Out of an addiction epidemic and into a college classroom

Out of an addiction epidemic and into a college classroom

The cost of addiction and how to combat it is more visible than ever in the mainstream. Recovery needs to be every bit as prominent. We must create and highlight opportunities that promote not only becoming/staying clean and sober, but also to live fuller lives.

The University of Southern Maine is taking a huge step in that direction through the Collegiate Recovery Center. Its mission is to help recovering students to complete already begun degrees and to encourage people in recovery to enroll in classes.

This is exactly the type of practical approach we need and a great example of why I’m a pragmatic idealist.  I want for things to get better but I have little patience with good intentions and nice ideas because those don’t help people. The investments of supporting what is known to work and of creating innovative solutions to the problem are what help people.

It’s simple: a person without ample opportunity is vastly more likely to relapse or continue using drugs/alcohol than a person who sees a clear course of action toward a better life.

One of the best success stories in our country’s history is the efforts of Catholic Priest Greg Boyle who works tirelessly to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles. He is best known for saying:

“Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” – Father Greg Boyle

Hells, yes.

I love not only the sentiment of that – I love the fact that we can improve our communities by investing in members of our communities. I can tell you from experience that no one works harder than a person who needs a second chance. The people in recovery that I employ are second to none.

But they had to get through college before they could work for me. I know a lot more who started than completed. I’m confident in predicting that in the long term, USM will profit and grow because of the investment they’re making.

We know that Maine struggles to retain college grads and to train skilled laborers. It’s therefore all the more economically advantageous to train and educate people in recovery. Making these investments helps us move from being a cost to society toward becoming greater contributors.

Here’s an investment all of us can make: Support Young People in Recovery (YPR) and Students and Recovery. These groups are currently active in Portland, Bangor, and hopefully, will be coming soon to a town or city near you statewide. If you’d like to start a chapter, connect with these amazing folks here.

Our successes become the power of example: If I did it then you can too.

I didn’t get through college or anything else alone. Neither should you. It’s hard to reach out for help but I promise, its liberating and it’ll improve your odds of success a thousand fold.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.