#StigmaFreeYLD – Senator Darryl Rouson

Senator Rouson’s Story

I grew up in a warm and caring home where success was encouraged. Both of my parents were educators and as such, education was an important priority in my family. Upon my graduation in 1980 from the University of Florida College of Law, I was on the fast track to success. I returned to St. Petersburg and worked for Gulfcoast Legal Services as the first black staff attorney. I also held the distinction of being Pinellas County’s first African American assistant state attorney in 1981 and started my own practice in 1983. The rise was fast and I was driven to succeed. But, I was hard on myself and believed that failure was around the corner. The faster I chased success the more I came to rely on alcohol to numb the fear. When the alcohol no longer worked to deaden the anxiety, I turned to drugs as a way to answer my inner demons.

I fought those demons for nine years while weaving myself through eight different addiction programs with little success all the while trying to hold my professional and family life together. Living with my son in my law office, bathing in the men’s room, and pleading for child care from a local church wasn’t bottom enough. I hit bottom when faced with the choice of losing my son or losing the drugs and alcohol. I had to lose something and it wasn’t going to be my son.

How Senator Rouson Got Help

Making the choice to walk the path of recovery started on St. Patrick’s Day in March 1998. After 21 years, the journey continues today. To this very day, my travels have been personal and I have made it a mission to help others understand there is no shame in fighting addiction when you walk with integrity. I share my story every chance I get and I know what success looks like for those that battle the shadow life of addiction. If you are struggling with addiction, contact Florida Association of Managing Entities, Natalie Kelly – natalie@flmanagingentities.com / 850-570-5747.

Darryl Rouson headshot, older African American man with brown eyes wearing gray suit and red tie and a gold lapel pin.


Darryl E. Rouson is a political activist, Democratic member of the Florida Senate representing the 19th District, and practices law in the Tampa Bay Area with Rubenstein Law. Senator Rouson has a passion for reforming the criminal justice system in Florida, restoring funding to the arts, and creating innovative solutions to transportation issues. The Senator is known as the “champion” in the legislature for advocating for more resources for mental health services and combating the opioid crisis in Florida. He currently serves on Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Health Policy, and as Vice Chair of Banking and Insurance. He is married to Angela Rouson and has eight children.