We had the good fortune of connecting with Darin Valdez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Darin, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I have been in recovery from substance misuse for over seven years. In that time I have worked in the treatment field here in Colorado in some capacity. For six years I worked as a house manager and counselor in a local treatment center, Sobriety House, Inc. While I was there I noticed a specific group of people who really struggled to find a community outside of the treatment center. They were incredibly creative souls who would find peace while creating art, or playing music. I had a mentor at the time who said if you are going to create lasting social impact on your community, discover a desperate need of the individuals in your immediate circles, and use your experience to create opportunities for them to grow. With my lived experience with experiencing homelessness due to my addiction for seven years, and my incredible journey of recovery, I knew I had a wonderful opportunity to do just that. “What if there was a place that people could go to find loving support from people just like them. To help one another rekindle that creative spark that lies dormant within all of us, and nurture it to burn bright.”

I was working one night behind the desk at the treatment center and a client entered the office in a highly anxious state. He wanted to leave to leave the program. Something in group had upset him and he was way out of his window of tolerance. We tried some of the mindfulness techniques we had taught in the groups, but nothing was working. So I finally asked him what has worked for him in the past to calm him. He looked up and said, “Do you have any construction paper?” I thought that was an odd request, but I would try anything to help him. So I found him some and he took them downstairs. About an hour later I went to check on him, and I saw the most beautiful thing ever. He had taken some of the plastic coffee straws and was wrapping green paper around them so delicately. I looked over his shoulder and saw a huge bouquet of origami lillies. He had a look of complete peace on his face, and he handed me one of the lillies and said thank you. When I asked him about the lillies he said “they are the only things I have ever created that bring joy to others. I have caused so many people pain in my life…this is a gift that makes them feel how much i love them.” I immediately knew this is what our community needs. Love and encouragement for this to happen everyday.

I found an organization called CrossPurpose, of which I was an Alumni, and presented this idea to them. Through a six month incubator program they began, I was able to develop my business plan and raise some initial funding. We were able to start some proof of concept workshops that tied recovery principles into learning music and creating art. The classes were so inspiring and every student not only stayed sober, but also created absolute works of beauty. Some wrote songs, some sang, some painted, or wrote poems. It was incredible! When Covid hit we thought that we would have to put a hold on the workshops…but it turned out that people needed the classes even more. So we kept creating and learning from one another. And in November of 2020, we received funding to continue our work. We are just beginning this wonderful journey of building a creative community of recovering souls, but the response has been overwhelming. We are now running 18 workshops per year and have an attainable goal of reaching 1000 participants by the end of 2023.

I truly believe we all have a gift, that has been planted within our souls just waiting to blossum. I have been given the gift of seeing light in others and now I am able to create a space for others to let that light shine. I believe if you are reading this now…you have a similar gift. It is time to take that leap of faith and create what has been yearning in your heart. It was placed there because you are the one that can make it happen. Take the first steps, and the road will appear.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The last seven years of my life have been a gift of sobriety. For most of my life I have chased false dreams. Getting sober and finding this new zest for life has been the most wonderful journey. The people that have come alongside me for the last seven years have loved me until I could love myself. And they saw something that I could not see. Hope, integrity, and grit. I am now at a place in my life that I couldn’t even have dreamed of. There are many, many obstacles along this journey. But I have been shown how to change my perspective. How is this happening for me to succeed? What is the lesson? Pain is the touchstone of growth if you have the faith and determination to keep walking forward.

Listening to universe is a technique that must be mastered if you are to succeed. Let go of resentment, fear, and worry. Be still, and the right solution will present itself when you are ready. Then go for it. If you practice honesty, openmindedness, willingness, faith, and trust in all you do. The path will open and all you truly need will come to you.

At Colorado Artists in Recovery, we merely create a space for creative people to come together and find community. The healing takes place naturally once we find our tribe.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are many wonderful sights and sounds in Denver. But the beauty lies in the mountains. You can find your true self, just 30 minutes west. Hiking, camping, biking, and much more. This is the place to rediscover what you truly want to be. Adventure and peace can be found there.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not be here without the love and support of my family and friends. They are my foundation. Also organizations that helped me develop and created opportunities to grow and learn. Sobriety House, Inc., CrossPurpose, Inc., Lever Lab Foundation, Caring for Denver Foundation, and so many mentors, board members, and community partnerships that believed in an idea, and helped make it happen.

Website: coloradoartistsinrecovery.org

Facebook: @coloradoartistsinrecovery

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