Recovery Oriented Campus Center

Bryn Gallagher's Story

Dear Fellow Student,

You have arrived: here you are at college. Is it everything you hoped it would be? For the first few years of my time at USM, half of me answered “yes” to that question, and the other half knew in my gut that the answer was no. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone, and things can get so much better. Let me explain.

When I started at USM in the Fall of 2011, I didn’t intend to stay here long. I came to most of my classes and listened some of the time, but my mind was fixated on the nights, the weekends, and what felt like my key to the kingdom: a fake license that said I was 21. The end of classes could not come soon enough, because it meant I got to escape – not just the classroom, but my mile-a-minute head, and the fear in my heart that I would never measure up to the people around me. This didn’t start at USM; as far back into my childhood as I can remember, there was a dissonance between the way I wanted to feel, and how I actually felt. Drinking did an amazing job at quieting all of that and, even better, it made me feel smarter, funnier and really really good-looking. (Think Zoolander).

Forget about my 1.7 GPA; I was sneaking into the Old Port, getting attention, living in a downtown apartment with some girlfriends. Was I blacking out frequently? Definitely. Was I getting sick at the end of most drinking nights? Yup. Did I think this was normal? Well, kind of. I distinctly remember thinking to myself in the middle of being sick one night: This cannot be right. This cannot be the way most people drink. Obviously, there were numerous problems with that situation. Primarily, I saw countless people my age drinking the same way. So it had to be normal, right? Wrong. There is no “bottom” you have to reach before you can enter recovery. You do not have to get blackout drunk before you can enter recovery. You do not have to get an OUI before you can enter recovery. You do not have to be failing classes before you can enter recovery. Too often, the world around us tells us that it is normal – especially as college students – to drink to the point of alcohol poisoning on a regular basis. This is false, and it is fatal. The truth about substance use disorders is that they exist on a spectrum from mild to severe. The moment you say, even if just in your head, I want to do something different about my relationship with substances – that is the moment you enter recovery. It is a process; a beautiful, scary, sometimes painful, incredible, beyond-wildest-dreams process.

I am grateful to say that today, things look a little different from what I described above. Today, I am person in long-term recovery. I graduated from USM in May 2015 and in early May of this year, finished my first year of Law School. Next week, my boyfriend and I are bringing home an energetic, cuddly, already-chewing-on-everything puppy. This summer, I will be working as the Legal Fellow for the Maine Women’s Policy Center in Augusta. I can confidently say that few (probably none) of these things would be true if I were living the way I was when I first came to USM. I’ve heard it said that when you come into recovery, your wildest dreams come true. My experience has been that recovery finally gave me the clarity to dream wild ideas for my future in the first place, with lots of hard work put in, they are now becoming reality.

If you are feeling any type of less-than-ideal way about your relationship with alcohol and/or drugs, I promise you are not the only one. USM is home to a whole crew of students in recovery. Some of us are still very much in the beginning of the journey, while others are well on their way to five years of sobriety in recovery. We meet as Students and Recovery every Tuesday from 5-6pm in 203 Payson Smith and we are so excited to be moving into a more permanent space – likely on the first floor of Payson Smith – sometime in the next year.

Please, do not hesitate to come check out a meeting of Students and Recovery. Many of us are in recovery from substance use disorder; others of us are working on our relationships with food or mental health, and some come for the support because they have family members in (or needing) recovery. No matter what you are feeling, I can almost promise you that one of us

– likely many of us – in the room will be able to relate. Recovery is possible, it is beautiful, it is real, and it is here at USM.

Thanks for reading,

Bryn Gallagher

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