The Voices of Alpha 180
Compiled By Kelsey Allen
Meet some of the students and leaders who have helped shape the nation’s first sober fraternity.
Alpha 180 — the nation’s first sober fraternity — opened in Austin, Texas, in fall 2017. A former Phi Delta Theta fraternity house was transformed into a sober clubhouse, where students in recovery gather for studying, meeting with their recovery sponsor, or fellowshipping with sober friends. Clinical services, including intensive outpatient therapy, academic recovery support, and family and individual therapy, are also offered at the clubhouse. Within walking distance are the Alpha 180 recovery residences, overseen by licensed clinical staff and live-in residential advisers, who are college students in recovery.
Today, 30 men live in the sober housing community and hundreds of local college students take advantage of the clubhouse and clinical services annually. Executive Director Nico Doorn is hopeful
to reach even more students now that Alpha 180 received Joint Commission accreditation and has an in-network insurance contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield. “It makes our services more accessible,” he says.
As Alpha 180 continues to grow, Doorn is excited to see where the residents and members take things. “Our vision was for Alpha 180 to be a student-led community,” he says. “In the beginning, the staff were initiating most activities. It’s really exciting, as our community grows, to see the students take ownership and bring ideas to the table. That liveliness comes with a bigger, more vibrant community.”
Here are some voices that have shaped Alpha 180 since it opened. The students portrayed are alumni members of Alpha 180, and they elected to participate of their own volition.
How old are you? I am 22 years old.
Where do you live? I live in Austin, Texas.
Who are you, and what do you do? I’m just a young dude in recovery who wants to do something big with his life.
What are you studying in school? I’m currently enrolled in junior college with plans to attend a four-year university next fall and complete a degree in business and marketing.
What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? My journey in recovery began on Nov. 5, 2016. At the time, I was attending Fordham University. I was struggling with abusing prescription medications, and my life as a student was quickly falling apart. I took a medical leave of absence and sought help, which later became my admission into the 12-steps of recovery. Recovery has enabled me to return back to school and enjoy a life that I never knew was possible. As of today, I have a 4.0 GPA and was just offered an academic scholarship to St. Edward’s University.
What is a superpower you’d like to have? I’d like to have super intelligence. Flying is cool and everything, but it would be sick to understand quantum mechanics and complex stock algorithms without studying.
What would you do if you won the lottery? If I won the lottery, assuming my reward was in the billions, I’d probably buy a mega yacht and create some sort of addiction treatment cruise, where clients would commit to a 10-month stay and we would visit 12 different islands around the world, each representing one of the steps. (It would be really hard to leave against medical advice if you were out in the middle of the ocean.)
Who is your ultimate dinner date? My ultimate dinner date would be Dick Cheney. I just have a lot of questions.
What brings you the greatest joy? I’d have to say scuba diving. Under the surface, it’s like at any moment something horrible could go wrong, yet everything is peaceful and beautiful. A thrill-seeking sport cloaked in leisurely paced swimming.
What are you proudest of? Honestly, I’m most proud of my recovery. Believe it or not, a lot of people bet against me when I first got sober, so to have come this far has really been the greatest reward. Unfortunately, this disease can turn many young men and women into destructive outcasts. I like to think that everyone has the chance to turn things around, and I hope to be an example of that.
What is the best advice you’ve been given? The best advice I’ve ever been given came from an old-timer legend named “T,” who I met early on in my recovery. He said, “You can’t be too stupid to get this thing, but you can sure as hell be too smart.”
What does your future hold? I have no idea what my future holds. I’d like to do something with freshwater and business, but who knows.
Meet Jessyca Daniel
How old are you? 28 years old
Where do you live? I live in Austin, Texas, but originally born and raised in Florida.
Who are you, and what do you do? I am a case manager at Alpha 180. My main responsibilities are to empower students to identify and accomplish their personal goals in sobriety and higher education. I work one-on-one with each student to create their personalized goal plan. Next, I work on helping students re-enroll in class — when they are ready — by applying for college, navigating financial aid, looking at class options, and meeting with an academic adviser at a university or community college. Other life skills that we work on include time management, study skills, and accountability surrounding assignments and grades.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? When I was younger, I would tell everyone that I wanted to become an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) because I was fascinated by insects, specifically butterflies.
What is on your bucket list? I have several things on my bucket list, but the top three that come to mind are riding in a hot air balloon, touring Europe and seeing the northern lights.
What brings you the greatest joy? Quality time with my family and friends
What are you proudest of? I would say that receiving my Master of Arts degree in college student development and finding my true passion for helping the college student population who are in recovery.
