Hope is Found Here
There was a lot of hope in the room in Keystone, Colorado, that weekend.
The students were able to see how they are part of a national network of students, supporters and alumni that can help them not only survive, but thrive; to fully appreciate the value of their recovery and leadership on their campus. The summit also gave them the opportunity to have an epic adventure in the Colorado Rockies, demonstrating that recovery can make for an incredible life – and not just in theory. These students are already living it.
For more information on the summit: arheskiathon.org
REFLECTIONS FROM A UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN STUDENT ON THE 2017 ARHE STUDENT LEADERSHIP SUMMIT AND RECOVERY SKIATHON
Alcoholic was a label I used to throw at other people. Always someone else but never me. I was just having fun. Fast forward a year to January 2015, and I’m on academic suspension. My drinking has progressed and I am slowly coming to the brilliant conclusion that this might not be as fun as I think it is.
November, 2015 – a concerned academic advisor convinces me to stay sober through the end of the semester so I don’t fail out of college a second time. I stay sober exactly one month and 10 days. I pass my classes with flying colors. After the semester ends, I start drinking again.
February 6, 2016, drunk and miserable again, on repeat for longer than I care to admit, I find myself sitting in the office of the Collegiate Recovery Program Manager at the University of Michigan. He gave me the numbers of a few women he wanted me to reach out to. I remember thinking how amazing they were and how great their lives seemed. Their stories were like mine. They had been young women in real distress. But they had made a change. Maybe I could too. Witnessing them thriving and loving their lives sober gave me the courage to give this recovery thing a try.
Fast forward another year. February 5, 2017, and I’m sitting in a room full of 150 sober college students at the Association of Recovery in Higher Education Collegiate Recovery Student Leadership Summit. The students sitting around me ranged in age from 18 to 60. All were warriors who had overcome some of the worst things in life – and all were ready to help someone else in need. It was a great place to be that night, because a part of me was still not so sure about all of this. To be honest, I had been thinking a lot about using again. Thanks to their support, instead of using, the next morning, I celebrated one year of sobriety in Colorado at the recovery meeting hosted by students from all over the country in the Lakeside Lounge at Keystone Lodge.
The night before, I found myself hanging on every word of one of the keynote speakers – a former janitor who kicked a cocaine addiction and a set of gold grill teeth to the curb to become a successful college graduate. We had all kicked tough habits, overcome obstacles, and experienced immense mental, spiritual and emotional growth to get to this place. That weekend in Colorado, I have never been more proud to feel like I belonged. No matter how different our stories were, one thing resonated among us. We were all recovering human beings, and we didn’t do it alone. All of us had benefited from being able to connect with a community of recovering students on our campus to help us find our way. Some of us might even claim it was because of that collegiate recovery community that we were even alive today.
I never felt as accepted and comfortable in a room full of strangers as I did at this summit. Solidarity and support radiated from every individual I spoke to, no matter where they were from. Between breaks to ski and enjoy ourselves, students remained committed to the themes of the weekend. Hope. Recovery. Connection. Service. Leadership. Hearing the stories of others in the room helped us reflect on our own struggles and how having a recovery community on our home campus saved us. We left Colorado with a renewed vigor to help others and support recovery communities of all shapes and sizes on college campuses throughout the country.
I’m so grateful to have had this experience, and to share it with you.
University of Michigan, Environmental Engineering student