drug addiction growth lotus

From Addiction to Academia: One Man’s Path to Freedom

Just a few years ago, drug addiction was destroying Jam’s life. Today he is clean, sober, and feels his life has purpose and meaning. He is currently working on his graduate degree and plans to use his experience to help others find freedom from addiction. This is his story.

My Path from Drug Addiction to Academia

I got to where I am today from my substance abuse, a bout of psychosis, followed by an incremental (somewhat belated) experience of adolescent reintegration into life—all seemingly very negative experiences which may just have been the key to a future of happiness, purpose and service.

I began my substance abuse in middle school with marijuana and alcohol.  I spent a great deal of time in pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, and my aspirations did not expand beyond getting a bachelor’s degree so I could make enough money to live and support numerous habits.  I had no true interests besides substance pharmacology and business. My personal development was stunted, and I solely ascribed to a counterculture drug related identity. Though I spent only a minimal number of days sober in high school, I still was able to perform decently academically and athletically. I chose to go to UCSB, a “party school,” due to my substance-oriented priorities, which were completely devoid of any interest in a higher education or my major.  I went to college with little deliberation or thought in the matter because society and my parents deemed a college education the next step after high school.

Consequently, my addiction gradually consumed me, and I eventually entered a psychotic manic state from over-stimulating my mind with a myriad of substances as opposed to concentrating on my coursework.  Much like Freud, I welcomed my own psychosis in a process of searching to know more. The psychosis was not subjectively scary and was actually enjoyable, but it was quite the opposite for everyone else who came across my path.  Twice I found myself in behavioral health institutions for admittedly humorous reasons as I was diagnosed as schizoaffective or bipolar disorder during a four month long manic psychosis, which ended when I was forced to abstain from drugs.  My psychiatrist later concluded that I was not bipolar but had had drug-induced psychosis. The event was in some ways a spiritual awakening. One of the most important aspects of this experience was exploring synchronicity which I learned upon later research was described by Carl Jung, Freud’s more spiritually oriented protégé.  Serendipitously, Carl Jung was integral to the early formulation of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I also had some near-death experiences and overdoses as a result of the life I was living.  Supporting my drug habits became increasingly more difficult and consequences began to accrue.  Life itself was a struggle and seemed insurmountable. I started to drift in and out of hospitals, jails, and treatment centers.  Eventually, I reached a point where I was willing to change and face life unmedicated. Getting clean and sober was the most important and most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.  Over the next three four years, I became a completely different and much improved person through receiving support from 12 step groups, treatment, therapy, and family.

I finally achieved lasting sobriety in the Thousand Oaks area in a strict but supportive program and found I could stay employed and was a good worker.  Having made it out of my addiction alive, continuing my education was the next step in my journey. I took some psychology classes while trying to build and maintain sobriety, while most importantly finally gained an academic interest: Psychology. This interest grew, and I ultimately decided to go to the Professionals Program at CLU, which I completed last May with honors, evidence of my transformation.

Meanwhile, the internet startup I worked for folded due to regulatory issues, and I began working at a treatment center a week later.  My new position as a rehabilitation technician was an impetus to my interest in the MFT program because I became immersed in others’ recovery.  While initially I was nervous, when I was able to get some exposure and concentrate on seeing what I could bring to others’ lives, I found it was not as hard as I thought. I also did some personal introspection and growth with the 12 steps myself as well as helped others do the same.  All the while, I was enrolled in personal therapy.

Initially, my immediate goal was just to finally get my Associate’s degree while staying clean and sober.  That built to getting a Bachelor’s degree, working a full-time job and moving toward promoting my vitality and balance as a person.  I have found that one of my strengths is that I am compatible with many different people. Before I found drugs, as a child, I enjoyed spending time with friends and family.  I think I have always had a great desire for connection, and even in my recovery now I benefit from positive connections with people, versus forming maladaptive connections. What appeals to me being in a graduate program and working full time at Ventura Recovery Center is the human element, helping others grow toward their goals, and the value of introspection in my life as well as the idea that it will be a necessity to continue growing as a person pursuing this profession.  There is a lack of male therapists with personal experiences with recovery from substance abuse disorder. I am beyond grateful for the chance to be on this path now, constantly gaining more wisdom and strength to help my fellow travelers.

Jam F.

‘There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.’

-Thich Nhat Hanh

From Addiction to Academia: One Man's Path to Freedom
Article Name
From Addiction to Academia: One Man's Path to Freedom
For this man, the path from drug addiction to recovery took many turns. Today, he uses his experience to help others find recovery too.
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Ventura Recovery Center
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