Testimony #7

Please note that some of the material may be graphic and/or vulgar in nature. Student’s names are kept confidential.

On January 10th, 2009 my life had hit a low like I had never felt before. It was a very cold and icy night in Omaha, NE and my driving condition was not up to par; I had been drinking and smoking marijuana. I did not see the red light until it was too late and ended up getting t-boned by a plow truck. Thankfully there were no injuries in this accident, but the consequences to follow were a string of events that would finally lead me to surrendering my control over alcohol and drugs.

Before this accident I had two other alcohol related offenses that landed me on probation. I had people telling me that I may have a problem and needed to seek help. Very rarely did the thought cross my mind that a problem existed with the way I was living my life, but when it did it was usually at the fault of my parents or the police, never was it my problem. The previously mentioned accident was an exception, it was at this time that the thought came to me that every time I drink or do drugs something bad happens. This accident landed me on probation, once again, with a 2nd DUI.  The judge required me to complete an outpatient treatment program and attend 1 AA meeting a week.

I was raised in a sober environment, with most of my immediate and external family being in either AA or choosing a sober life. I had been to more 12 step meetings than most AA members by the time I was ten years old and had a working knowledge (or so I thought) of the 12 steps. I knew that AA worked for people and could see this evidence all over my family, but it was not what was going to fix me. I continued to drink while on probation and while attending outpatient treatment. Little did I know that the information I was accumulating in those programs would finally take hold in October of 2009. On October 9, 2009 I had my last drink. I had been regularly attending AA meetings, got a sponsor, and started building a fellowship of support that helped me surrender my control.

Sobriety has not only been about combating my control over alcohol and drugs, but also about figuring out who I am. Giving up alcohol was the easy part for me. When I was new the only thing that I could understand is that drinking caused me problems and I wanted it to cease being an issue for me. Today I can see that I am the problem and I drank to cover up the wrongs inside myself. I have learned that once I can work on myself and face who I truly am, only then can I gain a so called power over my alcohol and drug addiction.  Spirituality has been a major factor in my sobriety. I have struggled over the years with a concept of a Higher Power, but so long as I have been willing to believe I have felt that Power work in my life. Sobriety has been a big roller coaster ride for me, with highs and lows, in fact I have had to deal with some of the most difficult situations, in my life, sober. When I was a little over 2 years sober my dad was diagnosed with cancer and my grandmother was starting to become very ill. Sobriety taught me that instead of running from these problems and getting drunk or high over them, I should run to them and see where I can be helpful. By being a part of my family during these hard times I was able to build closer relationships with both my father and my grandmother and not dwell on the difficult situations we were facing.

I had tried college right after high school, but partying quickly took priority in my life and I failed out of school after only a year. In 2012, at the age of 25 I decided I wanted to go back to school. I was able to complete an associate’s degree at a community college and have since starting working on a Bachelor’s degree here at UNO. In community college I was not aware of any recovery groups at my school and was forced to seek out support on my own. I had my AA community and luckly I was part of a fellowship of young people, many of whom were in school. The support from this fellowship helped carry me through my time there.

I found out about the UNO Recovery Community before actually becoming a student here. Knowing that there was support on campus was a big reason why I chose this university. Being a non-traditional student, I find it difficult to find campus organizations that I can fit into. The CRC has not only given me the support I need for being a student with alcoholism and addiction, it has also given me a way to feel a part of my school and participate in my learning outside of the classroom. The best part of the CRC is the community we are building. It is one of the coolest things to walk into the CRC dorm and talk about life, spirituality, sobriety, etc. Having a support system on campus was something I did not even know I wanted until I experienced it. I am very excited to watch the growth of this community and hope to one day see sober housing and scholarships. I tell everyone I meet about the CRC and encourage students who are facing drug addiction and alcoholism to come check it out.