What is your favorite quote? My favorite quote is: “In order to receive much, you must give much.”
How old are you? 20
Where do you live? Austin, Texas, but from Chicago
Who are you, and what do you do? That’s a huge question. I’m a music, business, performance, and technology student.
What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? The simplest way I can answer that is I was living in addiction but am now in recovery. I’ve been sober for 18 months. Addiction runs in my family, so I look at recovery as a way to show others a new way to live. I try to teach t hem as a living example.
What is on your bookshelf? The Bible, the AA Big Book, the NA Basic Text, my CoDa book, a bunch of books about God and spirituality, and manga.
What is a superpower you’d like to have? I would want to have super strength. I could protect people and would never have to worry about being hurt.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? I was diagnosed as bipolar with psychotic episodes. A big part of my recovery has been recovering from that, too.
What is on your bucket list? I want to meet Will Smith and get better at speaking French.
What is one thing you are glad to have done but wouldn’t do it again? High school
What would you do if you won the lottery? I would need a house. Inside it, I would build a trampoline room and a room with a ball pit.
What item in your closet do you wear the most? I’d say my Vans with no laces.
What brings you the greatest joy? Nothing makes me happier than being down one or two goals in FIFA then coming back and winning the game.
What is the best gift you’ve ever received? The gift of recovery
What are you proudest of? I think I am most proud of my ability to never give up. Everything I’ve accomplished as well as my future goals in the music industry require perseverance.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? No 1. Don’t burn bridges. No 2. Know when to keep your composure. No 3. Where you are, that’s where you’re at.
What is your favorite quote? “It’s impossible to hate someone if you get up close to them.”
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? That growing up sucks. I wish I’d accepted sooner that I’d have to pay bills and be responsible.
What does your future hold? When I think about my future, I think about having the ability to teach people from the mistakes I’ve made so that I leave this world a better place than I found it.
How old are you? 21
Where do you live? Austin, Texas
Who are you, and what do you do? I’m a student in long-term recovery. I take classes at Austin Community College. I work in downtown Austin as a valet driver and intern part time as an audio technician at The Horn Sports Radio Station.
What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? I have been sober continuously since June 17, 2017. I work a 12-step recovery program with a sponsor, and, in turn, I sponsor guys new in the program. I pray and meditate regularly, have a home group I attend weekly, and I’m a member of Alpha 180. I hope to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, pending getting accepted. I will study sociology either there or St. Edward’s University, where I received a scholarship.
What is on your bookshelf? A plethora of recovery-related literature as well as a Kindle. As a hobby, I enjoy reading great American novels. I’m currently reading Orson Welles’ 1984.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? I was born with the birth defect, a clubfoot, which means my right foot was inverted at a 90-degree angle and twisted downward at birth. As a result, I have two significantly different-size feet.
What is on your bucket list? Someday, I want to visit Australia.
What item in your closet do you wear the most? I wear my Ron Artest St. John’s basketball jersey every week.
What actor would play you in a movie? Ryan Gosling is my favorite actor. Dude’s a stud.
Who is your ultimate dinner date? My dream dinner date would be Mike Francesa.
What brings you the greatest joy? I enjoy watching live sports more than anything.
What are you proudest of? I am most proud of the healthy life decision I made of sobering up, which saved my life.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? One thing I have learned that has stuck with me is that patience is the most important virtue.
What is your favorite quote? “Practice?” — Allen Iverson
What is the best advice you’ve been given? One day at a time
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? Everything is gonna be alright.
What does your future hold? I hope someday to create my own 12-step-oriented rehab that incorporates holistic treatment as well as community-based accountability.
How old are you? I am 25 years old.
Where do you live? I currently live in Austin, Texas.
Who are you, and what do you do? I am presently a full-time student at Austin Community College, a member of Alpha 180 sober fraternity, and a server at a cool local restaurant.
What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? I am a student in long-term recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism. My sobriety date is Dec. 14, 2017. It has been an extremely long journey for me to get to this point. I became hooked on prescription opiates from the age of 15, and the path to obtaining freedom from that has included many treatment centers, a crazy amount of family support and a lot of suffering. All of those experiences enabled me to enjoy the freedom I have in this very moment.
If you’re in school, where do you go to school, what are you studying, and what year in school are you or when do you expect to graduate? I attend our local community college here in Austin. I guess you would say I am a sophomore, but because of my addiction, my educational path has been a little different than traditional, to say the least. I am a psychology major but am interested in business and entrepreneurship. My hope is to transfer to the University of Texas and graduate with my bachelor’s by the end of 2020.
