A Job with Purpose

Opposite Page: Jimmy Jason, and other students in recovery at Recovery Ski-a-Thon 2014 in Breckenridge.

Opposite Page: Jimmy, Jason, and other students in recovery at Recovery Ski-a-Thon 2014 in Breckenridge.

Jimmy Hatzell discovered that through his work in information technology, he could inspire others in recovery

As a college student, Jimmy Hatzell imagined a post-graduation life working in cyber security, safeguarding companies from outside threats. Today, he is employed in his dream job, saving something more important — lives.

In recovery for three years, Hatzell is director of technology at Life of Purpose in Boca Raton, Florida, which offers academically focused substance abuse treatment to people who want to attend college or resume their studies. While he is making sure the systems are operating, he also serves as a role model for others overcoming addiction, showing them that they, too, can be resilient and forge new, substance-free lives.

Hatzell marks the start of his new life on August 1, 2013 — his first day of sobriety. In his youth, he had misused substances as young as 14; by the time he was a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, he had received so many citations for underage drinking that the Office of Student Conduct recommended him to the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC).

Although he wasn’t ready for a life of recovery immediately, his life began to change when he met coordinator Jason Whitney and students at the CRC. “It was my first experience realizing that people were sober on campus, were happy, and pursuing their dreams,” he says. “Jason’s story was inspiring: He found recovery at 19 while in college and seemed to be living a pretty awesome life.”

Eventually, Hatzell summoned the courage to enter a treatment center. When he called Whitney to tell him the news, the counselor told him, “The best days at Penn State are ahead of you.” At the time, Hatzell thought, there is no way that could be true. Time would prove him wrong.

Realizing that school was his lifeline to creating a productive future, Hatzell was determined to keep on track with his academics. He enlisted the assistance of Whitney and his advisor and enrolled in 12 credits of online classes while still in treatment. “We scheduled all my classes on a payphone,” he says with a laugh. “That was probably a Penn State first.”

He armed himself with honesty. He would embrace — not hide — his story. When he emailed his professors to apologize for missing the first two weeks of his online classes, he explained it was because he was in rehab and was not allowed on the computer. The CRC stood behind him, working behind the scenes to help him return to Penn State and thrive there.

Out of treatment, Hatzell poured his energy into classwork, initially living at home in a dry house.

He dutifully followed his recovery plan — partial hospitalization, outpatient treatment, peer-to-peer support meetings, and sessions with a drug counselor — and saw his life improve rapidly. “I got a part-time job, ran a marathon with less than two months of training, and made dean’s list for the first time in my life,” he says.

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