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Scott S., a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, displays several bracelets he wears that hold special meaning to him, Thursday, April 7, 2016. The yellow and blue bracelets are in memory of Scott’s cousin who was a drug user and committed suicide, and they are also representative of when Scott himself contemplated suicide. He also wears two bracelets with the names of his daughters Scottlyn Love and Journey Sky. The “drugs kill” bracelets are representative of Scott’s recovery as well as his involvement as a student volunteer with Bulldogs of Recovery. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

One step closer to recovery

No one else could make this decision for him – Scott S. was the only one who had the power to take back control of his life.

“I was the last person to know until I looked in the mirror that I had a problem,” Scott said. “To look at myself and say, ‘You know what? It’s you dude. Don’t blame it on anything else. Don’t blame it on your PTSD. Don’t blame it on your parents. It’s you.’”

“That was one thing with going into recovery getting over the denial and becoming honest,” he said.

Scott, who is majoring in recreational therapy at Fresno State, is now a student volunteer at Bulldogs for Recovery, a campus program that provides students who are in recovery a place to connect.   

“Bulldogs for Recovery is really an effort to be a resource for Fresno State students who are on this campus right now that are currently in recovery,” said Kathy Yarmo, health promotion and wellness services coordinator for the student health and counseling center.  

After receiving a $10,000 grant from Transforming Youth Recovery in 2015, Fresno State launched Bulldogs for Recovery, which includes resources such as Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings and Bulldogs for Recovery open meetings.  

AA meetings are located in the Bark Park room at the Student Recreation Center on Thursdays from noon to 12:45 p.m.

“It’s a 12-step group that’s based on the AA 12-step model, and they’re two students who have come forward to run the meetings,” Yarmo said.

Scott who is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and one of the two students, got involved with Bulldogs for Recovery when Yarmo asked him to attend a conference with her.

“I seeked the drug of methamphetamine, and that’s all I really wanted to do,” Scott said, “I would just seek that versus wanting to spend time with my family.”

Scott said recovery is an ongoing, day-to-day process.

“I’m not healed; my brain will always be wired to like alcohol always be wired to like the smell, the feel everything about marijuana and methamphetamine, and the way it made me feel,” Scott said.

His recovery process started when he hit bottom, he said.

“My wife left with my kid. My life fell apart, and I had no other choice if I wanted to keep my family,” Scott said, “and I had no other choice if I wanted to live because I was on a sure track to die.”

Although his friends and family members were aware of his addictions, he was the last person to realize it.

That was before 2013. Today, Scott has an associate degree in alcohol and drug abuse counseling and is majoring in recreational therapy.

Although Scott has an associate degree in counseling, “he’s not offering any kind of therapy, it’s not therapeutic. It’s more peer-to-peer,” Yarmo said.

“When students come here, they’re not talking to a licensed-mental health person,” Yarmo said. “This is really an opportunity to talk to fellow students that are in recovery. So it’s not facilitated by a licensed person. It’s a fellow student.”

Bill E. was one of the first people who approached Yarmo, seeking advice and resources.

“I came on campus and looked for a recovery program, a 12-step program, and I couldn’t find one,” he said.  

Bill, 61, is a child development major who is in recovery for being an alcoholic and a drug addict.

He spent part of his life trying to get away from alcohol and drugs. However, “people were always bringing them by,” he said. “I just couldn’t get away.”

“It got to the point where I was losing my job; my family was moving away,” he said. “I was getting sick and tired of drugs.”  

As an escape route, he move to Tulare County in hopes to get away from drugs and alcohol. However, “[it] turned out to be like the capital of methamphetamine and a lot of marijuana is grown there,” he said.

He hit bottom, and he did not want to go on anymore, he said.

As a result, in August 2011, he reached out to a friend who helped him start his recovery process.

“Recovery for me has been nothing but a blessing it has changed my life around,” Bill said.

Semesters later, Fresno State now has resources for students who are in recovery.

Joe, a 34-year-old nursing student, whose name was changed for this story, is currently in recovery from being an alcohol and drug addict.

The steps to his addiction started when he attended his friend’s brother’s party, where he drank alcohol, hoping to impress others.

“I was trying to impress so I started drinking,” Joe said. “I took 12 shots of Jose Cuervo tequila and probably got alcohol poisoning the first time I got drunk.”       

As part of his recovery process, he has been attending AA meetings on campus.

“It’s really about one alcoholic one addict sharing their experience and talking to another,” Joe said.

Along with AA meetings, students have the option to attend Bulldogs for Recovery open meetings, which take place on Mondays at 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Health Center Library.

Yarmo said, “It’s just an opportunity for students to get together and have the space with other students in recovery.”

The open meetings are where students who are recovering can connect with others who are also in recovery as well as share their stories.

“Right now it’s very open,” Yarmo said. “If the students just want to commiserate about their classes, they can do that. If they want to share their personal stories of what brought them into recovery, [they can do that].”

Although Bulldogs for Recovery just launched this semester, “my hope is that this will help make Fresno State just that much more welcoming to a more diverse population, including those in recovery,” Yarmo said.

“You don’t have to be in this alone,” she said. “You can reach out to others that have been through this.”