A huge part of my recovery is having a support system that can hold me up when I feel as though I am falling. The CRC is that system for me here at school. A lot of my friends outside of school either are already graduated or have never had the experience of going to school sober. The CRC gives me the opportunity to learn and grow with people who are in the same shoes I am in. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next few years with this community and I am so pleased to be a part of something so big.

Sound Familiar? Testimony #5

Please note that some of the material may be graphic and/or vulgar in nature. Student’s names are kept confidential.

For the most part, I had a pretty normal childhood. My parents treated me well and I usually did pretty good in school. However, I remember I often felt weird, out of place and just off. I had friends but I never was one of the cool kids. Part of this would feed on itself, like since I wasn’t part of a group I had to differentiate myself. Eventually this resulted in me being pretty anti-authority and rebelling against my parents and school. I started getting in trouble, at first just little altercations at school and becoming more destructive. I smoked weed for the first time in October 2006, in eighth grade. It was fun, it felt different, I was out of my head, it let me not worry or care. I didn’t get into it very heavily at first but it was just a matter of time. I got drunk for the first time in December 2007 and eventually started using pot on a more regular basis. In May 2008, I was drunk and/or high with a friend and we were joyriding in his dad’s jeep, it rolled three times and I broke my neck. Several months later, the same day I got the neck brace off, I snuck out of my parents’ basement to go get high with friends. Looking back, this is one of those experiences where I know I am an alcoholic and addict. Over time, my addiction grew: I began to experiment with various other drugs, blacking out & using more heavily, and getting in trouble with the law, school, and my parents. On August 27th, 2010, a few weeks into my senior year of high school, I was drinking with friends at a park after one of the high school football games. I drove back drunk, and crashed my car, totaling two vehicles and almost killing two girls. That was the last time I drank, and I’ve been sober ever since August 28th of 2010.

I went through treatment, got a sponsor and started going to meetings on a regular basis and got to know the recovery fellowship in Lincoln for a while before I was sentenced, this provided a stable base for me in recovery. The day after I got out of jail, I moved into the dorms at UNO. I didn’t really know anyone in Omaha, and this was the first time I had been living on my own. I saw in the campus newspaper that there was a meeting on campus, and I went. There I met other cool young people in recovery who were able to get me involved within the Omaha recovery fellowship. I have since been going to the campus meeting consistently for several years now.

Today I have been sober for over four years, and enrolled in classes and on track to graduate eventually. I have a job I’ve held down for almost two years and have been living in an on-campus apartment. I have grown relationships with my family, friends and the fellowship to a level that would not be possible if I was still using. Being in recovery has made it possible for me to succeed in school, and the meeting on campus has been an important part of my sobriety since I’ve been here. I’ve been able to get to know other people in sobriety throughout Omaha and the community as a result of going to that meeting and others.

I feel like UNO is a good track to help further support for those in recovery. With the opening of our Recovery Community space, there is a place for people to hang out in an environment supportive of recovery. We are working to start other meetings on campus at other times beyond just the noon meetings. There are resources and professional help available to those who are in need of them. Others in the Omaha

recovery fellowship are available to help those in need at any time. I feel that continuing to grow these resources will only help more students in recovery.

Helping others on campus has contributed to my recovery on campus in that it has allowed me to get out of myself and to help others in addiction. Sometimes, it has happened where I will be talking with someone after class and drug use will come up, and if appropriate I can tell them about my experience and why and how I don’t use drugs anymore, and to let them know there is a solution if they are open to it.

Many of the students I know, I know them from the meeting but often have not been able to make it to the meeting because of conflicting class/work schedules, others I know from other meetings in the community and see them on campus and or if I meet someone at a meeting out in the community and they’re a student here I usually try to let them know about the meeting if they don’t know about it, sometimes it doesn’t work with their schedule or other times they come and check it out!

Sound Familiar? Testimony #4

Please note that some of the material may be graphic and/or vulgar in nature. Student’s names are kept confidential.

