The Road First Taken


What started out as a “40 oz.” and peer pressure at the age of 12, eventually led Darnell to add marijuana to the mix early in the 1980’s. By the mid 80’s, this teenager began what he referred to as “a whole new ballgame” as cocaine and full-blown addiction took over his life.

“At 16 years old, I made the decision to drop out of high school,” Darnell said. “I couldn’t hold down a job for any length of time and eventually, I ended up in the county jail with drug charges. I shared my cell with my cousin who had the same issues as I did. He told me about the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) which was being operated by the Salvation Army in Cleveland. Since I had no place to go, their offer of 60-90 days of a warm safe place to be, I chose to go there. But soon after my arrival, I failed a breathalyzer test and was dismissed from the program.”

Once back out on the streets, his old addiction habits returned. He soon found himself in trouble with the law again and was sentenced to prison for robbery and felonious assault.

“When I got out in 2000, my parole officer told me I needed a fresh start. For the second time, I went into a treatment program. But within 90 days, I was back in trouble,” Darnell recalled. “It wasn’t until 2006, that I was once again cold, homeless with no place to go, that I made the decision for myself to go back into treatment.”

Third Time’s The Charm

For Darnell, the third time was the charm. He respected the rules he was given and began to evaluate his life. He had been raised by a single mother who worked hard to raise her two boys by herself. He reflected on what he had done with his life. And, as he stuck to the program, he began to feel better about himself and his future possibilities.

What was different about this time? First, he had made the decision to go for treatment on his own. Next, he became active in the 12-Step Program which he had never participated in before. But according to Darnell, the real ‘secret sauce’ for him was the people who he encountered during this stay.

“I managed to turn an 8-month program into a 13-month program because I was fearful of failing on my own. But for me, it was my relationship with the people helping me work the program who had lived the same life I had been living but had overcome their bad behavior and were now living a much more productive, happy existence that gave me the hope I needed that I too could turn my life around.”

Now armed with an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, Darnell was living a changed life. During this time, he met a woman whom he fell in love with who was from Wooster. She was a graduate of Beacon House, OneEighty’s women’s residential program, and he followed her back to Wooster. Still working in the restaurant industry and working on his 12-Step Program, he began asking himself what else he might really want to do.

Giving My Life More Meaning

He overcame his fears of change and applied for a position as a Residential Support Specialist at OneEighty. Hired in 2016, he spent the next 7 years working different shifts at Pathway, the Men’s Residential Treatment Center. During that time, he built strong, supportive relationships with the men in residential treatment. They would tell him how much he helped them on their road to recovery.

“But then, Bobbi Douglas, OneEighty’s Executive Director, told me I was good at the work I was doing and asked me if I thought I might like to move on to become a Peer Recovery Coach,” Darnell said. “The idea of working with all kinds of people, not just those in residential treatment, really appealed to me.”

His next step was to participate in 13 hours of on-line education/training. But it was his 40-hours of classroom training that he referred to as the ‘bomb’. “We were engaged in interactive role playing. We used real-life experiences to learn how to be supportive of whatever came our way,” he recalled.

Helping Others Find New Beginnings

Darnell has been in this role for 6 months now, and he reports that he loves every part of it except when a client goes off the program. “It makes me so sad when I see a client fall off the program. Having lived the life I have, I know that nothing good can come of their departure. They will be returning to a dark and desolate place that will not lead them to a better life,” Darnell said. “Having returned to that dark place too many times myself, I understand that I can’t use my job for my own recovery. I must continually refuel myself by working on my own self-care and continuously working the 12-Step Program.”

But for Darnell, it’s the fact that he’s able to use his own God-given talent to connect with people that makes the difference. Sharing his ‘lived’ experiences while recognizing each client’s positive assets can help show them the way.

“Change is scary and difficult all at once. A person seeking recovery must tear down about 90% of what they have learned in life as well as change their associations and their friends and start anew. Cut off from the people, places and things that have been part of their life isn’t easy, but working with someone who shows them love and acceptance combined with the right tools available through OneEighty’s programming, a whole new world can unfold before them. Everyone deserves the opportunity to become a better person no matter how many times it takes for the light bulb to turn on. I feel so privileged to be part of their journey.”

We’re here to support you.

We help people change direction with programs for addiction, domestic violence, rape crisis, mental health, housing, and prevention and education. At OneEighty, we actively support an evidence-based approach to sustainable recovery from trauma and addiction – restoring dignity and purpose, reimagining potential, and rebuilding lives. OneEighty offers counseling programs, intensive addiction treatment programs, group addiction treatment, residential services, victim services, recovery housing, and peer recovery.

OneEighty Resources

For those encountering a substance use crisis please call OneEighty’s Substance Use Crisis hotline available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year at 330-466-0678. For other resources, click the links below: 

Recovery Coaching

Addiction & Substance Use

Residential Treatment

Mental Health Counseling

Community Relations & Prevention

Substance Use Treatment Navigator Hotline

Safe at Home Program

Intimate Partner & Domestic Violence booklet (Wayne County)

Self-Help Legal Manual

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