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From Living on The Streets to Earning Three Academic Degrees

From Living on The Streets to Earning Three Academic Degrees

Written by Emily Mayberry Widor

I am a blackout drunk. I am a blackout drunk who was living on the streets. I am a blackout drunk who was living on the streets and shooting cocaine.

This was me. This was me 6 years, 2 months, and 4 days ago.

You know someone like me. Maybe you are me. There is hope.

I am a licensed master’s social worker. I have 3 degrees, all achieved after sobriety. When I was contemplating sobriety, my father drove me to the local community college where I signed up for a 2-year degree. I was ashamed and terrified. What if I failed? What if I flunked out? I showed up the first day. I made it through the day and found myself excited. For the first time, I thought, “I can do this.”

Never in my wildest dreams, as an active alcohol and drug user, did I imagine that I could earn an academic degree or become licensed to help others.

I kept going back and kept doing the work. I earned my first white chip (and second, third, fourth, and fifth white chips) that first year. I learned how to handle successes and failures both in my sobriety and academically. I earned my degree in two years. I also earned back pieces of my self-esteem and self-respect with that degree and my sobriety. I decided to continue my education and finish my bachelor’s degree (which I had previously abandoned for drugs and alcohol). I graduated with a Bachelor’s in social sciences two years later. I took a huge leap of faith and courage and applied to a Master’s program at Boston University the following month. Again, I found myself terrified, but thanks to the foundation I had previously laid, I knew that I could handle either getting in or being turned away. I got in. I put in three years of hard work and graduated this past month.

I have continued to maintain my sobriety, and I work to help adolescents with mental health disorders, including substance use disorders. Never in my wildest dreams as an active alcohol and drug user did I imagine that I could earn an academic degree or become licensed to help others. It can happen. You have the power to do anything you set your heart towards. It just takes one step, one shaky, awkward, terrified step in the direction of your dreams.

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