Derald Cochran’s life today is the polar opposite of what it once was. And he attributes his success to the support he’s received from places like the Bangor Area Recovery Network.
Cochran began drinking at age 14. By age 33, he was close to dead and didn’t care.
“I was as black as my jacket, inside and out,” Cochran said. “My younger brother had been murdered in the drug world. My four children had been taken by the state. I’d gone through three marriages. I was not hireable. And I had no hope. None. I just wanted it all to end.”
He remembers the moment everything changed. He was in a treatment center — he had had no idea how he’d even gotten there — and the center held a family day. When he was putting his 5-year-old daughter in her foster mother’s car, the little girl began crying.
“My little girl was kicking and she was screaming, ‘Please, Daddy, please, take me home with you,’” he recalled.
Twenty-six years later, Cochran is overwhelmed with emotion at that memory.
“I still have a hard time with that, even all these years later,” he said. “That was the turning point. Something touched me that day.”
During 26 years of sobriety, he remarried and started a business. And the man who once lost his children even became a state-licensed foster parent and later adopted a child.
Today, Cochran serves on the board of directors at the nonprofit BARN, which in 2009 opened its first center in Bangor and later moved to Brewer. In 2012, BARN purchased a building on Center Street in Brewer that’s triple the size of the previous location — and a place that Cochran says is something very special.
“I’ve been in recovery 26 years, and we’ve had different clubs in the community over that period of time, but we’ve never had a facility like this,” he said. “It’s really a wonderful place for anybody seeking a safe haven from addiction.”
A crew of BARN members volunteered their time to renovate the building. In fact, besides a part-time paid volunteer coordinator, volunteers do everything: They wash the floors, clean the bathrooms, stock the literature, and make repairs.
“They will tell you that this facility helps them more than they help it,” said Jean Baker, president of BARN’s board of directors.
BARN hosts 83 hours of support groups every month, including various 12-step programs: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Al-Anon. BARN also holds Saturday-night dances that allow those in recovery a place to socialize that is free of drugs and alcohol.
The dances, however, are open to everyone interested in a chemical-free environment. Visitors listen to music, dance, and socialize, and enjoy soda, popcorn, and pizza. And there’s never any fear of the night out being ruined by someone who’s had too much to drink.
The center is open 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily for support groups or visitors. Members pay $10 per month to support the facility, but membership isn’t required. BARN also draws revenue from Saturday-night admissions and various fundraisers. BARN has applied for a local grant and is currently working on applying for a federal grant, but there is no guarantee of success. BARN does get some donations from individuals and organizations.
Any revenue is important, whether donations of money, equipment, or services. In addition to the usual operating expenses, BARN carries a $90,000 mortgage, needs $50,000 in roof repairs, and needs $12,000 in upgraded energy-efficient lighting that will save a lot of money in the long run. BARN would like to upgrade its kitchen to restaurant specifications, upgrade the few very old computers, and even add toys for the children’s area, all things that will bolster the support the center offers to so many people.
Baker stressed that BARN is not a counseling facility; it’s a safe place for those in recovery to come. But for those people, that’s a critical factor.
“It’s safety from the addiction,” she said. “I know that I can come here and there’s not going to be a bottle of Jack Daniel’s sitting on the table, or there’s not going to be people in the next room doing drugs.”
Cochran says that, for those in recovery, the center can make a life-changing — and life-saving — difference.
“The potential of what can happen in a person’s life: It’s beyond what anybody could imagine, just by having a place like this,” he said.
He speaks from personal experience, as a man who has lived two completely different lives: the one before sobriety, and the one since.
Three of the children from his previous life have had problems; one died from a drug overdose. Only his youngest, who lived with a single, sober father from age 2, is doing well. It’s a stark contrast to the five children he’s had since he’s been sober.
“It’s like black and white,” he said. “All those children I had before I got sober had problems. Why wouldn’t they?”
When his oldest child from his current marriage was diagnosed with autism at age 5, Cochran and his wife refused recommendations to put him in a special school, instead advocating public school with strong family support. Two years ago, that child graduated from high school with honors. Cochran credits the help he got in recovery in being a better father and enabling his children to succeed. And at a place like BARN, that can happen for anyone, he says.
“Anybody that is out there feeling alone or unique, different, and they’re struggling — there’s hope,” Cochran said. “That’s the message that I’d like to give to the whole community. There is a place here for anybody that’s suffering right now that’s looking for some light at the end of the tunnel.”
BARN, at 142 Center St. in Brewer, is open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. Dances are Saturday nights from 8-11:30 p.m. The organization is always open to those in recovery, volunteers, and donations. To learn more, visit BangorRecovery.org or call 561-9444.