Darren Whitaker, one of our newest employees, is someone who knows what it takes to overcome adversity. Today, let’s take some time to learn his story.
As a baby, nine-month-old Darren nearly lost his life. He was scalded by bathwater so badly that he lost most of the skin on his legs. His injuries required numerous skin graft surgeries, and he didn’t walk until the age of four. Embarrassed by the scars on his legs, he wore pants all the time. Darren recalls that the last time he visited the burn center, at the age of seven, it was ninety degrees outside, and he was wearing corduroy pants. When the doctor asked why he was wearing such hot pants in the summer, Darren admitted he was self-conscious about the scars. Grabbing his hand, the doctor exclaimed that he should be happy to wear shorts, because not only was he not supposed to be walking, he could have died.
Darren grew up in a strict household. His adopted parents were older in age and overly cautious, which meant that Darren didn’t spend a lot of time with other kids his age or engage in a lot of typical activities. Instead of playing outside, he spent a lot of time watching his adopted mom cook. They discouraged him from playing football due to his injuries for many years, but his freshman year of high school he decided to try out, and he made the team.
When Darren arrived home that afternoon to tell his parents the exciting news, he was greeted by a tearful mother – his adopted father passed away while he was at school. Three years later, he lost his adopted mother as well. It was at this time that Darren first began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He was 17. Darren recalls that he also began selling marijuana and joined up with the GHC – Get High Crew. “From that point on, drinking was all I wanted to do.” Darren recounts.
For the next 20 years, Darren was an on again, off again alcoholic. He was able to stop drinking for as long as two years, but every time he went back, he drank like he was making up for lost time. When he received his second DUI in 2014, the judge gave him the option of treatment or jail time, and Darren chose treatment, reasoning that he would get out of jail faster. While at Aspell, he had an unexpected experience. Darren recalls that one week into his stay, he went into his room and thanked God for sending him to Aspell and asked that He remove Darren’s desire for alcohol. Darren concluded, “I haven’t had the desire since.”
After successfully completing our residential program (his first time in treatment!), Darren went on to complete our IOP program and eventually moved into Talbot Towers on his birthday, five years ago. Since his adoptive parents passed away and many of his biological family members are still involved in drugs and alcohol, Darren doesn’t have a supportive family network. He noted that living on Aspell’s campus means always having people around for socializing. Living here allows him to have neighbors who he knows well and with whom he has meaningful conversations about life and sobriety.
Darren has been working with us since December, and we are elated that he loves working here. He especially enjoys the flexibility and creativity he is allowed in the kitchen. As the weekend cook, Darren doesn’t always know exactly what he will have to work with until he gets to work, which is fun for him. After 23 years of cooking, Darren has learned that when people are quiet while eating his food, that’s when he knows he did a good job. Darren is thankful for the opportunity to give back to Aspell, and we are so thankful he is a part of our family.
If you would like to help more people like Darren overcome their obstacles and addictions, you may do so by clicking the support tab at the top of the page. As always, we thank you for taking the time to catch up with us.