Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – My Solution is Community and The Vulnerable Truth

Name: Austin Plagge

My Solution is Community and The Vulnerable Truth

Scholarship Committee,

never thought that pursuing an education was possible for me because
I could not stop shooting crystal meth. The first time I used crystal
meth I was fifteen years old and this problem presented me with
bitterness, misery and suffering for ten years. My arms and legs were
covered with abscesses and they were so infected that a friend
dragged me to the hospital. In that moment, I decided I could no
longer live that way, so I got into a sober living home and my life
improved. Now, I am two years into recovery and my setback of being a
drug addict is now my greatest asset. My newfound freedom and
autonomy of choice without an addiction dictating my actions has
guided me to a life of service. This new path helped me realize the
importance of community, advocacy and leadership. After going through
my own personal transformation from addiction and identity loss, I am
now living an abundant life and shifting the world in a positive way.

process of recovery has its difficulties and I have experienced
struggles that I was able to overcome. As a member of the LGBTQ
community, I have faced social stigma, discrimination, and other
challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual.
The dual stigma associated with being queer and an addict can be
particularly harmful, especially when someone seeks treatment. When I
went into sober living to get well, I had to come out all over again.
Throughout my stay at this sober living home I experienced social
stigma and harassment. I never advocated for myself and did
everything I was told which led to me working for them as the Alumni
Coordinator and a Recovery Coach. There is a need for support after
exiting treatment and my role was to develop an aftercare program
that fosters a community where alumni are given resources and a
recovery wellness plan.

I was given this title, I began to gain a sense of my medicine and
felt internally ready to share it with others. I started to get into
my groove of leadership and empowerment, but eventually a subtle fear
set in that I needed to be perfect in order to be fit for service. My
ego started to control my life and I hit a point in my recovery where
I was losing my conscious self. I ended up having a relapse and hit a
wall that could make anyone want to give up. I was so ashamed to see
people and I could not get my spirit back. The same members of the
community I was so ashamed to see showed up for me in ways I cannot
describe. In that moment, I realized that the real medicine is
vulnerable truth and a community to share it with. When I shared my
vulnerable truth, I noticed that it helped others to share their own
truth. I recognized that the part of me that was a leader and coach
was still with me after the relapse. I learned that it is not about
perfection; it is about integrating my shadow into my medicine and
sharing it with the light.

my employment, I interacted with many organizations within the
addiction treatment industry. This opportunity opened my eyes to both
sides of this world, first as a client, then as an employee. Through
each of these lenses, I have witnessed the disparities in care and
unequal treatment that my marginalized community faces. It is now my
life's purpose to empower and support the LGBTQ community
affected by mental health and substance misuse. I learned that the
addiction treatment industry lacks empathetic, ethical leaders. In
the future, I plan to open Treatment Facilities specialized for the
LGBTQ community. My intention is to break down barriers, deconstruct
dual stigma and implement policies and procedures to protect the
LGBTQ community.

currently lead an All Recovery Meeting each week on campus and I am
President of Auraria Recovery Community. I am also an advocate
volunteer at a Colorado LGBTQ mental health and substance misuse
initiative. I am earning my degree in Business Management with a
minor in Ethics. My journey has enabled me to develop the tools
necessary to persevere and heal. I have truly made medicine out of my
suffering that I share with others. I have developed a level of
humility, open-mindedness, acceptance, willingness, and honesty that
enables me to excel in life and inspire hope that anything is