Mission Manor with New Students

Moving to a new school can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first college experience. For students in recovery, this stressful transition involves more dimensions than just “moving away from home”. Many of us had only been living outside of a structured institution for a short time. We had daunting financial difficulties that made us break a sweat when we saw the loans we would be taking out. Perhaps most importantly, most of us have only known school by its frequent associate: failure. When I moved into StepUP, I had been living in a sober house for almost a year and a half. I had gotten used to working, budgeting and cooking my own meals, but was still dealing with emotional and material obstacles that existed as a consequence of my using. I had barely graduated high school, my first attempt at college had yielded me three credits over an entire year, and I had delinquent loans from that kept me from taking out new loans for Augsburg.

Having a mentor when I moved in was immensely calming. In my case, I already knew my mentor, he was one of my best friends. He had already successfully overcome many of the obstacles and fears I had regarding my new college career. I needed to know what the heck a “flex point” was, how many hours I could manage to work during the semester, and how to nurture a social life in StepUP and the greater Augsburg campus. Along with things they would never cover in orientation, like which professors I ought to seek out. Now, with my first year in StepUP behind me, I joined the team of volunteers to mentor new incoming students for 2017. What better way for us to get to know each other, than to be locked in a room together?

Photo of the Countdown Team
“Countdown” team

StepUP welcomed 13 new students on Friday with an escape room outing at Mission Manor in Northeast Minneapolis. The new students, along with us student mentors, were locked in haunted asylums, dusty mansions and ticking time bomb scenarios, with only our wits to get us out. We had escape room rookies and experts alike. Everyone escaped successfully within the one-hour time frame. We have a bright group of problem solvers this year in StepUP.  I was in the group challenged to defuse a bomb that some ne’er-do-well planned on using to destroy the Twin Cities.  This room, titled “Countdown”, is the most challenging room of the three. It took some serious teamwork and head-scratching to figure this one out. I can’t spoil what any of the puzzles were, so you will have to come with next time if you are curious. We escaped and saved the city with only three minutes to spare, finishing shortly after the Asylum team.

Photo of Asylum Group
Shortly after completing the “Asylum” room
Photo of the Inheritance Group
The “Inheritance” team

One of our new students, Quinn, had this to say about the event: “It was definitely a cool experience. Everyone was very welcoming to the new students. It was nice to have a team building exercise with old and new students. Having to work together was a great icebreaker.” Sounds like a great attitude to have starting your StepUP experience, Quinn.  Scott A. said “It was a ball!” With such rave reviews, hopefully we can make this a staple StepUP activity. After all three groups completed their respective rooms Patrice showed up with some well-deserved pizza, and the wonderful staff at Mission Manor took some celebratory photographs. Big thanks to them for helping us organize this kick off to a fun summer. Congratulations to all of the new students, and thank you to everyone that volunteered to be mentors.

Farewell

Well, my time as the StepUP student worker has come to an end. I received an offer for a new job, which I accepted. I am excited to start the new position, which is more related to my intended major. On the other hand, I’ve been working here in the office since June, and it is a big transition.

I’ve appreciated how much this position has supported my creativity; it’s the hardest part about letting this job go. After writing a few times for the StepUP newspage, someone suggested that I start writing for the Augsburg newspaper, the Echo. I’m grateful for that suggestion, because I’ve truly enjoyed adding my input to the school newspaper.

I’ve also sincerely appreciated everyone who has supported and offered encouragement for my articles and blogs. It may not seem like much, but when I get discouraged I bring those kind words to my mind and try to think about your thoughts more than my own.Drawn Image of face with a thought bubble reading, "Farewell."

In parting, I’d like to share some final thoughts; some ideas I’ve reflected on during my time working here. Remember to always be compassionate. Be compassionate to everyone, especially the people that are hardest to be compassionate towards. In my experience, people that hurt others are the pe
ople who are actually the most hurt, and they need compassion the most.

When you see an opportunity to help someone, no matter how small the opportunity, help them. Little acts of kindness can mean more than you think. I can think of an example that happened just recently. I was walking out of the grocery store and one of my grocery bags broke and everything fell on the ground. An elderly man walked to his car, emptied one of his bags, and brought it to me. It almost brought me to tears. It  gave me hope that amongst all the hate and hurt in this world, there is still so much love. One of my lifelines has been the kindness that has been offered to me by strangers.

