Because of Fairbanks: Darrell No Longer Lives in Fear

Looking at him today, you would never know that 56-year-old Darrell spent most of his life in fear. Darrell grew up in a tough neighborhood in Pine Bluff, Arkansas with his parents and older brother. His parents fought violently, but his brother kept him safe.

“When my parents started fighting, my brother and I would run to my grandma’s house,” says Darrell. “I didn’t want to be hurt or see anyone else hurt.”

As a child, Darrell struggled with a speech impediment and was afraid to speak. But that all changed at the age of 12 when he discovered alcohol during an overnight stay at his cousin’s house. Instantly, Darrell liked the way it made him feel.

“I went outside, talked to the other kids, and didn’t stutter once,” says Darrell. “For the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid.”

From that point on, Darrell looked for alcohol anywhere he could find it. Quickly, his life began spiraling out of control with drinking, stealing, gang involvement and multiple run-ins with the law. To avoid prison, he joined the Army when he was 18, but instead of turning his life around, things only got worse.

“When the war ended I was introduced to heroin. The first time I tried it, I knew I’d do it for the rest of my life,” says Darrell.

The following years were a blur of different states, prisons, Salvation Armies and the streets. Eventually, Darrell returned to his home town where he met the woman who became his wife—the first person who truly believed in him and wanted him to get help. Darrell’s daughter lived in Indiana, and with her help, his wife found Fairbanks. The next day Darrell was on a flight to Indy.

At first, Darrell admits he didn’t want to participate in group therapy and tried to keep to himself. He thought nobody could possibly understand him, because from his perspective, there wasn’t anybody like him. Then one day a staff member expressed her empathy and uttered the words, “I understand.” 

Darrell knew that, she too, had once struggled and he was finally able to see that there were people at Fairbanks who understood.

“I knew treatment, but I didn’t know how to apply it to me,” says Darrell. “I learned that it doesn’t matter where you come from, the pain of addiction is the same.”

Darrell began opening up to others and did everything the Fairbanks staff suggested—from detox, to partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, supportive living and recovery management. They even helped him secure veteran housing while he continued his recovery program and gave back to Fairbanks as a volunteer.

Today, Darrell volunteers 20 hours a week at Fairbanks, telling his story to current patients, greeting families in the access center and assisting the maintenance staff. His relationship with his family has been restored and recently, Darrell’s wife and children moved to Indiana and are enjoying their new lives as Hoosiers.

“I didn’t think it was possible for me to have the life I’m living today,” says Darrell. “Today I’m living, not just existing. I fear nothing now.”