Haag gets a fresh start through recovery

Friday, April 2, 2021 Haag gets a fresh start through recovery

Jon Haag plays pool with friends during a game night following a Collegiate Recovery Community meeting at Husker Hall.

Jon Haag knows what it’s like to start over, and now he’s helping others find a fresh start at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through the Collegiate Recovery Community.

Haag began his time as a Husker in 2012 and found himself frequenting parties over studies to manage difficult aspects of life. A drinker since age 16, Haag knew that his consumption was becoming a problem when he totaled his car in a ravine after driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs prior starting his freshman year.

Despite beginning college without a car and aware of his growing problem, the newfound freedoms and alcohol-fueled escape that the social scene provided better matched his priorities. He began experimenting with molly and other drugs to make life ‘dull.’ Haag quickly fell into a pattern of drinking and drugs and rarely attended class. After one semester, he dropped out of the university to continue his alcohol and drug use.

Shortly before turning 21, Haag had an epiphany. A stomach pain led him to see a doctor who told him that the pain was his liver and that his drinking would kill him if he kept it up.

“He made me realize that was exactly what I was doing, and what I had been wanting,” said Haag. “He gave me a real wake up call.”

But he wasn’t quite ready to answer the call. Haag proceeded to celebrate turning 21 with an alcoholic friend and a large bottle of whiskey. Shortly after, an argument with his drug dealer led to a lack of access and frustration.

As he mulled over his options, Haag decided it was time to address his addiction. He attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and learned support was available.

“They never judged,” he said astounded. “I’ve never encountered a person in recovery who was judgmental of me or my relapse. They always met me with love, ready to help.”

Throughout the year, Haag traversed in and out of sobriety, until he realized how much he was hurting the people he loved. This was a turning point. At age 22, Haag attended a meeting where he began a renewed commitment to a sober life.

He began volunteering for a sober living facility, working as a mental health technician to support recovery and taking classes at Southeast Community College. In fall 2019, Haag re-entered UNL to pursue an engineering degree.

Now sober for 4 years, 7 months, and counting, Haag is committed to offering a welcoming and supportive environment to others in recovery. He is quick to share the low relapse rates (5% according to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education) and promising retention statistics among Collegiate Recovery Communities – not to mention his personal excitement for the upcoming addition of Husker Hall, a sober living environment for UNL students.

“In some ways I feel like an outsider. In other ways I've gained a unique insight. I can recognize students who are walking in the shoes that I did when I was 18. I wish I'd known earlier so I could have stayed in school and not take such a long detour.”

He believes the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) that he’s helping to build now could have made a difference in his campus experience and is enhancing his current experience. He and Tim Anderson, a graduate assistant who supports the CRC, host weekly game nights at Husker Hall already.

“We do dinner, host a meeting, and have game night with Mario Kart, pool, darts and such. It’s a great alternative to going out on a Friday night. I can’t wait to do even more next year.”

Anyone is welcome to join the Friday meetings and game nights. For more information on the Collegiate Recovery Community or to apply to live in Husker Hall, visit resilience.unl.edu/recovery. Scholarships are available.

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