Thursday, July 26, 2012

How higher education can be a turning point in addiction recovery

Post University MSHSV student, Steven Kuhn
When Steven Kuhn was undergoing addiction recovery, he kept a journal where he wrote about the ups and downs he experienced on his journey. It was therapeutic to express his thoughts, struggles, and successes as he forged a new path in life. Steven's journal was so well-written and poignant that his family encouraged him to turn it into a book and publish it.

Steven began reaching out to publishers, but received rejection letter after rejection letter. He decided to put his book on the back burner, and instead focus on another goal: obtaining his master's degree in human services from Post University. He had started attending Post because he wanted to begin a new career in the chemical dependency field and help other people overcome their addiction issues.

While attending Post University, Steven experienced one of the most important turning points in his path to a new life. Not only was his goal of completing his master's degree coming to fruition, but his instructors were bolstering him with support and inspiration to publish his book. They pushed Steven to achieve nothing less than excellence.

Today, Steven is a published author. His first book, "The Drunk Logs," came out just a few weeks ago. Next month, he will graduate from Post University with his master's degree in human services.

We talked to Steven recently about his story. Listen to our podcast interview with him, where we discuss about his addiction recovery, and how his educational experience played a role in his journey to a happier and healthier life. Steven's story is motivational, and exemplifies how education can help someone turn their life around, as well as the lives of others who are undergoing similar challenges.



 If you'd prefer to read Steven's story, scroll down to the transcript below. And if you're interested in reading "The Drunk Logs," you can download it now from one of these sellers:
The novel is a dark comedy about an addiction treatment center set in the country. It is a fictional story based on Steven's personal struggle and triumph, and seek to dispel the stigma that alcoholics are outcasts of society. Thanks for joining us on our blog, Steven.



TRANSCRIPT

Janelle: Greetings, everyone. Janelle Kozyra here for a Post University podcast. I am joined today by Steven Kuhn, who is a student at Post University. He's going to be graduating in August of this year. And Steven joins us from Cleveland and he is in the MSHSV program at Post University. So, Steven, it's great to have you with us today.

Steven: Thank you for having me.

Janelle: And, Steven, we have some congratulations in order because you just published your first book called "The Drunk Logs," so congratulations on that.

Steven: Thank you.

Janelle: And we're going to get to that a little bit later in the podcast, but first, tell us a little bit about yourself -- where you're from and what you were doing before you decided to attend Post University.

Steven: I am from Cleveland, Ohio. I've been here my entire life. Prior to obtaining or going for my master's degree, for 20 years I was in manufacturing. I had some college, but I never finished my bachelor's degree. The manufacturing company that I was involved with was a family company and I took it over.

Near the end of that, I decided to finish and get my bachelor's degree, which was in business management. I guess you could say I got the bug that I wanted to continue my education. I didn't feel at the time that what I was doing was benefiting society, for lack of a better term, and decided to get into the field of chemical dependency.

I initially started my master's program at another university. I decided to go into Post University because of their accelerated program, plus the class sizes and the specialization that my master's would be in mental health. My concentration is chemical dependency, so that's basically what drew me to Post University.

Janelle: Where did you end up completing your bachelor's at?

Steven: My bachelor's was at University of Phoenix.

Janelle: How long was it in between getting your bachelor's to you deciding that you wanted to continue your education and get your master's?

Steven: I already had the idea that I wanted to get my master's. Actually, I was searching to get my Ph.D., which I still want to get. But it was immediate, once I was done with the University of Phoenix, that I started to seek my master's degree.

Janelle: And so you have spent a good portion of -- you said you spent 20 years in the manufacturing business with a family business, so what was it about it that made you think that you wanted to do something a little different and pursue education?

Steven: If we go back, again, in my history -- and this pertains to the book that I wrote -- I have had issues with addiction. If you want to call it an epiphany, an aha moment, what I was doing in manufacturing was very mundane. I got to a point in life -- I don't know if you want to call it a mid-life crisis -- where I wasn't giving enough of myself to benefit other people. Making a product -- yes, that is good for some people. It wasn't good enough for me. So for what I had been through in my past, I felt that I could benefit others not to go down that specific road.

Janelle: So you decided that the master's in human services was the right choice for you and you liked Post's accelerated degree program, you said. So tell us more about what that was like for you. Tell us about your experience.

Steven: Initially when I started my master's degree, it was with Walden University. And, again, it was a two-year going on a three-year program. A lot of the information that I was being taught seemed to be very repetitive. I wasn't getting enough out of it. To quote one of my mentors in the field of chemical dependency, he always would say that the mind will remember only what the mind will endure.

So with going to Post University, it was just the immediate -- boom -- here's all the information. We need you to learn this and we need you to learn this now because, basically, we're not going to wait for you because we're going to continue on teaching these classes, and I liked that. It was constant, it was action. There was never a dull moment.

The professors -- if I can give accolades to a few of them -- there was Professor Gibbs, Professor Handon, Professor Baruth, and then currently my professor, Susan Fowler. They've been beyond my expectations. They would always challenge me at every point that I had. They wouldn't give you the proverbial carrot. They would give you the seed and they'd say, OK, now what are you going to do with this?

