I grew up in a small town and I had dreams and ambitions just like all the other 5th graders. I remember one class when the teacher asked all the students to stand and tell the class what they wanted to do when they grew up. There were many answers including teachers, doctors, and lawyers. Not a single person responded with they wanted to grow up to be homeless, with a substance use disorder, be a college drop out, or an inmate at a correctional facility. My 5th grade dream was to be an attorney. I wanted to defend those who could not defend themselves.
I began the journey into high school, which was a weird transition. I am sure many other people can relate. I was trying to fit in at a new high school and I always did well in school. I was involved in extracurricular activities, a member of student government, and a volunteer. I wore a mask and was one person in school, and someone completely different once the bell rang. I would leave school and hang out with my neighborhood friends. I was not exactly known for my intelligence or my involvement at school. It was my time of escape from the pressures of school. I went to a lot of parties and thought, “This is the life!” Soon, those escapades caught up to me and I was getting into trouble.
I graduated high school in the top percentile in my class and was on my way to college! I had a full ride scholarship and I thought my life was set. Through out the summer my escapades took more serious proportions. I started to experiment and by the time the first day of college rolled around, I was no longer excited about my future. I thought I was living in my future. I thought these escapades are what made me happy. I went to class for two weeks and stopped attending. I didn’t withdraw, or drop my classes, I just stopped going. I felt like it was a waste of time and threw away the scholarship that was awarded to me. Now I had the time to do what ever I wanted. I got a job and started living the life I thought was perfect. I could drink as much as I wanted and I was living on my own, so there were no parents to tell me that I was acting foolishly. By this time I was drinking well over two bottles a day and most of my life from that point is a blur. I thought that was fun. I thought that everyone drank like I did. There was no one there to tell me anything different.
I got into more serious trouble, and was arrested. I was terrified of jail. This should have been a wake up call or something right? Unfortunately, for someone like me it was not. I have an illness, and this illness does not allow me to see the damage that I did to myself or to anyone around me. I wish that this could have been a wake up call, but this only increased my pain and intentions to continue to cover the pain with more alcohol. I was very intoxicated one night and got injured that resulted with me being prescribed on pain medication. This next phase of my disorder kicked into over drive. I had never intended to become addicted to pain medication. I did not even like them. I hated the way they made me feel. I cannot explain to you in words the pain that I went through when the meds were taken away. I had pain everywhere in my body. I thought I was going to die. I almost did in March of 2011. I could not believe that this was how my life had turned out. At 23 years old, I was an illicit drug user, homeless, full of shame, and hopeless. With all the knowledge that I had, I could not understand why I was in this condition. How did I end up this way? I did not know that I was suffering with a substance use disorder that nearly killed me.
I sought help for my condition; I didn’t even know where to start. I went to a local homeless shelter that offered a recovery program for people with this illness. I stayed in that homeless shelter for 23 months. I began on a new journey, a life of recovery. After completing this program I wanted to go back to college. I went up to a local community college and asked what I needed to do in order to begin working on my education again. They told me since I did not properly drop out of classes I had received all “F’s” in my classes. This caused me to have a 0.0 GPA. You really can’t get any worse than that. They told me because of my academic status that I was not eligible for financial aid through the federal scholarship program. I was devastated. I remember thinking how I had destroyed all the opportunities that were awarded to me when I was younger. I felt defeated.
I remember how painful it was to ask for help, and change my life and decided that this was not going to be the end. I was going to fight this. I went to the Financial Aid Director, the Dean, and the Dean of Student Affairs and pled my case. I told them what happened, and who I was today and just asked them for a chance to prove myself. I told them to give me one opportunity, just one semester to prove to them I was serious about my education. Over the next month I asked a dozen people for letters of recommendation, and pushed for this one chance. The director of Financial Aid sat me down and told me that they were willing to give me enough tuition for one semester. But if I did not complete there would be major consequence, that being I would owe the entire amount of tuition. I was so grateful for the opportunity that tears started to stream down my face. I remember telling her that I would not let her down and walked out of her office ready to jump in to school.
My first semester in college was tough. I am not your typical college student. I guess you could say I am “nontraditional” or an adult learner. I was twenty-four years old, on the cusp of turning twenty-five when I went back to school. The transition of being in recovery and now a new college student were difficult. I had to learn how to study, balance work schedules and classes, and my recovery. I definitely made mistakes along the way, I remember talking to my professors and saying I had no idea what I was doing and asked them for help on how to study and ways to improve my habits. I remember the day grades were posted and I had received all A’s in my classes. I had a 4.0 for the semester! Unfortunately, my cumulative GPA was a 1.3 because of the first semester in those earlier years. I knew that this was going to be a long road to fix what I had done. The financial aid office was willing to work with me and so was the college. I continued to attend college every semester pulling out a 4.0 almost every semester (excluding a couple, economics is not my strong suit!).
Today, I have just finished the last semester at the community college that I was attending. I am now a graduate with an Associate degree and I have a cumulative GPA of 3.7. I will graduate with distinction, and all honors. I was thinking yesterday how lucky I am and how hard I have worked. I cannot believe that I will begin to work on a bachelor degree in January and I will be attending one of the best universities in the State. All this stemming from a few people who were willing to give me a chance, and allow me to show them how serious I was about my education. I have received emails from universities all over the state that want me at their institution! How cool! Even though I am not the “ideal” student because of my age, and life experience I am the ideal student because of the motivation I have to learn and make a difference in the world with my education. Age does not mean much if you want to learn. I had been given a second chance to get it right this time. I have no intention of stopping!
Life of Purpose Treatment
3848 FAU Boulevard, Suite 100
Boca Raton, FL 33431