Share your thoughts, ideas, hopes, and experiences with people. If you are genuine in this, people will learn from you. You will also learn from people during these conversations. All we really have is eachother, and everyone has something new to offer. Listen with attentive ears, and ask questions. Others’ opinions are just as important as your own. Listen and learn as much as you can in this lifetime.

Be humble. Do what you do to help others learn and grow, not to boast. The universe knows the good you are doing, and will send positivity accordingly. The more you devote your actions to others, the brighter your life may be. Always remember what the activist and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had to say, in the midst of desegregation, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 

-Connie K.

Truth

 

Through my recovery process, I’ve gained an interest truth and honesty. Those ideas have specifically been brought to my attention recently, which gave me the idea to write this post about my experience with the topic. I initially had a difficult time articulating my ideas in a typical article format. The format I switched to loosely follows my train of thought when thinking about truth, and how I’ve grown in my experiences with it.

 

Gloomy photo of waves crashing on the shore.

 

Failing to voice your feelings and concerns

Is dishonest

Omitting truthful information to convince others

Is dishonest

Wishing something was true and telling others it is true

Does not make it truthful

Do not speak to sound intelligent

Speak to be intelligent

Honesty is intelligence

Recognizing situations where you have not been honest,

Recognizing automatic tendencies

Of your own

That are not honest

Is key to living in the truth

Insight is power

A soul’s deepest desire may be to live parallel with the truth

To be fruitful with honesty and love

To be honest with others

And with ourselves

So that we can be free

When we choose to focus our attention on a topic

The universe sends us insight

When we use the insight to live a better life

A light starts to shine

People notice the light

And where it came from

And they want one for themselves

So they focus their attention where they see you have focused yours

And their light starts to shine

And the world gets a little brighter

Because of your decision to live in the truth.

Constance Klippen, on the Importance of Truth

 

Gloomy photo of waves crashing on the shore.

 

Quotes that sparked interest in the Importance of Truth:

 

You must not always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.

Pablo Picasso, Picasso to Pignon in a conversation about art

 

Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… Give me truth.

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

 

Gratitude

Gratitude is an important part of the road to happiness. Sometimes a friend and I exchange daily gratitude lists. We both agree that it has been helpful. It’s increased positive thoughts, decreased negative feelings, and made me feel better.

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. One of their findings indicates, In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” It goes on to state, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Harvard Medical School published several ways to cultivate gratitude, including writing a thank you note, mentally thanking someone, writing gratitude journals and lists, praying, and meditating.

Below is my gratitude list for today. I challenge you to make one today, too!

My Gratitude List: Just For Today! 1. I get to watch y little brother grow up. 2. I have somewhere to call "Home." 3. Family. 4. I am sober. 5. I have the best grandma ever. 6. I went to a very insightful women's meeting last night. 7. I have the ability to be creative and choose to take advantage of it often. 8. I get to spend time with an old friend this weekend. 9. I'm in the middle of a really good book. 10. I've found a sponsor I really connect with and she's helping me through the steps. 11. My family in California and all my beautiful memories from there. 12. The desire to learn and grow spiritually. 13. Having beautiful people to love, and beautiful people to love me. 14. The motivation to be healthy and kind to my body. 15. Music makes me happy. 16. The opportunity to be in college and to learn. 16. My relationship with the universe. 18. My relationship with myself. 19. The ability to be compassionate.

 

-Connie K.

 

Student Spotlight: Connie K.

Connie K.Tell us about yourself.

I’m Connie. I’m from Lindstrom, Minnesota, and I’m a junior at Augsburg. I am a psychology major and am planning to hopefully be an art minor.

What brought you to Augsburg College?

I went to college in Superior, Wisconsin for my first year of school. I got sober up there, but it’s not easy being in recovery in college when almost no other students are sober. A friend of mine knew about StepUP and helped me learn more about the program. I also wanted to be close to my family, who all live near Minneapolis. Because of the StepUP program and the college’s location in Minneapolis, Augsburg seemed like the best fit.

What are you enjoying most about Augsburg and about StepUP?

