumph
My story began as a child witnessing what I thought were the best parts of life. Up late on weekends, little supervision, and get to hang out with grown-ups. My parents were young when they had me and as an only child, I got to see a lot of stuff. Growing up we weren’t poor, I always had a roof over my head, hot meals, and clothes. So, from an outside perspective our family looked like we had it together. Behind closed doors is where I got a close up of madness and chaos. I witnessed domestic violence, rowdy friends, little to no respect for females, let alone anyone, strong hate for certain races, sexualities, and authority. My parents divorced at the age of 5 and the new man in the picture was of the same nature as my father. Party lifestyle. Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll. The next 3 years of my life, I moved to a different city each year – new friends, new town, new house, new beginnings. At the age of 8 I had my first drink on a camping trip and I remember loving the feeling. I had snuck drinks before in the past and had grown up in the bar scene, being back and forth with my mom and dad. Finally landed in Fort Collins, Colorado where I would remain until I graduated.
Again, my family always wanted more for me than what I had been accustomed to. I was involved in sports where I would find the love of Basketball. I played basketball, football, and track from 3rd grade all the way into my sophomore year of high school. I played year round basketball and was scouted my sophomore year from a D2 school out of Colorado. Basketball was my sanctuary and being that I tried being an adult as a child and being left alone a lot, I finally had a purpose, a place of peace.
During my junior high days, I ran with the delinquents, I could never be satisfied with just being a jock. I enjoyed the chaotic, wreaking-havoc lifestyle. I continued to use in high school – pills, marijuana, and drinking on a weekly to weekend basis. Even got kicked off the basketball team because of minor consumption and possession charges on school grounds. Sophomore year I lost my identity. I continued school and graduated, but at this point I had been into harder drugs. I Figured joining the military would give me the discipline I needed and would make my mother proud. A month before I was supposed to leave for basic, I got busted for felony breaking and entering vehicles in an apartment complex and went to jail. This had not been the first time I had had a visit to jail or done any time. Lost my identity again.
October 3rd, 2010, my son was born. I was so excited to be a father. The father my dad or stepdad never was. I had tried sobriety for a little while but could not remain clean. I was still missing something. I lost custody of my child and would later relocate to North Dakota for work. At this time in my life, I had already been introduced to and on the road with the needle. I had shot heroin, meth, cocaine, and was continuously drinking. Trouble with the law, many arrests, etc. At this point in my life, I believed this was my life – this is who I was. Got married in 2013 with another addict and now I would see my parents come out in me. Physical and emotional abuse towards my spouse, not being loyal, looking for anything to take my pain and discomfort away. The abandonment and needing attention. The next 10 years of my life are filled with black out nights, more arrests, physical emotional abuse, stealing, cheating people, using people for my needs, finding any and all means to get my next high, or drinking. Went to treatment in 2017, 2019 after my mom passed away from this disease, and 2021. I had become someone I didn’t know anymore.
Q: What was your breaking point?
A: My breaking point, I feel, had been going on for a long time, I just could not quit. Every use I tried drifting to heaven, but that’s not where I ended up. I was living in hell. I wasn’t scared to die; I was afraid to live. I was using it against my will, hoping that that next use was my last, or I wouldn’t wake up. I tried suicide once and had thought about it many times prior to coming to Destination Hope. My breaking point, I guess, was when I received the gift of desperation, I had finally had enough, I had a moment of clarity while shooting dope, I had my first spiritual awakening, and it was time.
Q: How were your relationships with your family members prior to that, and did that affect your needing to get treatment?
A: My relationships were bad. I didn’t have relationships and the only reason I called was to get something. I had no use for anyone except when I needed something. My family could not understand why I continued to act the way I did. They still don’t understand. They are not addicts, so it does not add up for them. However, they do support me and can see the changes in me now. I was absent from my son’s life for 8 years. Fact of the matter is I cheated on my family and chose drugs and alcohol over them at all costs, my entire life. Still being early in recovery, I am working on those relationships, but first comes to me. If I can’t love myself or respect myself, I can’t give the same to the people around me.
Q: Who/What got you into Destination Hope? What were you feeling in the days before you arrived?
A: For the first time ever, I called my wife and told her I need help, or I am going to die. I took the rest of the week off, set up everything at Destination Hope. The prior treatment stays were for external motives, like getting out of jail time, pleasing my family, nothing was for me. I was scared because I knew this time was real. I knew this, so I got high the rest of the week until I left. I was going to be thousands of miles from home, no one could save me, no one could come get me, I needed this for me.
Q: Can you talk about your first week of treatment? What does detox feel like emotionally and physically?
