I arrived at Alpha 180 on a cold December day in 2017. This was to be an important stop on my journey, but I did not quite know it at that time. For years previous I went around and around on the treatment carousel, occasionally stopping for food and water, but never finding the enriching recovery experience I was seeking. As I took my seat in the Monday night recovery meeting at the Alpha 180 clubhouse for the first time something happened. I walked away from the carousel and never looked back.

When I committed to Alpha 180 the idea of combining college and recovery was foreign to me. All I wanted was a fresh start at life, a warm bed to sleep in, and someone to believe in me. Going to school made sense on paper, but the prospect of actually making it happen was outlandish to a newly sober heroin addict. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about that for a while and focused on my recovery, building my community, and making friends. The community model at Alpha taught me how to have healthy relationships, set goals, and live an exhilarating, authentic life in ways I had never experienced at other aftercare programs.

Phase 1 of my 180-degree experience was an identity shift. I came to groups, worked hard in therapy, dove into every activity offered, and attended my first ever community college class in sobriety. What this experience gave me was a newfound purpose. I had been looking for a route to success for my entire life, and the Alpha 180 staff guided me through action, not just words, towards the goals that I knew I wanted to meet. I made friends who were on the same journey as I was. I no longer saw myself as a failure; I saw myself as a student in long-term recovery.

Phase 2 of my experience was service and leadership. When I hit the 6-month mark at Alpha 180, life was in full swing. I was enrolled in college as a full-time student, working and earning a living again, and having a blast while doing it. But what I was taught is you have to give it away in order to keep it. The Alpha 180 staff gave us an outlet to do that in the form of the Chapter System. I was the first ever president of the student body at Alpha 180. What was so meaningful about this experience is that the staff believed in the students so profoundly that they gave us a voice. In other programs, simply checking the box of attending groups and events is considered success, but here they wanted more for us. As the president I was able to advocate for the students, propose ideas for trips and activities, coordinate how we welcomed the new guys, and guide the vision for what we wanted to see for students that came after us. I firmly believe that the service involved with this element of my experience wholly contributed to my success moving forward.

Phase 3 of my Alpha 180 experience was implementation. The therapists, case managers, and leadership staff actively showed me the skills I would need to move on as a self-sufficient young adult. Ready for increased freedom and responsibility, I transitioned to the Alpha 180 Grad House. Let’s face it, balancing school, recovery, and work is challenging but living in the Grad House at Alpha gave me a sturdy foundation to face those challenges while I could still lean on the community and staff for advice. I sit here today as a full-time student at the University of Texas at Austin, working full-time, with the most fulfilling relationships I have ever had in my life. Alpha 180 transformed me into the man I wanted to be, and I am forever grateful for the love, compassion, and tolerance the team showed me along the journey. I hope that every young man who faces addiction can find love for a hobby, education, work, or whatever will give them purpose to move forward in the recovery process. Community is sure to find you along the way and living a life beyond your wildest dreams is possible when you seek the tribe that is right for you.