What is on your bookshelf? I do not have a bookshelf, but my roommates and I just got a new apartment, so this is a cool reminder that maybe I should get one. On my nightstand that I sleep next to, there is the Big Book, a 12 & 12, a couple of spiritual books, a Buddhist drawing book, and Siddhartha.
What is a superpower you’d like to have? I would like to be able to spontaneously combust items with my mind.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? I am a big golf guy. Catch me at the par-3 course playing nine holes with my buds anytime.
What is on your bucket list? A backpacking trip through Southeast Asia for sure!
What is one thing you are glad to have done but wouldn’t do it again? I ate raw quail eggs in South Korea. Cool experience, but I will never do that again.
What would you do if you won the lottery? First, I would buy a plot of land and design a badass home to move my friends and me into. Obviously, buy my mom a new car. Take care of my father in whatever way he needed. Fat shopping trip to Manhattan on the PJ with my boys, then go to school full time and play golf every day trying to make it onto the PGA tour.
What item in your closet do you wear the most? My KUHL slippers. Those babies are clutch and multifunctional!
What actor would play you in a movie? Leo in The Wolf of Wall Street
Who is your ultimate dinner date? Emily Ratajkowski
What brings you the greatest joy? Enjoying a Sunday afternoon of golf with my closest family and friends — sober!
What is the best gift you’ve ever received? My step-mother got me a Tibetan meditation bowl for my one year of sobriety. That is probably the most thoughtful gift I have ever received.
What are you proudest of? That I have achieved some actual clean time from my heroin addiction. It is an amazing accomplishment.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? That I don’t have to listen to the negative chatter in my mind. I am completely able to walk through my fears and obtain whatever goal I set out to get.
What is your favorite quote? “GET IN THE HOLE!”
What is the best advice you’ve been given? A boss of mine once told me that he knew I was smart and hungry for success, but what was really going to set me apart from everyone was the amount of effort I put into even the most menial tasks. If he asked me to breakdown cardboard, be the most fantastic cardboard worker I could be. That if I pushed myself to do the best at whatever task I was assigned that is what was going to make me special. I carry that with me and try to have an excellent work ethic at whatever I do.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? That there was a biological difference occurring in my mind when I ingested mind-altering substances. It would have saved me a lot of time.
What does your future hold? Furnishing a new apartment. All I own is a desk lamp. Should be fun!
Meet Nico Doorn
How old are you? 29
Where do you live? Austin, Texas
Who are you, and what do you do? I am a husband, father, and person in long-term recovery. I’m also the executive director of Alpha 180, which is a recovery community for young adults transitioning from treatment to school.
What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? I found recovery in early 2010. I’ve been working in the recovery field and, in general, am just really passionate about recovery, especially when it comes to students. When I got clean, I didn’t have any education, so getting the opportunity to go to school changed my life.
Where did you go to school, what did you study and when did you graduate? I went to Texas Tech in 2011. I ended up transferring to Lipscomb University in Nashville, where I’m from, and graduated from there in 2014 with a BA in psychology. Next, I went to Vanderbilt University, where I studied counseling and got a master’s in human development studies in 2017.
What is on your bookshelf? Probably too many self-help books
What is a superpower you’d like to have? To control my own thoughts. It’d be nice to instantly be able to relax or change the way I feel or focus without getting distracted.
What’s something people don’t know about you? I have a son who is almost 12. I was a teen dad and was raising him by myself until I got married last year.
What is on your bucket list? Hike a really long trail, visit a Buddhist monastery, get my LPC done.
What is one thing you are glad to have done but wouldn’t do it again? College
What would you do if you won the lottery? Pay off all my debt, put a bunch in the bank and set aside for my family. Then give the majority away.
What actor would play you in a movie? I would have to say Heath Ledger before he passed away.
Who is your ultimate dinner date? My wife, duh.
What brings you the greatest joy? Honestly, my life is awesome exactly as it is. I really enjoy my job, but I also enjoy being home with my family.
What is the best gift you’ve ever received? When Dr. Kitty Harris let me into Texas Tech’s collegiate recovery community with a GED.
What are you proudest of? I only finished ninth grade, but I graduated valedictorian in college as a single dad with a full-time job while sober. I’m proud of that, but it was very tough.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? Hard work + faith + asking for help = anything.
What is your favorite quote? “Lost dreams awaken and new possibilities arise.” — Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text
What is the best advice you’ve been given? Not to confuse the recovery concept of “ego” with being confident in your abilities and having big goals.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? That everything always works out
What does your future hold? I’m excited about Alpha 180 and helping more young people go to school. I’m hoping to grow my family, go on cool trips, participate in more hobbies, and just enjoy life.
For more information please visit Alpha 180.