The summer of 2019, was the summer I thought my eighteen year old self was achieving and becoming my best self- three months of ‘working hard’ only turned around to be the most challenging time of actually becoming my best self, full circle.
From eighteen to twenty-one, still learning the non-linear battle of recovery, I know I still have a long way to go fighting and curiously seeking what life has in store for a college student. With this, this month is Alcohol Awareness Month.
A month to truly be aware of alcoholism; a progressive chronic disease that can take lives. Substance use can lead to the damage of one’s health, mentally and physically. I can attest to this controversial topic.
Substance use is not a choice. In Elizabeth’s Hartney’s article she states, “While people may use the words “addiction” and “compulsion” interchangeably, they are not the same thing.”*
Personally, substance use became a way of escaping reality. Feeling something. An unhealthy way of saying, “No, I’m just having fun and going out!”— became the dark secret of the actuality of abusing alcohol.
To keep in the back of your head, I am not an alcoholic. However, from family members & learned experience of having the tendency to rely on a substance, especially with being in college, which is a very confusing time, I became aware of what this disease is.
Alcohol use created relapse, harm, and self hatred. An upsetting time of the ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality. However, hidden behind the closed door I was horrified to open, was hope. No judgment, but love. No accusing myself of giving up on life, but a support system of being worried out of concern.
The support came from my mother, father, aunt, cousin and dear friends. When in a low, they would push. They were always there to help. Talking with my doctor and a therapist as well helped with learning new mechanisms to overpower the small voice in my head.
Finding the right and best support system while going through recovery, was a surreal find. The support of communication and understanding gave me some stability, and just the right push I needed to become healthy physically, mentally and emotionally again.
Recovery for me? A perfect answer would be not hiding in shame anymore. The realistic answer? Accepting, finding the courage to fight, and to keep going, for what my great grandmother and mother say “this too shall pass.”
Recovery tips that I have held onto for the past three years are:
- Get professional help
- Be hard on yourself in a healthy way to overcome this time of struggle
- Instill a goal once a day to push yourself
- Communicate with those that care about you
- Find inner peace & self recognition of what you are doing
The right help is out there I learned. The best help I discovered is helping yourself in a positive way however that may be. Only twenty-one, I know my fight isn’t over. I battle a small voice in my head everyday. I know I still have a very long way to go in growing.
Olivia Pawlowski is a 21 year old junior at Rutgers Mason Gross Arts School of the Arts, being a full time student receiving her Bachelors in 2025. She is majoring in Graphic Design, and obtains her Associates Degree in Applied Sciences. This young woman has been in recovery with a few different eating disorders for three years now. With much to aspire for in life, she hopes to receive her Master’s degree in Graphic Design, while also learning more about the brain to help young children in struggle. For now, she advocates for mental health & eating disorder awareness, with her new furry best friend Apollo by her side.