My sobriety began at the age of 17. Throughout my drinking career I had many experiences that would wake up any normal drinker and stop them in their tracks. The delusion of any alcoholic is to drink, act, and live like everyone else in the world. Unfortunately that is not something that I was able to do, even though I tried many times.

I had a brief stint of sobriety, just over 7 months, when I thought there was no way a girl of my age could know whether they were alcoholic or not. Typical reservation for a young person along with many others such as, I don’t have the experience that others do, I didn’t even drink legally…etc. Once I had decided I had more experience to gain, I joined my old life and started drinking again. I accumulated three nights of drinking in a month. In that time I suffered all the same internal pain that had left me during my stint of sobriety. It came flooding back, the dark anger, shaking fear, and paralyzing depression. I did not lose my parents, friends, material goods, or home. I lost me.

March 12, 2010, I went back to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous with a new understanding of what it was going to take to stay sober. I could not have the reservations that someday I could drink like a lady or when I get older and wiser I will know better. I was going to have to take action and follow directions from others who had the experience and knowledge that I was lacking.

Today I have been sober for over 4 years. There has been one constant through this time, even when I wanted to fight it, I am still an alcoholic and will always be. It sounds daunting, like I’m stuck with some horrible life threatening disease. What it really means to me is that I have a quirk which affects me in many different ways but usually only if I am not taking actions to better my recovery and life.

A large piece of my sobriety is due to a Higher Power. I don’t talk much about it because it’s a scary topic for many. I believe in something stronger than me, it does not have a face or name and I will never fully understand what it is, all I do is keep learning and trusting. I also work the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which I was taught by a fellow alcoholic who, I consider my sponsor. We talk all the time about life situations and what I can do different to better myself.

The process of recovery is not easy, it’s really hard to look at myself and see the defects that come up in my daily affairs. I used alcohol and other substances to keep from feeling the pain of who I was being and the situations I was in throughout my life. I don’t drink because of what happened, I drink because I like to drink, I like to party, I don’t like to be sad, I want to waste time….. Pretty much any reason I could find; I would drink. I am an alcoholic because my body and mind react differently to alcohol. The only way to not drink is change the physical and mental but that requires the spiritual change.

Like I said easy is, and was not a part of my life…ever. Either I made my life hard with my actions and drinking, or life situations are happening and I have to make it a priority to stay plugged into my program. This looks like going to meetings, talking to other women, helping others, calling my sponsor, and gaining a closer relationship to my Higher Power. In theory these things would be small tasks that seem simple, but the process of doing these things can be much harder in practice. I have gone through some very hard trials. I have lost 6 friends to suicide and overdose and one friend who went missing when I was early in sobriety. I have also had to become a care-giver to my mom who had a brain infection in 2013. The result was a speech and communication disorder that impacts our lives greatly. The down side to all of this is that pain and grief consumes me at times. The upside is I have been able

to reach out and be a strong supporter to the friends and family in my life. I have the opportunity to work with other alcoholics and addicts who are on struggling and want to make changes to their lives.

Recovery is a hard thing for a young person, especially because drinking is a large part of the young adult lifestyle. I graduated High School while in treatment when I was 17 and started college. I had to withdraw and return home to Omaha. The first year back I tried to attend Iowa Western and live in the dorms. I was SO uncomfortable. It was difficult to be around so many people who were partying and having a good time. I stayed plugged in with people in the AA fellowship around town but school was not the safest place. From then until last year school was a place to take classes and that is all. I did not talk to many people on campus or in my classes, instead I just walked in right before each class started and left when it ended. This year I have been attending classes at UNO. At first I assumed my usual pattern, not really connecting with people or getting involved. I started going to a noon meeting every once in a while and talking to the people involved in recovery on campus. This has impacted the enjoyment of school for me greatly. I am now participating in the UNO Recovery Community. It is a

new group that is growing quickly and trying to gather more support. I now am on campus almost all day. I sit in the recovery room and study, talk to other alcoholics, and get to help people when they have questions. It’s really exciting to be involved in another community.

