Jennifer Bowers, a third-year post-baccalaureate computer science major, battled with drug and alcohol addiction for years before reflecting on her struggles and discovering her own reality. Now over six years sober, Bowers said being a student with a difficult past presents challenges that are hard for some to comprehend.
“Things can be a little rocky sometimes when dealing with reminders of my past that make me want to fall back into my old ways, but the most important thing is to maintain a balance in my daily life, which is contingent upon my spiritual condition,” Bowers said.
According to Bowers, when she decided to take control of her life and leave her past behind, she found resources such as counseling that helped her recover from her addictions.
“I realized that I was doing all the same things, but nothing was changing,” Bowers said. “I was fortunate to get help from the Marion County drug court program."
After completing the program in 2014, Bowers found herself living in an Oxford house when she met an OSU representative and was first introduced to the university's Collegiate Recovery Community program.
Bowers, who currently resides in Salem, Ore. due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lives at the CRC sober house at Dixon Lodge when in Corvallis. Bowers said she was intrigued by the emotional and financial support that was offered by the program in the form of counseling and scholarships.
“I wanted to study computer science and had a few colleges in mind, but OSU’s was a deal-breaker for me because of the recovery program which included scholarships for those living in the house,” Bowers said.
Because of those scholarships, Bowers is currently able to go to school without having to hold down a full-time job, which has allowed her to take on extracurriculars such as clubs and internships and is able to set time aside for personal growth and well-being.
“Living at the sober house has provided me with a calming environment and helped me gain the ability to live a balanced lifestyle,” Bowers said. “I can focus on my health as well as things that are meaningful to me and my community.”
According to Bowers, when living at the sober house your needs can often change, but those who are there to help are always willing to accommodate and assist you in any way needed.
“We really have everything we need here,” Bowers said.
Although, even in such sober environments, negative influences can attract the strongest of survivors, and according to Bowers, those negative influences are frequent on a college campus. Unfortunately, many are not aware of how much of a struggle it is for a former addict to be tempted back into old habits, however, the support of other recovering addicts as well as collegiate counselors, often provide Bowers with the support to get by, she said.
“Sometimes staying sober on campus can be hard even when living in the house,” Bowers said. “There are times when the noise of partying down the street or even the smell of barbecuing can be a trigger, which can bring you back to darker times and make you want to relapse, but fortunately we have each other as support.”
Bowers said when she feels the struggles of temptation in everyday life, she often gets support not only from her peers and counselors, but also from academic advisers who often go out of their way to comprehend her struggles.
“When I was first on campus, it was an adjustment, but I reached out to my advisor at the time and he did everything to help me feel supported,” Bowers said.
Bowers said she acknowledges how understanding many OSU community members can be towards those who are struggling and feels blessed to be a part of such a welcoming community.
According to Bowers, as members of OSU’s tight-knit community, we must come together to inspire and make some kind of difference, no matter how small, and said she feels living at the recovery house has offered her opportunities to make those differences.
“Living at the CRC has given me the opportunity to give outreach to my community by going and speaking about my past experiences to high schoolers,” Bowers said.
Outreach is important for any recovering addict because it gives them the opportunity to heal through telling their story, while guiding others, sometimes, out of the darkness and in the right direction, according to Bowers
As for her, Bowers said she often gains clarity through her outreach initiatives because it has helped her make peace with her past by giving others a type of perspective that she never had growing up. According to Bowers, it’s important to always learn from your past, while helping others through your own prior struggles.
“I truly believe that in order to keep what you have, you also need to give it away,” Bowers said.