Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – From the Bottom to USC

Name: Sharron St. John

From the Bottom to USC

From the Bottom to USC

Sharron St. John

Growing up, my family moved often and had very little money. We sometimes struggled with homelessness. No one bought me ACT/SAT study guides. No one showed me how to apply to UCLA. When I left Chicago for college in Los Angeles, my financial aid money was used to help my parents avoid foreclosure. Over 2000 miles away from home, I was struggling with loneliness and financial insecurity.

As a nation, we glorify alcohol and recreational drug use as a means to unwind, unplug and cope with the stress factors of life. I turned to alcohol and embraced the college party scene in an attempt to manage my situation. However, it quickly spiraled out of control. A casual means of relaxing grew into an extreme dependence on alcohol to deal with daily living.

It was during my undergraduate studies at UCLA that I saw the full consequences of my addiction to alcohol. Due to my alcoholism, I was suffering from severe depression and failing out of all of my classes. My life was completely unmanageable. In 2010, I finally surrendered to my alcoholism and checked myself into treatment. With the help of treatment and Alcoholics Anonymous, I have been able to stay sober– one day at a time.

Since hitting a bottom and checking into treatment, I have been able to get back on my feet. I went back to school to complete my undergraduate degree. I graduated from UCLA in 2012 and started my own real estate business shortly after. This year, I applied to go back to school to gain more skills in the Masters of Real Estate Development program at USC. I am so excited to be 1 of 40 students accepted into the program and to begin this next chapter of my life. Finances have always been tight in my family and this year, I became my mother’s caretaker after she suffered a stroke in January. I am applying to the 2020 Addiction Awareness Scholarship to help me finance my master’s program.

The road I’ve traveled has had many obstacles. It is against these obstacles that I measure the size of my accomplishments. Graduating from UCLA, starting my own business, and applying to USC weren’t indicated actions on an instruction manual given to me by my parents. There was no instruction manual. I am truly proud of these accomplishments because they are almost impossible in light of the financial obstacles and my addiction that had to be overcome.

Society’s dependence on alcohol and drugs has become a national crisis. On an individual level, young people like myself are confused by their inability to control their drinking in light of the media’s misleading portrayal of social drinking. On a societal level, we keep brushing the issue of substance dependence under the rug and avoid developing tools to empower society to manage stress in healthy ways.

I was given the gift of desperation after my alcoholism became so dire. Thankfully, I accepted the gift. It is by sheer determination that I have maintained my sobriety; that I was able to finish my UCLA bachelor’s degree; that I now pursue my Master’s degree at USC. As a society, I hope that we accept the same gift offered by health professionals, treatment centers, and recovery programs. There are alternative ways to manage stress and enjoy life, if we work together to end our dependence on drugs and alcohol.