Indiscernible chatter of baseball fans filled the air while the warmth of the sun radiated from overhead. Past the security checkpoints, the noise increased and mixed with the delicious aroma of fried food and bacon. Crowds were purchasing memorabilia and snacks before the game as the beginning line of the National Anthem played from the loudspeakers.
This is what greeted the Addictions Counseling Education for Students (ACES) club on Washington State Recovery Day, Aug. 25, 2019. The club, along with other like-minded groups, showed up for fun at the T-Mobile Stadium in Seattle.
As one, they cheered on the Mariners who won against the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1.
Seeing other groups, and even close acquaintances from different networks, brought joy to many of the members.
Former ACES Treasurer Nicole Hamberger felt excitement from the sight.
“[It’s] exciting to see a big entity like the Mariners celebrate Recovery Day,” said Hamberger. “[It] shows how many people are impacted by addiction and spreads hope.”
The ACES club has been active at Clark College for over 15 years now with at least 20 active members every quarter. ACES President Norman Johnson said being exposed to events that show support for recovery can be great examples to future counselors.
Johnson said he knows that events like this can be extremely beneficial alongside the extensive volunteer work the club accomplishes.
Johnson said for members of the ACES club, this was not a day meant solely for fun and relaxation. The event also presented an opportunity for them to gain career skills, build a network and meet other agencies for possible future employment.
“As a club, we do a lot of volunteer work for the prevention, intervention and recovery communities in Southwest Washington, but the club isn’t just about volunteering,” said Johnson. “It’s also about the people who will be our future colleagues and coworkers.”
Cameron Coe has been an ACES member for two years. He will be graduating this Fall 2019 with an associate’s degree and a certificate. He will be a Chemical Dependency Professional (CDP) Trainee. Coe found the extensive knowledge he gained to be enriching even though he said before the program he thought he knew all there was to know about addiction and recovery.
“Learning the other half of what I didn’t know, such as the science aspect, is very enlightening,” said Coe.
Many students who join the ACES club find jobs in their career fields before they even graduate. They are able to put their knowledge and passion to use by helping others with addictions recover.
For Cindy Darr, this trip was a little more special. This was her first time back in Seattle since her recovery from addiction.
“My history here has always been drug-related and now I’ve got a new appearance of someone in recovery with credentials and a degree,” she said.
Darr is currently finishing her addiction counseling degree and will be joining the Bachelor Program in the Fall.
“People do recover,” she said.
Savana Churchill, on the other hand, has had more “secondhand experience” with family members and said that for her, this day is more in support of them and their recovery. Churchill is working on her bachelor’s in human services.
Many students voiced a “stigma” on addicts and/or on addiction.
Darr added that others tend to look down on those with addiction and assume the worst of them automatically. “I used to be that person but I wasn’t trash,” she said.
Churchill said people with addiction or substance abuse are dehumanized and others often don’t want to bring attention to it. “A lot of times, they just want you to shut up about it, almost like it doesn’t exist,” she said.
Churchill and Darr’s main goal in their future endeavors as well as being part of this club is to raise awareness and show that addicts are people too and they do recover.
“I’ve seen people in the lowest of the lows and they still make it out,” she said.
Chris McIntyre has been a member of the club for a little over two years now. He plans to become a prevention specialist. He wants to design recovery programs that can help the youth with addiction recovery. McIntyre said being a part of ACES has helped him find companionship and build a close network.
When the Indy asked McIntyre if he had any advice for any new students who show interest in joining the club or pursuing this career field, he pondered thoughtfully before responding.
“Pursuing a career such as this is more of a cause, there is no real money-making in this field,” said McIntyre. “You definitely need to have the right mentality and a thick skin.”