Pubdate: Wed, 12 Aug 2009
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Andrew Hanon


'It Made US All Sick,' Wife Says of Husband's Long Battle With Drugs

Just one more hit of crack, Darren Herd told himself, and I'll go home
to my wife and kids.

He kept repeating that vow for nine long, drug-fuelled days and

"It's always just one more and then you'll quit," Herd says, recalling
the longest cocaine binge during his 1,000-day descent into hell.

Herd has been clean and sober for four years, but he and his family
are still working to repair the damage wreaked by his out-of-control

It financially ruined them, rotted his eight children's trust in him
and left his wife Amber with simmering resentment.

"It made us all sick," says Amber. "It's hard to comprehend how one
person's addiction can poison everyone they love. We've come a long
way, but we're still healing. "

Around 2001, Herd, then a life-skills coach, got into a pair of car
accidents and was taking prescription painkillers.

"I didn't even notice it at the time, but the painkillers were totally
messing me up," he recalls.

Soon he was drinking.

He began hanging around in the city's dive bars, where cocaine was
readily available.

"I felt like a big shot," he says. "I convinced myself that I wasn't
one of these people."

He began spending all his time partying. He hardly worked and would go
days without talking to his family.

Then a buddy offered him some crack cocaine.

"I'd been doing powder to that point," he recalls. "There we were,
sitting in a creepy house. As soon as I took the first puff I knew
that I was done."

Herd stayed there for three days and spent $1,000, that month's
mortgage payment.

Whatever money the family had was being funnelled into his drug habit.
Utilities were being cut off, the bank was breathing down their necks
and it was a struggle just to put food on the table.

Twice Herd went to rehab, and both times within a few months he was
using even more heavily.

At one point their gas was cut off and Amber had to bathe their kids
in the electrically heated hot tub.

Whenever Herd came home, they'd have screaming fights. Once she held a
knife to his throat. Another time she told him over the phone that she
was going to kill herself and the children.

There were nights when she'd leave her young kids alone in bed and
drive the city, trying to track him down.

The stress, anxiety and shame became so overwhelming that Amber began
to lose her hair.

"I think I was crazier than he was, trying to control him," she

Eventually, she left him.

With nothing left but the drugs, Herd slid further. For four months he
lived in shelters and flop houses, thinking no further ahead than his
next hit of crack.

Then, one day, while standing in line at a soup kitchen, he realized
to his horror, "I do fit in. I'm one of these people."

He checked back into rehab, and slowly got his act

Over time, he and Amber reconciled and he began the painstaking
process of rebuilding his relationship with his eight kids (five still
live at home). These days they camp, fish and play. Herd even coaches
some of their sports teams.

They've founded the Youth Addiction Awareness program (
), where they bring their message to school kids. The entire family
talks to students in Edmonton schools about their experiences and the
work they've done to heal the damage.

"We see a lot of kids moved to tears," Herd said. "When someone in
your family is addicted, it feels like you're the only one. We want
them to realize that there are others who understand exactly what
they're going through." 
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