Being at Augsburg, I love the diversity of the college. I’ve learned a lot and am grateful that my mind has been opened to new perspectives. I also love living in the city.

Being in StepUP… I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like being here completely takes away something that I’m stressed about. When I was in Superior, on the weekends especially, you could hear everyone partying in the dorms. It made me feel different and alone. Here, I don’t feel alone because of my sobriety. I don’t feel different. Sobriety just seems normal, which is a good thing for me right now. I don’t get caught up in stressing about being sober. Instead, I just am sober.

It sounds like being is StepUP has shaped your college experience in many ways. Can you say more about that?

I think a big part of what you do and who you are is shaped by who and what you’re around. Along with being in recovery, I struggle with depression. When I was in Superior, I was alone with myself. I didn’t want to be healthy and didn’t care about school. I did care about sobriety, but it’s hard to progress when you’re alone and don’t really want to connect with people who drink all the time. But here in StepUP, things feel different. Being around people who want to be healthy, want good things for themselves, care about school, and care about sobriety helps me to do those things too. StepUP has positively influenced my GPA and my sobriety. It’s also helped me become more willing to talk to people, which is something I’ve struggled with.

Tell us about your passions.

I’ve realized that when you’re using – or at least when I was using – since the only thing you really care about is using, you don’t listen to your heart when it tells you that you like doing something. You don’t pursue it. When I wasn’t doing the things I like, it contributed to my depression. It felt like, “If you’re not doing anything that you like, how could you be happy?” So I started listening when I realized that I liked being creative. I started painting more. I started drawing more. For me, art feels natural. It feels like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s almost like breathing. If I stopped creating art, it would feel like, “Why are you not breathing?” And I’d realize, “You’re right.”

When I do something that makes my heart happy and makes me feel better, I listen to that feeling, and I do more of the things that make me feel that way. Listening to music is one of the biggest things that helps change my mood and helps me connect with positive feelings.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I listen to a broad range. A lot of people know that I like Prince. I like rap music and hip-hop. The trendy music right now – I think that’s just more fun to listen to. But with artists like the Beatles, Chance the Rapper, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I listen to the lyrics more. I like music with deep lyrics that resonate with the way I think, and I can find that in their music.

What advice would you have for an incoming StepUP Student?

I struggled with some issues when I first came in here, and the only reason that I handled them well is because I worked through them very closely with my StepUP counselors and asked for a lot of support. They were situations that I didn’t know how to handle, so close guidance from the counselors was really helpful.

Is there anything else you want to share?

I just want to tell everyone that I’ve talked with and connected with in StepUP that the conversations and experiences I’ve had with everyone I’ve met here have been really important to me. From the smallest conversation to the deepest one, that human connection means a lot to me. I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had with the people here in StepUP.

Forgotten December Holidays

Did you know there is a holiday almost every day of the month in December? We all know the religious-type holidays this month very well, but what about the forgotten holidays? Holidays like National Chocolate Covered Anything Day or National Flashlight Day. I personally feel as though these holidays don’t get enough credit. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite holidays this month, to bring awareness to these special “forgotten” days.

December 1st – Eat a Red Apple Day:

It seems a little out of season, as winter is descending on us. But as we all know, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and today is no different!

December 3rd – National Roof Over Your Head Day: Brownies and coffee.

We take the roof over our head for granted more often than we should. Sit for a moment and truly appreciate that you won’t be outside in the cold today.

December 4th – Wear Brown Shoes Day:

One of the best days of the year! I’ve been waiting a long time to finally break out my new brown shoes. Thank you for this opportunity.

December 8th – National Brownie Day:

The list of things better than a day dedicated to eating food is pretty short. The list of things better than a day dedicated specifically to eating warm, delicious brownies is even shorter. I trust that you all will celebrate this day accordingly.

December 10th – Human Right’s Day:

Due to current events in America, I truly do appreciate this day. The timing seems appropriate. A day to remember that every human has equal rights, and should be treated equally.

December 14th – National Monkey Day:Two monkeys.

Remember when you were a kid and loved seeing all the different kinds of monkeys at the zoo? Now that you know about National Monkey Day, you can spend the second Wednesday in December celebrating the life of Harambe (or any of your favorite monkeys).

