Monday, October 10th was World Mental Health Day. IEU Counseling took this into consideration and programmed events to focus on specific mental health concerns that students have brought to their attention. Amongst the many events was “Seminar: Addiction And Recovery: A First-Hand Experience.” Presented in the tower, the event was hosted by Jacobo Reguera, a mental health counselor and Recal Foundation coordinator. 

Recal Foundation is a private residential detox and rehabilitation center in Madrid. They specialize in drug and alcohol addictions but also treat addictions related to food, sex, and shopping. The Foundation follows the “12 Steps’: the well-known approach made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous. They offer group therapy, art therapy, and even family therapy for addicts’ relatives that have been hurt as collateral. The condition is exactly this: a disease, so it must be treated as one also. The only “thing” that can make it manageable is the own person’s will. Jacobo explained that he, along with the foundation, does not aim to focus on the long-term decisions of going sober. Instead, he emphasizes that the best way to survive is to make the decision one day at a time to be sober. Only then will addicts reach the big milestones of being sober for years. 

When speaking about addiction, the speakers did not shy away from being vulnerable. Jacobo started the chat by outlining what the Recal Foundation does. He explained the science of addiction and how it is only able to be self-diagnosed. He gave us a bit of background into how he got involved, and what he does in his day-to-day for the foundation. He then passed the microphone to two speakers, who were both addicts themselves. Amidst the crowd, they seemed to be your average attendees, which made even more of an impact on the audience. As they seemed to just be two “normal” people, the audience felt a greater sense of comfort and connection to the speakers.

The two spoke of their very different experiences with addiction and recovery. As different as their stories were, they found many commonalities in how they finally reached recovery.

One of the most interesting themes I heard was that this disease does not discriminate. Whether affluent or not, addiction ruins lives.

No matter how much money one can throw at finding remedies or the best psychologists, this disease stays with the person for life. It all comes down to the daily decision to live one more day sober. 

One of the attendees was Bia Wahle, a second-year student. She heard about the event through word of mouth around campus and decided to come last minute. I spoke with her after the event to see what she thought. She mentions, “The event was a very positive and unexpected experience. Besides learning a lot about the addiction disease itself, being able to hear testimony gave another perspective to the conference. To listen to how different people were able to overcome an auto-diagnosed and deadly condition was inspiring. It was edifying to see how new beginnings are positive and sometimes the only way out of a problem.” 

In the end, the event was a grand success. The ability to be so open was incredibly refreshing. The event was expertly designed to make addiction not seem like a taboo topic. By drawing back the curtain,  it will help people who are struggling to not seem so intimidated to reach out for help. I hope to see more events like this, that shed a limelight on mental health struggles that we as students face. 

Featured image by: Matteo Badini / Unsplash

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