Real Recovery at Minneapolis College


Photographer- Anya Savvy

Seth McKee, president of the Addiction Counseling Club

Anya Savvy, Reporter

Recovery is real at Minneapolis College!

Change your thoughts and change your world!

Yes! Recovery is possible.

Favorite quotes are written on the chalkboard in various colors – orange, green, and two shades of pink. On the edge of this chalkboard sits a heart adorned with those same colors. Another chalkboard displays a C. S. Lewis quote: Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

The Addiction Counseling Club (ACC) meets to discuss the upcoming 11th annual Operation Recovery 2019 event taking place Thursday, September 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are some ordinary extraordinary people in the Addiction Counseling Club and Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP).

Seth McKee, president of the Addiction Counseling Club and student worker, is in the last year of his concentration in Addiction Counseling and will be transferring to Metropolitan State University in the Spring.

Seth is in recovery. He attends Minneapolis College because he knew wanted to go back to school and heard that it was a good school for those interested in working in the field of addiction counseling and recovery.

He felt like he just couldn’t go back to his former job measuring things and widgets. “I needed a career that was more rewarding and in line with my purpose – where I could feel that I had a purpose,” he says.

Seth enjoys being able to help others. “Often in this field clients come in pretty hopeless and broken and I just like being able to help re-instill that sense of hope and purpose in another’s life,” he says. “I experienced a bit of hell, so I can relate to others and help them find their own path.”

Seth says he could go back 12 years and see how basic mental health issues, such as, anxiety and depression contributed to his drinking. Currently, he’s been in recovery for 4 years and sober for 19 months.

Seth explained what motivated his recovery: “Not being able to see a life with alcohol and not being able to see a life without it. I just had that sense of hopelessness and being a part of recovery was like the last thing I hadn’t tried. I realized over time that it’s got to be priority number one because without that I have nothing else.” Seth went on to explain how addiction affected his relationships and that in order to have a relationship with his children he had to enter recovery.

Before his recovery journey, Seth was a self-described militant atheist, but he now embraces his spiritual side saying that it has had a strong influence on his recovery. He says that maintaining his personal spiritual practice and staying close to various recovery communities keeps him strong and helps him to continue to move forward in his recovery. “It is a matter of doing the best I can and letting go of the results. My attitude and my sense of happiness of joy does not rely on the outcome, no matter what it is.”

Seth shared a favorite quote, “The opposite of addiction is connection.” He says once he loses that connection with others he tends to isolate. He considers his ability to connect and be there for others a huge sign of his personal growth. His daughter suffered a bad injury last year, and Seth says that had he still been addicted, he wouldn’t have been able to be there for her.

Seth shared that ACC and CRP keeps his attention focused on where it needs to be – in his recovery. According to Seth, the CRP room is a safe place for anyone in recovery or allies of anyone in recovery. It is a place they can come to on campus to do homework, attend recovery meetings, and to be with others that are in the same boat as they are. They can find guidance from both faculty and student peers.

Some campus clubs struggle with connecting with students, but ACC and CRP remain consistent. Seth says that the programs allow students to remain engaged and gives them access to guidance from both faculty and peers.

Ashley Sunderland, secretary of Addiction Counseling Club. Photo submitted.

Ashley Sunderland, secretary of the Addiction Counseling Club and member of the Collegiate Recovery Program, is new in her journey of recovery. She says that her drinking may have started with her personal struggle to feel comfortable with her identity. Before she began drinking, she struggled with an eating disorder. It was a way to cope with anxiety. Eventually, the need to cope led to drinking.

“Alcohol allowed me to feel comfortable with myself,” she says. But soon, friends and family began noticing her drinking. Ashley was blacking out and having morning after withdrawal symptoms such as “sweating and shaking.” She lost her first job because of alcohol addiction. She was not yet 20.

At first, she was resistant to recovery. “After so many years of chaos and jobs lost and relationships, burning bridges and all kinds of bad physical stuff. I’ve been in the hospital with .4 blood alcohol levels and delirium tremors when I was 21,” she says. “I’m lucky I’m not dead.”

Ashley says that the stigma of guilt and shame held her back from moving forward, but as she matured, she began to see that recovery was vital to her survival. Her drinking had been an issue since she was 19. She is now 34. Although she had been in and out of treatment and AA several times, Ashley says this is the first time she is working a program of recovery.

Something changed when she had a last blowout drinking session. “Something shifted. It was a crossroads, a spiritual awakening,” she says. “Something deep down in my entire being told me this was it.”

Ashley says that her family has always supported her, and she is grateful for support she receives from others, such as an “outstanding counselor” who helped her uncover fortitude that she didn’t know she had within her.

Ashley shared a quote, “Make your recovery story louder than your addiction story.” She realized she needed to incorporate recovery into “every aspect” of her life. Part of that recovery lifestyle includes being a student at Minneapolis College where she focuses her studies on Addiction Counseling with the goal of helping others. “Addiction is really a life or death issue for a lot of people,” she says. “To live a recovery lifestyle is so beyond just the not drinking part.”

Finding a support network is important for anyone in recovery. She found that here at Minneapolis College. “You can meet with an LADC [Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor] on campus, and two recovery meetings a week are held right here on campus,” she says. “There are times throughout the day where I just sit in gratitude because I’m so grateful to have these opportunities and to be alive.”

September is National Recovery Month. Minneapolis College is the first two-year school in the state to host the Collegiate Recovery Program. The Addiction Counseling Club and the Collegiate Recovery Program are putting on another big annual event.

The 11th annual Operation Recovery 2019 takes place September 26, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event informs students on campus of resources available to them. There are at least 20 outside vendors confirmed to attend Operation Recovery 2019.

Ordinary extraordinary people who have battled addiction live among us and are now in recovery, and they are right here attending Minneapolis College.

Anya Savvy is a pen name for a Minneapolis College student who works as a reporter for City College News. To contact Anya, please email them at [email protected].