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  • Yasmeen Khalifa

A helping hand from someone who knows first hand

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Bruce Bettinger is trying to end the stigma against addicts in recovery. He knows first-hand the difficulties of navigating it. Bettinger is a student development specialist for the Center for Students in Recovery on campus. His job is to help students in recovery from narcotics, alcohol or anything else that’s taken over their lives.

Bettinger (second from the left) spoke at a panel on April 4 about the national opioid crisis. There, he joked that his friends in Narcotics Anonymous call themselves the "island of misfit toys." Photo credit: Aji Sakho.

College was a place where Bettinger felt alive.

“It was all new and foreign … and exciting,” Bettinger says laughing. “And I just loved it.”

Because Bettinger’s college experience was so positive, he says he loves being a part of students’ “formative years.”

Bettinger sees his status as a recovering addict as beneficial to students in recovery.

“I’ve struggled a lot in recovery,” Bettinger says. “I’ve been able to find a way to use those struggles to the benefit of someone.”

According to Bettinger, three main factors contribute to an addict’s struggles: negative relationships, finances and mental health issues.

“Most people don’t know how to manage money in general,” Bettinger says. “People in recovery are at even more of a disadvantage because we’re so used to spending money to make ourselves feel better.”

Further, Bettinger says that people who are in recovery and have a mental health issue are at a disadvantage because both identities are stigmatized.

“Mental health issues are an area that most people … want to ignore,” Bettinger says gravely. “Having to deal with both [identities] is extremely difficult.”

Bettinger says that recovery was difficult for him, but it has a life-changing reward.

“With recovery … we start to examine our own assets and defects,” Bettinger says. “We look at our own weaknesses, we talk about them, we put them out in the open and it’s extremely uncomfortable. But it’s one of the things that I’ve found most fulfilling … The most growth I’ve ever experienced has been when I’ve been uncomfortable and had to do the things that I didn’t necessarily want to do.”

Bettinger also says that recovery is like being reborn.

“Almost every day, I’m experiencing something new for the first time,” Bettinger says joyfully. “It’s lonely, and you question yourself every day … [but] eventually you come to a place of humility and peace and balance.”

Recovery has allowed Bettinger to feel the full spectrum of his emotions.

“I don’t get to do anything that’s going to numb my senses or detract from the pain,” Bettinger says. “I have to allow myself to feel those things … Recovery has really taught me how to love for the first time.”

Bettinger says that he urges addicted students to seek recovery, but they can only start when they’re ready.

“Whenever you are ready to make that [choice] … that you have to find yourself,” Bettinger says. “Whenever you’re ready, we’re here for you.”

Bettinger’s office can be found in the Veterans Resource Center. Additionally, he hosts an anonymous student recovery support group in HPR 247 every Wednesday at 1 p.m. If you need help or have any questions, you can contact Bettinger at bbettinger@uttyler.edu.

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