December 16th – National Chocolate Covered Anything Day:

I genuinely can’t think of a more perfect National Day. A 24-hour period dedicated to chocolate covered anything. Feel free to bring such items to the StepUP office this day, I’m sure there would be no complaints.

December 19th – Oatmeal Muffin Day:

I love muffins. I do want to celebrate this day, but oatmeal muffins aren’t necessarily my muffin-of-choice. I might “accidentally” mistake an oatmeal raisin muffin for a banana chocolate chip choice. But it would be an accident, so it would still be considered celebrating.

December 21st – Look on the Bright Side Day:

A good day to remember there is an equal amount of good and bad in every situation. We have the power to focus on the good or bad in these situations. This holiday brings to mind a saying my principal quoted over the loudspeaker every single day of my high school education: “Make it a good day or not; the choice is yours.”

December 21st – National Flashlight Day:

Is it a coincidence that Look on the Bright Side Day and National Flashlight Day are on the same day? Hmmm…

December 24th – National Eggnog Day:Child singing.

I included this one, not because I have a passion for this traditional drink, but because every year since I can remember, my grandma saves a glass of eggnog and a cookie for the night of Christmas Eve. It’s so sweet. She’s probably been doing it her whole life. She’s the greatest woman I know and my biggest support, so I felt inclined to give her a little attention.

December 31st – Make Up Your Mind Day:

Thinking about dropping a bad habit? Pursuing a singing career? Starting a clothing line? Stop procrastinating and do it then! Or don’t, I guess. At least make up your mind about it, though.

Annual StepUP Thanksgiving

dsc_0277Over 70 StepUP students, alumni, and friends gathered together on the evening of November 20th for the annual StepUP Thanksgiving dinner. All the food was cooked by the students, for the students. The delectable dinner featured creamy mashed potatoes, cheese covered hash browns, macaroni with bread crumbs, homemade peach pie, Thelma’s ice cream sandwiches, over 100 pounds of turkey, and much more. It is very clear that we have some very talented cooks amidst the community.

 

I ate light all day to save my appetite for the dinner. As they say, if you didn’t eat too much on Thanksgiving, you didn’t do it right. Well, I definitely lived out that legacy, and am certain I wasn’t the only one. No regrets, though.

 

dsc_0265

A GoPro mounted in the corner of the room captured video of the entire event in chronological order: set up, waiting in line, eating (a lot), clean up, and food coma. Also, one delightful student had an additional GoPro bound to his chest, catching attendees at their very best and very worst moments of the night. It was funny until it was you he caught on camera taking a larger-than-average bite of food. Thanks so much, Chad!

 

It is refreshing to have at least one night a year where the whole community can get together, converse, eat, and have fun. It was a fine opportunity to take a moment and remember who and what I am truly grateful for. Gratitude always leads me to happiness. On that note, thank you to the Leadership Team for coordinating a beautiful, harmonious evening. Another thank you to everyone who cooked and helped make the night so, so flavorful.

 

-Connie K.

 

Student Spotlight: Connor J.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Connor Jabin from Oak Park, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. I’m a junior here at Augsburg and this is my third year in StepUP. I’ve been sober for a little over three and a half years. I’m a marketing major with a minor in business administration.

What are your plans after graduation?Connor J. pictured with mother.

The plan is to get an internship at a marketing or consulting company, next summer, and then work for a few years after graduation. Five or ten years from now I see myself starting my own business. I have a couple plans in mind but I’m not sure where I want to take them. I want to talk to alumni, friends, and people who have their own business for ideas and advice. I’m hoping one day to have a successful business.

What is your passion?

When I’m not busy with schoolwork, I like to participate in intramural sports. I’m currently the captain of the StepUP flag football team. I like hanging out with friends, going to football games and going to the gym. Another big passion of mine is caring about other people. I enjoy being selfless and seeing other people smile. Giving freely of myself to people without expecting anything back is truly rewarding for me.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

My biggest accomplishment has been making it through each day sober. I’m glad to wake up knowing that I didn’t hurt anyone the day before. My sobriety has given me the opportunity to have a new relationship with my family, friends, and girlfriend. Waking up knowing it’s going to be a good day no matter what, because I’m sober, is a priceless feeling.

