Missouri State University The Power of Showing Up
Justin Johns and Jon Mangum might be 10 years apart in age, but they have at least one thing in common. For them to be productive, they need to stay sober. To stay on the map — and to help fellow Bears who might need help — they show up each week at Missouri State University’s Collegiate Recovery Program.
Justin Johns doesn’t remember any of the classes he took as a student at Ozarks Technical Community College. Despite his active addiction, he graduated with an associate’s degree in business and marketing. But winging it wouldn’t cut it at Missouri State University (MSU), where Johns was now in the business school. His GPA started plummeting.
“If things didn’t change — if I didn’t get sober — I would have failed out,” Johns says.
Johns graduated from a residential treatment program on a Friday. On Saturday, he registered for another semester of classes at MSU. On Monday, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, he returned to campus. After 30 days in rehab, Johns felt like a new person, like he was ready for the world. But he wasn’t ready.
Sitting in economics class that first Friday of the spring semester, Johns was surrounded by students who were bragging about the previous night’s escapades. Johns could still smell the alcohol on their breath.
“It was a huge trigger,” he says.
His newfound sobriety in jeopardy, Johns went to the MSU Counseling Center.
“I said, ‘I need help. I’m trying to stay sober,’” Johns recalls. “I can remember them saying they didn’t have that type of support on campus. I remember going, ‘Well, now what am I going to do?’”
Johns didn’t know any other MSU students who were in recovery, so he relied on his off-campus fellowship. Despite the frequent binge drinking of his peers and the stress that accompanies the demands of college life, Johns completed the semester sober — which gave him reason to celebrate.
One drink later, and Johns was back in active addiction.
“It was hard,” Johns says. “I didn’t feel connected to the university. I wasn’t active on campus. I’d come to class, and then I’d go straight home. I didn’t have a place where I felt there were other people who had relatable experiences.”
Luckily, Johns got sober again, and this time, it stuck. He graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s in psychology, a master’s in social work and a mission: to build a program on campus to support students in recovery.