Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Senior Ben Spencer overcomes addiction, finds sobriety

For senior Ben Spencer, the end of the day began with a sunrise. On a park bench at 7:00 a.m., coming off an all-night high, Spencer watched the sun begin its ascent and passers-by starting their day with dogs in tow. His day was at its end.

“It was one of the most amazing sunrises I’d ever seen,” said Spencer, “But there was just this disconnection between being able to feel happy about it and actually seeing it happen. That kinda sticks in my head.”

Two months after that sunrise, Spencer went cold turkey.   Today Spencer proudly celebrates two years of sobriety, which have allowed him to solidify his relationships with his family and mature as both a person and a student.

“It was just a random day in the middle of the month that I have no particular connection to. It just all of a sudden made sense,” said Spencer. “It’s sometimes referred to as hitting bottom. For me the bottom was that sudden realization that I couldn’t ignore this anymore, because I wanted something more from life and I wasn’t finding it in using drugs and alcohol.”

He had struggled with substances for a long while but did not think he really had a problem. Only after taking a semester off to go to rehab did he start to think of his consumption of drugs and alcohol as problematic.

“Rehab was a huge thing. Although I didn’t believe I was an addict or an alcoholic while I was there, I think the fact [that] I saw so many guys like me with the same problem was important,” said Spencer. “One thing they say in treatment is that ‘you might go back to using but we’re going to ruin the experience for you.'”

Spencer, a rhetoric and film studies and religion double major, began his involvement with illicit substances in seventh  grade, when he smoked pot for the first time. In high school, he started using more substances, such as mushrooms and occasionally cocaine. The reasons were threefold, he said: depression, boredom and a search for life’s big answers.

“I’ve always been looking for those absolute truths and I think that if you are into that kind of stuff, drugs are really appealing because it’s like new levels of consciousness,” said Spencer.

In conquering addiction, Spencer also overcame depression. Before he stopped using, Spencer would, in his words, “self-medicate,” which helped him temporarily. But it was never enough.

“I definitely think I’ve struggled being happy in my own skin and being anxious about social situations: I used pot (and alcohol) because it made things easier; it’s that whole social lubricant,” said Spencer. “Ultimately it doesn’t work because the effects wear off and you have to get more and then you’re right back where you started.”

Today, drugs and alcohol no longer interfere with Spencer’s medications and he is much happier. Coming from Walla Walla, Spencer never thought he would come back to the small-town boredom he grew up with. However, his family has always supported him, and he feels that his connections are better than ever.

“One thing I really love about my family is how close we are,” said Spencer. “From freshman year in high school until I decided to quit, I could just feel this divide coming between me and my family, because especially after I went to treatment, they were not accepting of the fact that I was still using.”

Apart from familial bonds, sobriety has brought Spencer more self-confidence as a student. He has, in his words, caught up and now takes his academics seriously.

“I didn’t think I was a smart person at all when I came into Whitman,” said Spencer. “I didn’t have that drive . . . Over the last two years I’ve put a lot of work into it, and my education now comes first and I really enjoy it. I’ve come to see learning as something really positive and something I want to do.”

Sobriety has done wonders for Spencer. He is now more permanently happy, a more interested student and he even mentions his ability to have a mature relationship with his girlfriend. But Spencer says he does not condemn drug use in moderation.

“I don’t think using drugs is an objectively bad thing.” said Spencer. “It’s just a really slippery slope and individuals need to decide if they have a problem or not.”

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