A: Honestly, I don’t remember detox, I know I slept a lot. Before coming in, my runs were about 10 to 14 days being up at a time, sleeping for 2-3 days and then back at it.
Q: What was that moment from hating it to realizing it’s saving your life?
A: The moment I realized treatment was saving my life and I stopped hating it came shortly after – a few days in detox…my 5th or 6th day. I had gotten suboxone in the facility. I was so desperate for an alternative feeling that I melted the strip down and sat in the shower debating doing it or not for about 15 min… I ended up snorting it and got a slight buzz off the medication. I already knew I screwed up – I already felt that conscience come over me like a ton of bricks. The next family night, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore. I admitted to “relapsing” and spoke of the importance of putting it out there. If I wouldn’t have told on myself, later down the road, when celebrating milestones, that guilt would have continued to exponentially grow and would had led me out again to a full-blown relapse. At that moment, although one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world – full of a room of strangers and family members, I knew I was in the right place and was more than a 100% into whatever I needed – 100% into suggestions, knowledge, talking about it.
Q: What got you through your rehab journey? What was/is your “Why”?
A: A lot of what got me through is what I’ve heard and like to call my gift of desperation. I had tried every option besides death up to this point and had failed miserably at using. Family gone, wife on the verge of divorce, being absent in my son’s life, not being the best me possible and I knew that. That’s what drove my addiction. I had to be all in, like I was with my addiction. It was the only option left and as days went on, I started to feel a little bit of hope – started having a little bit of faith. I had no idea what day of treatment I was even on. I took the suggestions of not focusing on the days and just doing the work that the day had presented, and before you knew it, I was 3 months into treatment…treatment was like one big day…I had to stay away from counting days and just improve myself somehow, some way. It was very hard – there had been nights I got very little sleep even with sleep aid…triggers, cravings, thoughts, and at those times even though I didn’t know what or who I was praying to I prayed. I wrote down my thoughts in a journal…I didn’t have the option to numb the pain, so I had to do what would work at the time.
Q: Was there a day/moment that you were most proud of while you were at DH?
A: A day I was most proud at DH was when I coined out. I didn’t realize the impact I had made in many others with my story. I didn’t think I was that significant. A lot of times you feel like you’re on repeat with your emotions and saying the same exact thing day in day out without noticing that you’re progressing. Through how you speak, how it’s being handled…turning your problem into some kind solution…it was at that moment I realized I had a big impact on people. I had to something to offer…it actually turned my mindset into finding my own purpose in the fact that maybe I can change people’s lives or be a part of that journey. Today I do want to work in treatment. I’ve spent a lot of years using people, hurting people – my own blood and to give back in a way that is so unselfish. Not only because it helps that person, but it helps me stay clean too.
Q: Looking back, is there something you would have done differently that might help someone else going through this right now?
A: That’s a hard question to answer. I have come to the point that I don’t regret my past and what I’ve done because if I wouldn’t have gone through what I did, it wouldn’t have brought me to where I am today, if that makes sense. Would I have liked to get this sober thing sooner? Absolutely. But I can’t dwell on would have, could have, should have. I’m just grateful I got it before I was dead or killed somebody else and had to live with that for the rest of my life. The best thing for anyone going through it now is reaching out but no one will be ready until they are ready. All bottoms are different.
Q: Have any relationships improved because of your recovery journey?
A: My marriage is still taking lots of work as well as many other relationships. Did a lot of damage over the years. It’s very hard to get better and all of sudden you want everything to change. We’re addicts – we want it now. But part of the process is recognizing the turmoil that’s been done and some relationships may never change – they may be too far gone. But I can say I have a willing wife to want to stay around and try. I have a relationship with my son’s mom who wants me around and was scared I was going to die and wants me to be in my son’s life for the first time in years. I’ve been able to cut off toxic relationships that did me no good or had no purpose.
Building trust within my family is challenging but wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t clean.
Q: How has your view of your life changed since you’ve gone through your recovery journey? Have your goals changed?
A: My view of life has changed tremendously…before I didn’t know how to live, I was scared to live. All I knew was chaos, destruction, and failure. I wasn’t scared of death. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how many times I had shot up or blacked out drunk so much hoping I didn’t wake up. I wanted to die but didn’t want to feel the pain of death. I was all too familiar with pain of life…my suicide attempt – the only thing that kept me from eating a bullet was my son growing up without a dad knowing that that’s what he’d have to explain. So today, although life is on life’s terms, I am happy that I am not in that lonely dark place I once was. I couldn’t even examine how cold dark lonely that place was and how I made it out. Today I am excited for a future…excited for what I can become without drugs and alcohol – never thought life was possible without those things.