Monday, April 17, 2017

Western goes to Scotland & England

Western students and faculty advisor, Linda Duffy will be traveling to Scotland and England on a 10 day adventure on May 15-27. Follow us on our travels by following this blog.

Day 1: Fly to Scotland
Day 2: Edinburgh
Day 3: Edinburgh
Day 4: Edinburgh & Night Train
Day 5: London
Day 6: London
Day 7: London
Day 8: Stonehenge & Bath
Day 9: Wales or London
Day 10: Fly Home

To prepare for our study abroad trip, we have taken a seven week course studying the countries, becoming reflective learners, and preparing for our travels. We are excited to share our journey with the College and community!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Shawn's Story

I am a family man and I am more than my addiction.

My name is Shawn and I am enrolled in the Electromechanical Engineering program at Western Technical College and will graduate from my program this spring.

While in recovery, I have faced many barriers. The financial burdens were the most difficult along with transportation issues getting me to and from work. It’s very difficult to be dependent upon someone. Another barrier I faced was getting my family back and gaining that trusting relationship with my wife and daughter once I became sober.

Recovery comes with many difficulties in life, mine being the loss of a fiancé and child in 2004, which has been the greatest challenge I have had to come to terms with along the way. Since being in recovery, I have begun to put myself in a positive mindset, I knew I had to, and could do better. Going back to school has been a success. I have made the President’s List each semester and have a job interview lined up with Kohler Supply Company in Kohler, Wisconsin. Kohler chose my application out of many other candidates for an interview. They have a great reputation in the industry along with a higher starting wage. This only proves my personal goals can be attained. I am no longer look at getting a job; I am focused on getting a career to have a better life for my family.

Having many smaller goals such as staying in school and not giving up has helped me to stay focused and feel good about myself. I consider my wife, daughter, my mom and dad my main support system. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I can admit that I have had to eliminate many people in my life, as they were not good influences and none of them stuck by me during those difficult times. I soon realized, early into my recovery, it was my wife and family who were there for me. I began to recognize that certain people and places were my triggers, and cutting those ties were what stopped feeding my addiction. What helped me to get through every day during my recovery was staying focused on my goals and thinking about my family.

If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be to deal with grief differently by having better coping skills for the loss of my loved ones. Much of my success comes from a cognitive behavioral program that was offered to me in the Black River Falls Correctional Institute. The program touches on emotional imbalances and pulls out aspects of your life that are affecting you most. It teaches you how to apply your coping skills. I was fortunate as there are very few prisons that offer addiction based help, even though most of the people are in there suffer with substance abuse.

Liz's Story

I am not my addiction: I am Liz, and I am unique.

I am currently in the Human Services Associate Program. There are a lot of barriers that I have overcome along with my addiction. Your addiction is always there, you know? Any stressors that you had before and after an addiction are still there. For example, I lost a number of relationships.

However, I was lucky as I was able to move away and start over. My main motivation for staying sober and in school is my son and my support systems. I’m enjoying this program and feel good about it! I’m eventually, going to have a degree! My goal in life is happiness! However, I do have smaller goals as well. I’m taking every day, one day at a time. I just want to do good in school and be the best mom I can be! I’ve got an amazing support system; my boyfriend, some friends, and my son’s family. They encourage me to keep going. They are there for me when I need some extra help. It’s super important to let go and rely on your support system sometimes. I know that I can do that with them. The “One Day at a Time” mantra is an important coping skill for me. Sometimes it’s just one minute at a time… If I can get through this, I can get through the day. In my early recovery, I went to meetings, practiced self-reflection, and called on people when I needed them. These things have stuck with me. I think that my recovery will help me in the Human Services program. It will give me the opportunity to see the other side of the story.

On the topic of what advice I would give my younger self, that’s a hard question to answer. I think that everything I went through, I needed to go through. Even if current Liz could go back and talk to younger self, I don’t think I would have listened to me. It seems too simplistic to think that I would say “Hey! Don’t do drugs! It’s a bad idea!” I guess I would say, “Hey, there is a future! You can be happy some day!” Today, I would describe myself as a mom, and someone who is peaceful, friendly, and kind. I am Liz, and I am unique.

Laura's Story

I am a student, aunt, and an unconditional friend.

My name is Laura, and I am in recovery. I have been a student at Western Technical College since the summer of 2015, and am on the path to receiving a degree in Human Services. Due to the high need, my goal is to become a substance abuse counselor and run a women’s sober living house in La Crosse. Without one, they will go back to the streets and are less likely to follow through with recovery. I’d like to run a sober house where women can stay as long as they need. I would love to be a support to other women struggling with their recovery. I’ve been there and understand what they are going through.

The beginning of my recovery was difficult. I didn’t like being alone. I didn’t like being outside, so I wouldn’t go for walks. I listened to music to keep my mind occupied and kept my hands busy. I was in outpatient treatment, involved with Driftless Recovery and went to two meetings per day. The biggest challenge for maintaining my sobriety was not having a support system. This is why I am so passionate about my women’s sober living home. If I could help even one person, I would be ecstatic. Support is crucial to recovery.

I have so many supports in my life that I’m not certain I can count them all! First, I have my probation officer. I am fortunate to have a supportive probation officer who is amazing and always strives to make me a better person. Next, my counselor has been tremendous support. She has helped to build the foundation for my recovery. Tonya Van Tol, Project Proven Coordinator at Western Technical College, has also been very helpful, supportive and instrumental in my education. My grandmother and nephew are very important to me and keep me motivated. My grandmother suffers from dementia, but hasn’t forgotten my recovery and never forgets to ask me how I’m doing. My love for my nephew keeps me going and reminds me what is at stake. There was a time when I couldn’t interact with him, and it broke my heart. I cherish the time we spend together. My parents are also there for me, and I know I can count on those at twelve step meetings to have my back.

