On May 3rd, 2012, I awakened to find myself staring into the eyes of a paramedic. I had experienced a near fatal overdose as the result of wanting to get high just “one last time”. Addiction had completely destroyed my life. I was homeless, unemployable, and had no hope of ever surviving. All my dreams had been destroyed, including any hopes of higher education. The following day, I woke up and made a decision to engage in the recovery process. I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
When I made the decision and commitment to engage in the recovery process, I did not know what to expect. I was convinced that I had destroyed my life beyond repair. I was not even 100% sure I was going to make it. I thought it to be only a matter of time before I would have a reoccurrence, and find myself back out on the streets, or in prison yet again. Nevertheless, I gave recovery a shot. And it has been the best “shot” I have ever had in my entire life.
In the beginning, my primary objectives were to finish treatment, get off probation, become employed, get my license back, buy a car, and find an apartment. Just become a “normal” and productive member of society. I did all that, and it was awesome! But, then I remembered a dream I have had for almost my entire life: college.
As soon as the initial thoughts of going back to school started to trickle in, doubt was right behind them. I was convinced all the drug use had destroyed my brain and ability to do well in school. Additionally, I was 10 years older and technology had substantially advanced compared to when I was last in school. Could I really do this? And what if I fail?
Despite all the negative chatter, in the spring of 2015 I enrolled at the Community College of Rhode Island. My intentions were to complete my Associates degree, but once I was back in academia, I could not help but keep pressing on. I graduated in the spring of 2017 with my Associates in Arts, and transferred to Rhode Island College the following semester to continue on towards my Bachelor’s degree. On May 11th, I will be walking across yet another stage to receive my Bachelors in Psychology and my Bachelors in Chemical Dependency. That’s right: not one, but two degrees! I am graduating with a 4.0 and have just applied to the Masters of Psychology Program. My aim is to eventually be accepted into a PhD program. I envision my career as both a practitioner and recovery research scientist.
Ultimately, education has become a pathway of recovery for me. There have been times throughout my recovery when I have felt like giving up, but quickly remembered all that I have achieved, as well as what I am working towards in academia. What was once an area of great insecurity has now become a source of self-efficacy and self-esteem, two essential components of the recovery process. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined recovery would afford me all of this. My gratitude extends beyond words. Recovery is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
The Jim Gillen Teen Center
The Jim Gillen Teen Center is an environment that celebrates, and helps facilitate recovery through dynamic programming, shared lived experience, and peer support.