In my family college wasn’t optional – it was expected.
My parents’ plan for me was to succeed in school, become educated, and move on to big things. I always felt optimistic about my future and knew I was capable of anything I put my mind to. I was a relatively happy kid, did well in school, and was excited about life to come. However, as is the case for many of us, my addiction robbed me of any hopes, dreams, or belief in my ability to succeed.
After years of drug abuse and a thousand forms of failure, I finally found recovery. I entered treatment in Nashville, TN, with a ninth grade education as a young man ready to change, yet convinced I couldn’t. The rooms of recovery that became my new home, however, were full of individuals that encouraged and believed in me. Soon I felt happy and ‘a part of’. Regardless of my growing confidence and steadily improving life, I still did not believe higher education could possibly be in the cards for someone like me. Little did I know, there were hundreds of people I had yet to meet, working tirelessly to make a true college experience a reality for young people in recovery like me. The collegiate recovery movement was underfoot.
By happenstance, I visited Texas Tech University’s Collegiate Recovery Community; largely considered the mecca of this movement. Despite my past, they wanted to give me a chance. They are a community of 160 students, each with their own story of recovery and most would not have gotten into the college without The Center, as it’s lovingly referred to. Some months later, I walked into my first college class – Psych 101 – shaky and uncertain, yet determined. I did what they told me at my first meetings, “Show up early, stay late, and ask for help.” Low and behold, when I put in the effort and was surrounded by a community of like-minded, supportive peers, I could be successful!
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, and as Valedictorian of my class. This was the same young man who had been convinced college was not in the cards – convinced not only by his addiction, but also by a society that seldom gives recovering addicts a second, third, or tenth chance. Over the years, I began to develop my own career in the addiction treatment and collegiate recovery world and decided that a graduate degree would be necessary to accomplish my goals. This past May, I completed a Master’s degree at Vanderbilt University – an accomplishment that at one time was a distant dream. At Vandy, my peer group was not the other students in my academic program. My friends were the members of Vanderbilt Recovery Support, our Collegiate Recovery Program. Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is only the beginning. In treatment, I began to believe that recovery was possible. In college, I found out that anything is possible.
By Nico Doorn | Recovery Services Director