The Ole Miss chapter of the Collegiate Recovery Community, an organization for students who are in recovery from alcohol and drug use, held the second annual “Telling Oxford” fundraiser last night at the Powerhouse. The fundraiser was an open floor setting for people in the recovery community who felt inclined to tell their stories on stage in front of a group of people.
“This fundraiser is to help break the stigma of people who may not understand and raise awareness through people sharing their personal experiences,” CRC Advisory Board member Kent Magee said.
Erin Cromeans, the assistant director of health promotion and an organizer of the night’s event, talked about how important it was to talk about people’s stories, especially those who are struggling with or have struggled with addiction.
“Telling Oxford is driven by storytelling and the idea that storytelling can make a movement happen,” Cromeans said.
John Melton, a recovering opiate addict, says it took him a while to get on track and that he confronted the urge to do drugs daily. He said he is still apprehensive about speaking publicly about his addiction because of how people might perceive him.
“I still worry about the stigma and being labeled as an addict, even though my employer knows and my wife knows,” Melton said.
While he is recovering, he said that he is not going to paint the picture that he is perfect. He acknowledged that he had what some would call “character defects” but that he is actively working to improve himself.
Walker Shepherd said he came from an “ideal, perfect family” and was introduced to opiates when he got his wisdom teeth removed at 12 years old.
He said that regardless of his prototypical background, he wanted something more. Because of this feeling, he experienced a proneness to binge-drinking.
“(It) was controlling and ruining my life, but I just couldn’t put it down,” Shepherd said.
After joining the Collegiate Recovery Community at Auburn University, Sheppard said he regained balance and restored his sobriety. He later left Auburn and joined Mississippi State’s chapter of the organization as a biological science major.
He closed his talk by saying the picture people have in their heads of addicts can often be misconstrued and that he was guilty of this himself.
“What is hard for some people to see is that you do not have to be homeless, living under a bridge, to have a drug or drinking problem,” Shepherd said.
One student, a recovering alcoholic and methamphetamine addict, said she saw the destruction of addiction at a young age, as people in her household habitually used drugs and drank.
“(I) spiraled downward and became physically dependent on methamphetamine, IV and prescription drugs,” Taylor said.
After registering with a nine-month treatment center and working with a grief counselor on boundaries, she is sober and now serves as an officer in the Collegiate Recovery Community.
Following her sobriety, she was offered a scholarship to the University of Mississippi and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
The Telling Oxford fundraiser started as a grassroots effort to sell sponsor tables to raise money for the Collegiate Recovery Community scholarship program at Ole Miss last year. Students can apply and qualify if they have been active participants in the organization for a semester. This year, $500 scholarships will be given out for the fall and spring semesters.
“People are kind enough to make donations to our program,” said Susan Nicholas, who serves on the CRC Advisory Board. “This small endowment is enough to help with books that can really make a difference with people.”
Nicholas said the night is important because of the silence surrounding the problem of addiction.
“If we can’t talk about problems, then we can’t move toward solutions. This is about acknowledging that these things happen, that it is not outside the range of human behavior, that there is help, support and hope, and that (we) have all these things at the University of Mississippi,” Nicholas said.