If I could give any advice to my younger self it would be, “don’t try so hard. You don’t have to be friends with everyone who accepts you. You can choose your friends. Care about your education. Be yourself - not who others want you to be.” I have come so far from the girl I used to be.

Today, the most important parts of my recovery are still my support systems and the places I can go that are healthy for me. Twelve-step meetings are a staple to my recovery and provide a guideline to how I live my life. I go to Coulee Council on Addictions each week, often just to sit and do homework. I hang out with friends at Jules to have “me time” while playing a round of cribbage. I have learned to be content with myself. I still listen to music to keep my mind occupied, but I also meditate and enjoy going for walks.

My past is not who I am today. It has made me a better, stronger person. I use it as a reminder, but it is not who I am. Finding that person has truly been a fun experience.

Krystal's Story

I am not my addiction: I am a mom, a student, and a strong woman.

I am a student in the Human Service Associate program, and have been attending for the last year and a half with hopes of becoming an addictions counselor. My ultimate goal is to graduate, mainly before my 16 year old daughter does. Having been on and off in school for so long, I’m happy to be focusing on just staying enrolled and keeping my grades up. I had to overcome many challenges to stay sober, but stayed on track with the help of my kids and my support circle. They keep me real, keep me honest, and keep me going. Having a history of “having been there, done that,” I can better relate to those I'll work with in the future. Being at the bottom of life gives you empathy when you make it to the other side. You can recall the pain of others in that spot. Today, I stay on track by watching my kids at their sport events, going to the gym with my siblings and taking boxing classes with my daughter. When I was younger, I didn’t know that life could be this good. To those wanting to follow in my footsteps of recovery, know that “life gets better!” To get where I am today, my world had to completely change. I had to change who I was as a person and who I thought I was. I had to change my friends, and even my marriage. Everything I was had to be sacrificed to be who I am as a person. Today, I’m more than just an addict. I’m a mom, an actress, a student, and a success story.

Chris's Story

I am a Human: I am way more than my addiction.

My name is Chris and I am currently in my second semester of the Human Services Associate program at Western Technical College. When people find out I am a recovering addict, they tend to look at me and talk to me differently. Facing these barriers has helped me stay motivated to educate others that addicts can achieve anything. Being a success story to help other addicts in their journey is what pushes me to continue school and to help others as a career. Ultimately, I just want to be happy in life, but specifically, I am thinking about getting a Bachelor's degree in Social Work, then maybe my Master’s degree. Throughout my journey, I want to make sure all my hard work is worth it.

My family, from the youngest members to the oldest, are big supporters in my life today. Along with my family, I have a circle of friends who are also in recovery. These people hold me accountable. I have changed everything. I changed my choice of friends and the road I thought I was on. In my early recovery, the coping strategies I used included engaging self-talk, (which sometimes turned into self-shouting), actively participating in 12-step meetings, and doing small things like washing coffee cups after meetings. Since the beginning of my recovery, these strategies have changed a small amount. Today, I use skills like meditation, serving my community and making myself visible to the public instead of living a sheltered life. Because of the obstacles I have faced, and from being in recovery, I have developed thick skin. I now know I can get through most things. I believe that these challenges I have faced will help me in the future.

The stigma of what an addict is supposed to look like follows me. When I’m sick or have a headache, people start to think that I may be taking steps back instead of continuing forward. To help remove the stigma around recovery, I would say the person in recovery should get to decide who he/she wants to be during recovery. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell myself to “go home and go to bed.” Through it all, I would like people to see me as an uncle, a student and a human. I am not an ex-con and I am not a junky, I am just a person.

Heather's Story

I am not my addiction. I am a mother, a student, and a friend.

Hi, my name is Heather. I am currently enrolled in the Human Services Associate Program. My daughter is my biggest motivator to remain sober, and is partly why I am where I am today. I had to know how to cope. After hearing a speaker say, “A drug is the solution at first, then it becomes the problem” really helped to remove some of my shame. I also had to learn how to put myself first. I had to lose myself to find myself.

My daughter, my coping skills, and many other supports in my life allowed me to get out there to be who I am today and find my passion. I am motivated to get a well-paying job to support my daughter and myself. This job not only will support us financially, but will also fill a void in my life. I want to be able to make a difference in the lives of people. One day I would like to become a therapist to help those in need with similar experiences because I have been through relatable situations. I will use my recovery for the common good, and I will give back what it has taught me. During my recovery, I have faced multiple challenges, but I have no regrets. My addiction made me who I am today.

Rob's Story

I am a father: I am way more than my addiction.

For about a year, I have been a Human Service Associate student at Western Technical College. I was in the Marketing program and the Mechanical design program in the past. My ultimate goal is to obtain a rewarding job. My motivators to stay in school are to provide a decent living to support my fiancé and child, as well as to raise awareness about addiction.

During my recovery, some barriers that I had to overcome were changes to my employment setting, and I had to build bridges with my family. My coping skills and strategies I used during early recovery included surrounding myself with sober people. Today, the supports in my life are my fiancé and my son. My friends and my instructors here at Western have also been a huge help. I am able to go to them with any issue, and they are able to help me keep calm. I also have found it helpful to think back to my old self. I did not have the best home life growing up which contributed to the decisions I made in the past. I know now things can always change, and they will. I truly believe you can do whatever you set your mind to; nothing is set in stone. Some advice I would give my younger self would be to pump your breaks and enjoy your life. Life happens way too fast, and you need to enjoy the ride. My success at being in recovery will help me in my future because I devoted a lot of time and effort to get where I am today; any avenue where I can put time and effort will be a success. When it comes to my identity, I define myself as a father.