Recovery is a scary thing. I never would have expected to be in the place I am today with the various areas of life. I could talk for hours about the impact that recovery has had on my existence. Being able to incorporate recovery into school, work, and my home life has significantly helped me stay in a peaceful place.

Sound Familiar? Testimony #3

Please note that some of the material may be graphic and/or vulgar in nature. Student’s names are kept confidential.

Like many of my fellow alcoholics and addicts, I grew up in a dysfunctional home that included an alcoholic and physically abusive father. I also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of many for many years. When I found alcohol and drugs at the age of eight, I thought I had found the answer to my problems.

At first, the alcohol and the drugs took away the anxiety that resulted from being physical and sexually assaulted. One could say that for a short time they served a good purpose in my life. However, soon I found myself in a cycle that I could not stop. The alcohol and the drugs consumed my life. Fast forward eighteen years and I find myself sitting in a jail cell facing assault charges. All those years of abuse had made me into a very violent individual; add alcohol and drugs to that explosive personality and you have a recipe for destruction of self and others. It turns out that during a blackout, I had hurt someone. It was during my stay in jail that I was able to speak to a fellow addict who shared her story with me and gave me information on treatment. Upon my release, I attended treatment and after thirty days, I moved into a halfway house for alcoholics and drug addicts.

It was at the halfway house that I was encouraged to pursue my GED. After, I attended Community College and earned my EMT degree and subsequently my State license to practice at that capacity. Several years later I applied to The University of Nebraska at Omaha and was accepted. I decided to declare a Neuroscience major and began working towards it. Soon I realized how much work college really was. I found that I did not have much time to attend meetings as I had in the past. I asked around campus and was told there was one meeting in a small room at the counseling center. I attended on a pretty regular basis and enjoyed watching my fellow students come in and at first only be able to put together a couple of days, then weeks, and after a while even months. Lucky for us, the counseling center moved and we were given a bigger room to hold our meetings. The decision was made to increase the meetings to three per week. At first, meeting attendance was slow but soon grew in size.

The kids that had months were now celebrating one, two, and three years! Not only that, they were bringing in fellow students in to the rooms so they too could find help. It is true privilege to have been able to see this then and even more of a privilege to see that it still continues today.

For me, recovery on campus is very important. I am sure that without being able to attend meetings on campus my recovery would suffer. College life can be very stressful and alcohol and drugs are readily available for just about anyone that wants them. Myself and my fellow recovering alcoholics and drug addicts need a place on campus for us to feel safe and understood, a place that allows us to feel like we belong. The University has tried hard to give us that but in my opinion; it still falls short of having an adequate place for us.

In conclusion, I am happy to announce that in May, I celebrated eleven years of sobriety. Further, I am currently a senior in college. I will graduate with a bachelor’s of science degree that will consist of major in Neuroscience and a minor in Gerontology this December. Without the support of the recovery community on campus I would not have been able to achieve any of this.

Sound Familiar? Testimony #2

Please note that some of the material may be graphic and/or vulgar in nature. Student’s names are kept confidential.

August 12, 2012 I woke up on the scratchy carpet in my buddy’s apartment with a dude’s hand ruffling in my pants…

“Did that just happen? That just happened… I need a cigarette.”

That was my internal monologue for about twenty minutes before I could finally get up. Walking out the front door, there was the most beautiful girl in the world – the one who, the night before, said she thought it would be cool to grab a bite to eat sometime – laying in her panties next to my buddy who bought me my first beer the night before.

I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I had to stop. Five months later, however, I was still depressed. I spent more time fantasizing about offing myself than anything else. That was until my buddy gave me this one piece of advice:

“Why don’t you ask your higher power if you’re alcoholic? I’m sure he’ll answer you.”

I took my buddy’s advice. Two days later I woke up with a new craving – the craving for recovery. Within a few months, I completed an honest and thorough inventory and shared it with a sponsor. By the time I had nine months of sobriety, I was working on steps 9 through 12.

