While Washtenaw Community College does not have a collegiate recovery program or a student organization, but it has become a heavily used pathway to University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University—an organic community among people in recovery has developed there.

 Jake’s Story

(Published January 13, 2013 in the Michigan Daily by Paige Pearcy)

“Early in my senior year of high school, I had a major blow up with them, and I left home,” Jake said. “Then about two days later I said to my mom, ‘I think I need to go to treatment.’ That was December 2 of 2010, and that was the first time I entered treatment.”

After he ended treatment in April, he relapsed in June. He said he started to build resentment towards peers who didn’t have to worry about sobriety.

When he started using drugs and alcohol again, his parents offered an ultimatum: He couldn’t attend school at the University in the fall if he continued using.

“I didn’t care, and I kept using,” Jake said.

Because he continued using, he went to treatment again, this time at a wilderness program in North Carolina.

“It was enjoyable in a sense, but at the same time it kind of got me centered and realize what I needed to do,” Jake said.

Jake then came to Ann Arbor and spent his first semester at Washtenaw Community College before enrolling at the University for the winter semester.

In Ann Arbor, Jake lived in two different three-quarter houses — houses for people transitioning from treatment back to “normal” life.

After his first semester at the University was over, Jake briefly encountered drugs again — a relapse that put his life at risk.

“About three weeks after the semester ended, I took this deep sigh of relief (feeling) like I got through the school year clean and sober,” Jake said. “I had about 11 months sober and then I kind of forgot what I was doing and forgot that recovery and staying sober is a 24/7, 365-type deal, and I went back out and used.”

He drove to Detroit to buy drugs and woke up after overdosing surrounded in vomit with a bruised face.

“That was a very scary time because it seemed like a good idea, and for that to seem like a good idea seems ludicrous to anybody but an alcoholic and an addict,” Jake said. “The amount I used should kill any human being. A lot of people were shocked that I didn’t die.”

Paige reached her breaking point last summer when she left a party in nearby Saline and crashed her car.

But she doesn’t remember this.

She can’t tell me how her car crashed and at the time she didn’t know where she was. The details of that night have been relayed back to her from her mother, and she only can repeat what she’s been told.

The next day after the incident, though she resisted, Paige’s mom took her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“She took me to a meeting, and she actually was crying to her friends which I’ve really never seen her do,” Paige said. “I’ve never seen her vulnerable in public ever, and she just couldn’t help it. And this woman came up and said, ‘welcome to the family.’”

Both Paige and Jake used different types of treatment for their recovery. Prof. Zucker said finding the right treatment for each person is important.

“There are a variety of different kinds of interventions … and those are all effective if one continues with them,” Zucker said. “They may not be one’s particular cup of tea (and it) doesn’t seem to fit, but if one sees that one of these resolutions is not working, one needs to look for something else because there are other options available. When one is significantly addicted, self-help often does not work.”

After going back and forth between drug use and treatment, Jake said that his most recent time using drugs caused a major change in his mindset and that has made him recommitted to stay clean and sober.

“That was a huge realization for me,” Jake said. “I came to a point where I, for the first time in my life, really felt like I was dedicated to staying sober. You really have to give all of yourself to that end if you want to accomplish it.”

Environment, however, can also serve as a gateway to recovery. Last year, both Paige and Jake participated in CRP, and both said it’s a significant contributor to their recovery success.

Paige, nine months sober in April when I spoke with her, was the vice president of CRP. She joined after being introduced to it by her AA sponsor.

“I know that if I didn’t have this community, if I just tried to stay sober by myself, it wouldn’t have worked,” Paige said.