Student view:

Taylor Struna: The road to recovery

March 7, 2018

Taylor Struna is an undergraduate student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He currently serves as the student leader for the Collegiate Recovery Community.

The word "addict" was a scary and a somewhat taboo word for me growing up. Since my father died of an overdose when I was young, one might say the stigma of addiction and, specifically, my father’s addiction, was a source of negative feelings in my family.

When I was young I was encouraged and had aspirations to go to college. In high school, college was a thing I knew I should do, but probably never would be able to do it, due to the grips my addiction had me under.

For the majority of my teenage years, I struggled with addiction. Getting high started as a hobby — a social thing.

I used my first drug when I was 12 years old. I loved the way it made me feel; I loved that it made me not feel.

It was a fun thing to do with friends. However, this social activity quickly transformed me into a very anti-social person. I liked getting high alone much more than I did with my friends. Soon, I was using every day, pushing everything and everyone out of my way just to get one more. I burned many bridges and hurt many people. I traded everything I once loved for my addiction.

By 16, I was practically failing out of high school because I wasn’t going and, when I did go, I was high. My addiction pushed me into the fast lane toward failure.

Today, I am a recovering addict, in my senior year, pursuing a dual degree in environmental studies and sustainability and environmental parks, recs, and tourism at Michigan State University. I am a proud member and employee of the Michigan State University Collegiate Recovery Community. I am actively involved in the Traveler’s Club, and have been in recovery for almost three years.

A lot has happened in the last four years. By many miracles I got clean on April 2, 2015. Thanks to my recovery, I managed to piece my life together bit by bit, to fix the immense damage I had done in my active addiction and to earn my way to where I am today. It’s truly a miracle that I am sitting here at Michigan State, let alone alive.

When I had a little over a year clean, I was admitted to Michigan State. This was a tremendous accomplishment, but also very scary for me. I had built a solid recovery support network in my hometown of Livonia and was terrified to leave that behind.

A good support network is the foundation of my recovery. I was comfortable at home and moving to a new place with new people was scary. Genuinely worried for myself and my sobriety, I used the tools I’ve developed in recovery. I knew I needed to reach out to build a network here at MSU.

I started searching on the internet for recovery at MSU. I came across the CRC and sent over an email to the CRC student leader. I received a response immediately and was so pleasantly surprised by how welcomed I felt, not only by the recovery community at Michigan State, but by Michigan State as a whole.

Greg, the student leader at the time, invited me to visit East Lansing; he gave me a grand tour of the school, showed me the CRC Lounge and exposed me to all of the resources the CRC had available for me and all the other recovering people at MSU.

The support the CRC has provided to me and all the friends I have made here is amazing. I couldn’t imagine going here without the presence of the CRC.

Having easy access to my recovery network was crucial in the decision to make the leap from community college to university. Ultimately, the presence of the CRC was one of the main factors in my decision to come to MSU.

As the former CRC student coordinator transitioned to a post graduate, I filled the role as the CRC student leader. I love being able to reach out to students in recovery and make them aware of the safe space the CRC offers — the space that I was so desperately searching for while looking at options for school.

It's great to hear from incoming freshmen and transfer students who are just as serious and worried about their recovery and starting a new chapter in their lives here in East Lansing, and being able to assure them that they will be supported at MSU. Being here for students, easing the transition and exposing them to an already established network of young people in recovery is an amazing job! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

My current goal as the CRC student leader has been focusing on making recovery housing a reality at Michigan State. Being a relatively new CRC, one thing we lack is the availability of substance-free housing for students in recovery. Most of our members would benefit greatly from recovery housing, and have had some close calls with non-recovery conducive housing situations.

I want to support students and their recovery in the best possible way we can, and I think recovery housing is the way we can do that.

We have been to multiple national conferences with over 150 different Collegiate Recovery Programs — many with strong recovery housing options — collaborating to help better our CRC and help work towards our goal of having recovery housing for our students in recovery.

I’m grateful to be part of such an amazing program that offers a community to students with substance abuse disorders and who are pursuing an education while recovering. After all, we get clean to live again! The CRC is a place that allows students to thrive in an environment that could otherwise be a pretty dangerous atmosphere to our recovery.

I love that the CRC has exposed me to a group of amazing students who are like me, who understand me and who support me. Michigan State can feel like a big place, especially for a person in recovery.

The Collegiate Recovery Community makes me feel like I’m not alone here. The CRC feels like home.