Around that time, I decided to go back to school. I wasn’t satisfied with my job and I felt the call to be an educator. That brought me to UNO.

UNO has been a tremendous asset to my sobriety. First, it gives me a convenient spot to hit meetings. Working part-time and going to school full-time, it is easy to run out of time. The nooner on Monday, Wednesday and Friday helps me make sure I am getting around people who are in recovery. It helps me build the fellowship I crave. The other thing the nooner does is provide a place where I can meet new people and carry the message of recovery to them.

The other day I was walking back to my car after the nooner and bs’ing with a new guy who was coming up on thirty days. As we were talking, another friend from program walked up

and started to chop it up with us. We spent 45 minutes talking about recovery, relationships, and creating the fellowship we crave. It was a bright and sunny day – not a cloud on the horizon. That’s what recovery is like on campus. Friends helping keep friends accountable, pulling each other out of the mire that is alcoholism.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous says something about frequent contact with new people and with each other being the bright spot of our lives. That has been my experience. Now, it would be nice to have a few morning meetings and evening meetings every week. It would be really cool if the people in recovery on campus could get connected and start having some sober- fun. But, I’m sure that day will come. In the meantime, it is nice to know that I’m not the only one around here – and that my friends in recovery are looking out for me as much as I am for them.

Sound Familiar? Testimony #1

Please note that some of the material may be graphic and/or vulgar in nature. Student’s names are kept confidential.

In 2012, I was having a very difficult time managing my work life, school life, and home life. I had been abusing drugs and alcohol since 2005. In 2012 I decided to reach out for help. I was enrolled at UNO at the time and the first place I thought to seek help was the counseling department. I found that locating the information and help I was looking for was rather difficult. The only thing I felt comfortable doing was emailing one of the university’s drug and alcohol counselors. In the email, I described what I was going through and that I was seeking help. I was invited to make an appointment and that UNO had services available for me. However, I did not feel comfortable making an appointment to meet a complete stranger to deal with a problem that I was terrified of. A few months later, I got in some legal trouble and was required to attend AA meetings.

In 27 days I will have been sober for 2 years. I am stable in my school life, my recovery, and my personal life. I have an academic scholarship and hold a GPA of 3.8. I sponsor other men in the program of AA and have seen my work life and personal life improve drastically. My journey through recovery has been fairly indescribable. There have been very high points and very low points. Overall, my journey has been amazing. I have met wonderful people and had my outlook on life has completely changed.

Sobriety has had a substantial impact on my collegiate career. I went from a failing student to the Dean’s list almost immediately. I can make it to class on time, do my work, and retain information; which was impossible when I was not in recovery.

I remember preparing for my first AA meeting. I was thumbing through my “Where and When,” looking for the meeting that sounded the least terrifying. As I was looking at addresses I noticed one that seemed to be right around UNO. Then I noticed it was at UNO, in the HPER building. I was scared but I felt that a meeting on campus, with other students who were like me, would be the most comfortable. Before finding the “UNO Lunch Hour Meeting” in the “Where and When,” I had no idea that there were AA meetings on campus. The perspective of a still-struggling alcoholic is a warped one.

Help for alcoholism and addiction seems like an “outside” issue for a small, weird, percentage of the population. I felt very alone and scared. I felt that my first meeting would have one or two people at it and was surprised welcomed by around fifteen people.

I think the campus could make information on alcoholism and addiction more available to students who are seeking it and I don’t just mean pamphlets with general information about addiction (I already knew I was an alcoholic when I sought help) to let the sufferer know that they are not alone and that this disease is common, even among college students. I would like to see and organization of students on campus whose purpose is to be there for these people who feel so alone and make addiction something more approachable and less intimidating. Had something like that existed when I first reached out for help, it may have saved my family and me more suffering. I know many students on campus, including myself, who could benefit from more available on-campus AA meetings.