So they would guide me as to what I'm supposed to be learning and it was always a challenge to me. Yes, it was frustrating at times because we're looking for an answer and you didn't technically know what the answer was.

But, again, I think I've had more epiphanies in this past year than I've had in my entire life, and I equate that to Post University and especially the professors and also the professors' time.

With the typical university where you would actually go to a classroom and sit, you're limited with your time to, say, an hour. With Post University, I had 24 hours of learning something. There was always somebody online -- the fellow students, the professor, I had emails from the professors.

So that was also a benefit. So I think I got more bang for my buck, if you will, with going to Post University. And I recommend it now to anyone that I see and I would continue to recommend Post University to everyone.

Janelle: Now when does "The Drunk Logs" come into play? When did you write that and why did you write that?

Steven: It's a very long process. The whole process took roughly about two years. I was writing "The Drunk Logs" more as a therapeutic tool for myself. It was just daily journal entries about my feelings. It was a process of my recovery. It gradually blossomed into a short story. From the short story it blossomed into over 70,000 words and 200-some-odd pages.

From that, I gave the novel to my wife. She read it and she suggested that maybe I should pursue seeing if it could be published. Yes, it is a dark fictional comedy. However, a lot of the subject matter still rings true. I'd say that 90 percent of it is true. It's just with confidentiality. People who are involved in it, for legal reasons I cannot divulge their names.

But I was hoping that people would get something out of it. At the end of it, it came to showing that society still has the view that the alcoholic or the addict is an outcast of society. I want to eliminate the stigma that is attached to these individuals because, after all, it's not a choice that the individual makes, that one day they wake up and, oh, I decided I want to become an alcoholic or an addict. The choice is the recovery.

And I hope that this book shows this to individuals. Without these demons that these individuals have, they are the loving, caring individuals that their family members, their friends have always known.

Janelle: You were writing the book and then you decided to go to Post or was there some overlap?

Steven: There was some overlap. I completed the book and I submitted it to agents throughout the United States. I had some success with those agents, and made it to the last phase of their accepting it and they denied it. It was like the old saying, you have to make 100 phone calls before you get to one person who answers the phone. And that's the same thing in the publishing industry, which I have learned.

So trying to get it published kind of subsided, and I concentrated more on continuing my education. That led to Post University. I started Post and one main item that always stuck out with me from every mod that I have taken from the professors is a reminder that as students, we are going for our master's degree.

And going in for your master's degree, they expect excellence from their students because it is higher education. And that had a profound effect on me, so I came back to the novel again. It was the fortitude that Post gave me, the professors, and even the stories that I've heard from other students -- grandmothers, grandfathers getting their master's degree, people telling them that they couldn't do it and what was the reason, what's the purpose of doing it, and they went ahead and they still got it because they wanted to prove something for themselves.

I took that back to the novel and forged ahead and tried to get it published. Lo and behold, Untreed Reads from San Francisco emailed me and said that they wanted to sign me to a contract to publish it.

Janelle: How did you feel when you heard that good news?

Steven: After I was dancing? It was a phenomenal feeling that I accomplished something. It made me realize that -- who knows? -- see if I could take this a step further. I'm currently 90 percent done with my second novel. So we'll see how that one goes.

Janelle: Great. And what's your second novel about?

Steven: I don't want to give out too much information, but it has to deal with high school. I don't want to call it Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but it basically deals with the trials and tribulations of high school kids.

Janelle: Now "The Drunk Logs" is available at the Untreed Reads store, Amazon, a number of other locations, too.

Steven: Correct.

Janelle: So if anyone is interested who is listening here in checking it out, also in the post that accompanies this podcast on Post's blog, we'll list out all the places that you can find "The Drunk Logs." So, Steven, where do you go from here now that your book is published, you're about to graduate with your master's in human services, you have a second novel that you're trying to wrap up. So what's next for you?

Steven: Once I'm finally done with my master's degree, I am going to take the certification to become an LCDC III, which is a licensed chemical dependency counselor level III for the State of Ohio. After I pass that, I plan on applying to -- I would love to get into the Cleveland Clinic. That's my goal. If that doesn't happen, down the road -- I mean, I still obviously would apply to other hospitals, facilities, treatment facilities, and that type of thing.

Eventually down the road I would like to open up my own treatment center for that type of thing because I feel that I can do a lot of good, especially when it comes to individual counseling. One of the main things that I've learned working for larger treatment centers is there's such a mass of people, that there's battling with the insurance companies, and they need to get individuals in and get them out.

So by having a smaller treatment facility, I would be able to spend more time with individuals. Individuals just want to talk. They want to tell people their problems and they want someone to listen. That's a major part of counseling -- listening. And I feel that I can better serve other people by having a small treatment facility.

Janelle: Great. Well, good luck with everything, Steven. It was pleasure talking with you.

Steven: It was a pleasure talking with you, too.