The importance of lived experience in the recovery community can’t be overstated. Stories that detail recovery from addiction can be profound sources of hope and inspiration for those beginning their own recovery journey. It’s for this reason that Airing Addiction, a podcast hosted by New England Recovery Center’s Lisa Blanchard and Jesse Chaison, offers a platform for figures in the recovery community to tell their story. On a recent episode, Lisa and Jesse hosted Darryl Buchannan, a published author and host of Real Talk TV, who shared his remarkable story of recovery.
Surviving a Traumatic Upbringing
Having come from a troubled home, drinking and substance use became a reliable form of escape for Darryl early on. By the time he was in his early teens, he was already using cocaine and having run-ins with the police.
Around the same time, an adult friend of the family began to sexually abuse Darryl. At first, he remained silent and endured the trauma of being abused because he feared his abuser might react violently towards him or his mother. But even when he did eventually confront family members about what he was experiencing, they didn’t believe him.
Feeling betrayed by his own family, Darryl took to the streets where he stole to fund his substance use. After a string of arrests, he was sent to a boys’ home in Maine. Tragically, he would fall victim to sexual abuse there, too. Having little trust in authority figures, he didn’t know how to respond, so he acted out with vandalism and other petty crimes.
With the help of a school friend, he would eventually be removed from the boys’ home, returning to Massachusetts soon after. But when he went back to his home turf, he also went back to his old habits. He drank and used substances to find reprieve from a world that seemed apathetic towards him. Even when he repeatedly landed himself in jail and began injecting cocaine, though, he never saw his own substance use as a problem.
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction
He separated himself from the type of people who attended meetings, insisting that he didn’t suffer from the same affliction. Rather than searching for ways to change his life and find recovery, he was determined to find a way to “keep getting high, but without facing consequences.” This attitude would continue until, finally, in his mid-50’s, Darryl began his recovery.
Of the 41 years that Darryl drank and used substances, 28 of them were spent in prison. “Based on what I grew up around, I thought that was normal,” he said. It was only when he was hospitalized, his years of drinking and substance use having taken a severe toll on his body, that he finally realized he needed help.
“One size does not fit all in recovery,” he said. “Everyone has their own strengths and vulnerabilities. For some people, the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake over and over, expecting different results. For me, it was repeating the same mistakes over and over, knowing what would happen, and doing it anyway.”
Learning Self-Love and Acceptance
When he began his recovery, he came to understand that he’d been suffering inside, blaming himself for the things that happened to him growing up. But once he began doing the work—learning to accept himself and forgive others, to be transparent and accountable—he found not only that he made progress in his own recovery, but that he helped others in their recovery as well.
Darryl now regularly advocates for the recovery community, speaks to youth about the dangers of substance use, and shares recovery stories on his show. His story offers hope and inspiration to other people suffering from substance use disorders because it shows that no matter what you’ve been through or how long you’ve been using substances, you can achieve recovery and live a meaningful life. Even those who have faced the most unthinkable perils, who have never felt the promise of a better future, can be freed from the shackles of addiction.
To listen to Darryl’s full story and hear from others who have found purpose and fulfillment beyond the torment of their addiction, click here to access all episodes of Airing Addiction. You can also look for Jesse and Lisa’s appearance on the new episode of Real Talk TV.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.