Updated: Oct. 2, 2015 at 11:09 a.m.
This post was written by Hatchet reporters Sadie Ruben and Liam Wash
GW’s Students for Recovery celebrated the end of National Recovery Month with a talk from an MTV star and other leaders in substance abuse recovery.
Jason Wahler, known for his role in the MTV series’ “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills,” spoke to guests to discuss his road to recovery from addiction and how he is now helping other addicts.
Wahler said that anyone can suffer from addiction to alcohol and drugs.
“The media and society overall think it’s the guys in jail, it’s the guys under the bridge, it’s the homeless people, it’s the tweaker kids, and in reality it’s who you trust your kid with the most, like teachers, CEO’s, policeman, the librarian,” Wahler said. He added that addiction is “anything you can think of and is in every organization.”
Here are four takeaways from Wahler’s talk:
1. Hitting rock-bottom leads to recovery
In his opening statement, Wahler said that being alive today is a “miracle.”
When he was being paid as a 17-year-old to go to nightclubs and party for his role on MTV, he ended up with an alcohol addiction. He said that this addiction “caused the wedge” in his highly publicized relationship with fellow “Laguna Beach” cast member, Lauren Conrad. Over this time, Wahler was feeling the effects of his addiction.
“I was so miserable, so sick and so uncomfortable in my own skin,” Wahler said.
By the time he was 22, Wahler was arrested nine times, in jail for more than 200 days, hospitalized six times and admitted into seven rehabilitation centers. Soon after, he attempted suicide, which he said was his “rock bottom.”
2. You need motivation to move on
In order to officially break his addiction cycle, Wahler says he used his parents as motivation. After hitting his lowest point, he met with his parents and his therapist. He said that was where “the transformation happened.”
“I had never seen my dad break down,” Wahler said, adding that his father said, ‘I don’t know what to do anymore, Mom and I wait in bed every night like two planks of wood waiting for the phone call that you’re dead.’
After the visit, Wahler found the inspiration to attend another treatment center in Florida. He has been sober since July 23, 2010.
3. Awareness is key
After he became sober, Wahler started dedicating his life to creating awareness about the disease and became a staff member at Origins Behavioral Health and Widespread Recovery, a sober living home in Laguna Beach, Calif.
“I never thought I’d work in the industry of recovery, and it’s the biggest blessing that’s ever happened to me,” Wahler said.
Tom Coderre, a senior adviser at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, applauded Wahler, saying there are a lot of celebrities who are struggling with addiction and recover “but they don’t choose to do what you’re doing.”
“You can see addiction 24/7, you can’t always see recovery, so the fact that you’re putting it in the mainstream is really tremendous,” Coderre said.
4. GW can help combat an ‘addiction crisis’
Ivana Grahovac, the executive director at Transforming Youth Recovery, said that it is important for people going through recovery to be visual and vocal, adding that universities should have “love, service, accountability and academic integrity” on their campuses.
Students for Recovery has grown since its inception in 2012, holding weekly meetings and opening their Serenity Shack on campus.
Coderre said that GW programs are “providing an alternative way of living that is not available on a lot of college campuses today.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Ivana Grahovac’s name. We regret this error.