Jim Gillen Teen Center

1280 North Main Street, Providence

Phone: (401) 632-4077 | Fax: (401) 632-4296

Email: KRCarlson@CareNE.org

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From the school of hard knocks to grad school

February 28, 2019

On May 3rd, 2012, I awakened to find myself staring into the eyes of a paramedic. I had experienced a near fatal overdose as the result of wanting to get high just “one last time”. Addiction had completely destroyed my life. I was homeless, unemployable, and had no hope of ever surviving. All my dreams had been destroyed, including any hopes of higher education. The following day, I woke up and made a decision to engage in the recovery process. I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

 

When I made the decision and commitment to engage in the recovery process, I did not know what to expect. I was convinced that I had destroyed my life beyond repair. I was not even 100% sure I was going to make it. I thought it to be only a matter of time before I would have a reoccurrence, and find myself back out on the streets, or in prison yet again. Nevertheless, I gave recovery a shot. And it has been the best “shot” I have ever had in my entire life.

 

In the beginning, my primary objectives were to finish treatment, get off probation, become employed, get my license back, buy a car, and find an apartment. Just become a “normal” and productive member of society. I did all that, and it was awesome! But, then I remembered a dream I have had for almost my entire life: college.

 

As soon as the initial thoughts of going back to school started to trickle in, doubt was right behind them. I was convinced all the drug use had destroyed my brain and ability to do well in school. Additionally, I was 10 years older and technology had substantially advanced compared to when I was last in school. Could I really do this? And what if I fail?

 

Despite all the negative chatter, in the spring of 2015 I enrolled at the Community College of Rhode Island. My intentions were to complete my Associates degree, but once I was back in academia, I could not help but keep pressing on. I graduated in the spring of 2017 with my Associates in Arts, and transferred to Rhode Island College the following semester to continue on towards my Bachelor’s degree. On May 11th, I will be walking across yet another stage to receive my Bachelors in Psychology and my Bachelors in Chemical Dependency. That’s right: not one, but two degrees! I am graduating with a 4.0 and have just applied to the Masters of Psychology Program. My aim is to eventually be accepted into a PhD program. I envision my career as both a practitioner and recovery research scientist.

 

Ultimately, education has become a pathway of recovery for me. There have been times throughout my recovery when I have felt like giving up, but quickly remembered all that I have achieved, as well as what I am working towards in academia. What was once an area of great insecurity has now become a source of self-efficacy and self-esteem, two essential components of the recovery process. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined recovery would afford me all of this. My gratitude extends beyond words. Recovery is not always easy, but it is always worth it.