What brought you to Augsburg?

I came to Augsburg to be in the StepUP Program. I couldn’t imagine going to college without a sober community. I was sitting in my room at 2 AM one night, searching “Sober Colleges” on Google. Information about Augsburg and the StepUP Program kept showing up. I ran downstairs to show my parents that Augsburg was where I wanted to go to school. Shortly after we set up a tour. I loved the campus, the college, and the location right in the middle of the city. The community felt so much like home; I could see myself making real friends and maintaining long term recovery in StepUP.

Why do you stay in StepUP?

The community is the biggest reason I stay here. It is so unique to be involved in a program where over 90 people are striving for the same goals as me. I feel like I can open up, be vulnerable, and share my problems with others. If my problems feel too big or I don’t feel comfortable talking about them with my friends, I know my counselor is always willing to listen. Together, the staff and community create something special that I am so grateful for and never want to take for granted.

What advice would you give an incoming student?

Go to class, immerse yourself in this community, and try to meet new people. My first year, it was good for me to make friends outside of StepUP as well. Augsburg has a lot to offer. Make friends outside of the StepUP community who are still a good influence on you.

Anything else?

StepUP gave me a second chance at life. I wanted to go to school like other college students who aren’t in recovery, but in an environment that would be safe and supportive of me. That’s what StepUP provides me.

 

“We create pathways to graduation and lifelong recovery.”

 

2016 StepUP Gala

This past Saturday, over 500 students, staff, alumni, parents, and supporters gathered in Augsburg’s Si Melby Hall for the renowned StepUP Gala. We celebrated the StepUP program with an evening of inspiration, entertainment, and fellowship.

 

StepUP Gala 2016 at Augsburg College Saturday Oct. 29. (photo by Courtney Perry)

Barbara and Skip Gage and family were honored with the Toby Piper Labelle Award, a prestigious award given out each year to a person or family that continuously supports young people in recovery. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation received the inaugural Keystone Award for their 20 year partnership with the StepUP program. Senator Amy Klobuchar shared her experience and knowledge about the opioid epidemic in a special guest appearance.

 

The highlight of my night was the alumni speaker. StepUP graduate Peter H. did a great job of conveying how supportive and loving the spirit of our community is. He also showed the whole room an example of a great success story of a StepUP graduate. Peter’s story was inspirational and had many people in tears.

 

I also really enjoyed the alumni video about HOPE. A current student, Ricky T., did a tremendous job putting the video together. Seeing my friends and former students talk about their success stories gave me goosebumps. It is clear that StepUP has been a powerful experience for many.

 

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend this year, take a moment to read some reflections on the event from staff and students:

 

“The Gala was absolutely beautiful. It was encouraging to see so many people there who were not a part of StepUP or even Augsburg College, but were there to show support, like Senator Amy Klobuchar. I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go again next year.” -Bridget D.

 

“My Mom was able to come for the first time in 3 years. It was brilliant to see her meet my favorite professors whom I have told her so much about.” -Dan M.

 

Alumni and current students joined Patrice S. on stage at the Gala.“The StepUP Gala is always an incredible experience. It reminds us of the reasons why the StepUP program is essential and benefits the world. Also, hearing from an alum (Peter H.) about the everlasting support the StepUP program gives feels very reassuring when I think of my own future.” -Blake H.

 

“I attended the StepUP Gala for the first time this year, and as a new counselor, I can say that it was a very powerful experience for me and my husband. It was great to meet so many students’ parents and family members, as well as StepUP alumni. The most moving moment, for me, was Peter H.’s speech. It was so powerful, inspiring, and courageous. There were many tears shed around me, including my own. The event was a fun experience and it was great to see so many supporters and advocates for the StepUP program.” -Thenedra R.

 

Listening to the speakers on Saturday night and witnessing the incredible support there is for StepUP made the Gala a powerful experience. It is easy to forget how lucky I am to be a part of this community. Even though today might seem like just another day of classes and homework, it’s also another opportunity to further realize that recovery and college life can coexist and feed off each other in truly beautiful ways.” -Chad B.

 

Many people put a lot of work into making the night successful beyond expectations. Thank you to everyone who came out the night of October 29th to support the StepUP program. See you next year!

 

-Connie K.