A State of Flow – Darin’s Story

Six years ago, I was sleeping in a stairwell in the dead of winter.  I had been on the streets of Denver for seven years.  My addiction to meth had taken me from the peak of graduating at the University of Colorado Business School, to being covered up in snow and freezing to near death in this outdoor stairwell. 

I woke up and a voice inside told me to “Get up now!”.  I wandered into a nearby hospital and tried to just get warm.  A kind woman saw me and instead of chasing me out, she brought me some hot coffee and started to talk with me in a kind, loving voice.  She asked me how I came to be in such a difficult place in my life and I began to tear up.  She then spoke to me about going home to my family, who only lived 30 miles away in Louisville, CO.  I told her I was too ashamed and hadn’t contacted them in over 5 years.  They probably thought I was dead.  I then looked at the name of the hospital and it said Rose Medical Center.  I suddenly realized I had walked into the very same hospital I was born in, and something clicked.

I followed her advise that next week, and like the prodigal son i arrived at my parents doorstep on Christmas Day, 2013.  I weighed 110 lbs and was missing teeth.  I was scared and paced in front of the house for 20 minutes before I finally rang the doorbell.  They greeted me with open arms and when I walked in everyone parted way and I saw my mom standing there with tears of joy in her eyes.  I hugged them all and it was a joyous occasion.  A true Christmas miracle.

But unfortunately all that joy triggered my addiction, and reminded me that It was in charge.  I told my family I would return but I had “things to take care of in Denver”

I used that night, and for another week.  I simply didn’t feel I was worthy of such love after I had abandoned them for so long.  Those were the darkest days of my life.

Luckily they kept reaching out and with some difficulty we were able to help me find Sobriety House here in Denver.  We didn’t have the money for most treatment centers, but Sobriety House had one bed available if I was willing to give sobriety a real shot.  That phone call saved my life.

I graduated Sobriety House and had some difficulty finding work.  I hadn’t had a job in over 7 years, so I started cooking at the Sobriety House during the weekends and found an organization called CrossPurpose that accepted me into their program. 

CrossPurpose was the start of something big for me.  They helped me pay for school at Emily Griffith where I learned Video Production.  They also helped me get a job at Colorado Public Television as a member of the Production crew.  When I got my first paycheck i smiled.  I told them “you know, I used to sleep outside in the alley of this building, now you pay me to be here”, they always get a kick out of that.

I continued with CrossPurpose through their career development program, and after graduating I was offered a position at Sobriety House full time as a house manager.  It included an apartment and salary.  I have since worked hard to become a CAC I and counselor with this organization and continue to work here and at CPT 12.

Over the last 6 years I have travelled around the world, met the Pope and Dalai Lama.  Been skydiving twice, and continue my program everyday.  I pass on what I have learned to others just beginning their journey and am of service to several of my AA and CA fellowships.  I have shared my story on Colorado Public Radio and continue to share it at meetings across Denver.  I have found my purpose, and it is sharing my experience so that others may find their way.

Last year CrossPurpose asked its graduates if they would like to join a new dimension of leadership in the community called the Change Agency.  It was a 6 month incubator for ideas to create lasting social impact on our community.  I presented my idea for Colorado Artists in Recovery. (CAiR)

Two years into my recovery I was extremely depressed.  I was working and going to school and hitting meetings, but there was this darkness in my soul.  I got on my knees and asked my Higher Power for help.  There has to be something more in life.  Life seemed like this endless treadmill.

The next day my prayer was answered.  I started hearing violin music everywhere I went.  Coffee shops, grocery stores, on my Pandora station.  I went to a local meeting called Artists in Recovery and I shared this with them.  After the meeting a woman approached me and said “you know I teach violin, would you like to learn?”

I immediately said, no, i am too old to learn…”she stopped me there and said

“I didn’t ask you that.  If you are willing to do what I say, I will teach you” and she also gave me her mothers violin.

I have been playing violin now for almost 4 years.  And whenever I start getting into self pity, or fear…I play that violin.  It puts me in a state of Flow…and time dissapears.  All my worries and anxiety settle down and I am free.

That is the gift I have to offer others in recovery from addiction. 

I complete the Change Agency and now am a coach with them for future classes.  I was awarded $4000 to continue my idea.  We have recently filed with the Secretary of State and are filing with the IRS for 501c3 status.

We graduated our first class with a performance night this last summer.  The class was called “Speaking the Language of Music”.  8 brave souls took the class for 12 weeks, and at the end we held a performance night.  They all got up on stage and though they were incredibly scared, performed in front of the crowd.  It was the most incredible spiritual experience of my life.  I looked up at the moon and stars that night, and I knew…that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

There is a poem called “The Touch of the Masters Hand” that I like to turn to in times of darkness, to remind me that life is a journey, and it will be the darkest times of your life that will truly shape who you are…

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

"And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand, 
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought 
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

There have been so many blessings in my life over the past six years that it is difficult to share them all in this story. 

But the greatest gift I have been given is the love and support from my family.  I am the oldest of ten children, and they all thought i was dead.  One night before I got sober, I was telling my mom about my big plans.  I looked at her and she was crying deep tears I had never seen before…

“Darin, a mother is not supposed to bury her son…that is not how life is supposed to happen.”  I believe my spirit shifted in that moment.  And choosing a life of sobriey has enabled me to be the son, brother, and man…I was always meant to be. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share this with someone who is struggling right now…whether its the addict, or someone who loves them.

God Bless

Darin Valdez

Change Agent