Scholarship Recipient Spotlight: Melissa Bradley

When Melissa Bradley describes her relationship with alcohol, she likens the substance to a weapon. She grew up feeling fear in every situation. At first, she was able to use alcohol to defend herself from feelings of social discomfort and anxiety. It brought a sense of belonging and even felt a bit like relief. However, as her disease progressed, the ‘sword’ turned from a defensive shield to an offensive agent that only harmed her.   Her first experience with professional treatment came at 17, and while she learned much about recovery and many positive life skills, she experienced numerous relapses, each time sinking lower emotionally and physically.

The next five years followed a common script: relapse, hit a new bottom, ask for help, enter treatment, start to rebuild, then lose it all again. At one point she did begin college in Boston, but without support for her recovery, she again relapsed. Every iteration of recovery, relapse, and use seemed the same: in-patient treatment, outpatient treatment, sober living, meetings, and a job with no potential for growth. Every time she went through the cycle, Melissa would get bored and depressed by her prospects, leading to a relapse.

Her final experience with rehabilitation seemed like it would only be one more round of the same process, the only difference was Melissa’s increased sense of desperation. After a 30-day in-patient program, she had enough willingness to enter a six-month sober-living house. Sober-living environments can be as successful or unsuccessful as the inhabitants chose to make them: if the residents work an active program and get involved, they can see lasting results. For the residents who spend their energy complaining and trying to get around rules, the results will be different.

As Melissa worked her 12-step program while residing in sober-living, she was given the suggestion that she restart her education as a way of engaging in healthy activity. This was a big change from her previous recovery attempts. With just over 90 days clean, she enrolled in four classes that semester at her local community college. She found the environment both exciting and soothing, and with a wide array of students from all walks of life, she didn’t feel like she stood out. That academic success led Melissa to take on new and healthy challenges; she next applied to Penn State to study psychology.

With financial support from an Ammon Foundation Scholarship, she was able to graduate from Penn State this month summa cum laude with her Bachelor’s in Psychology,  and plans to continue on to her MA in social work or clinical psychology. She has learned firsthand about the often life-saving benefits of having a long-term aftercare plan when people in recovery complete in-patient treatment programs. Melissa is an active participant in the Penn State Collegiate Recovery Community, accessing support personally and academically to help her stay on track, as well as giving her the opportunities to share her experiences with newcomers to the community and to recovery as the President of the student organization Lions for Recovery. Her immersion in recovery even as she pursues her education is helping her live an active life of balance, full of hope for the future.

Being stuck in a cycle of relapse isn’t uncommon- sometimes the best way to break the pattern is by adding new goals, with new supports. Education can be the healthy experience that brings a person from abstinence to recovery, and the Ammon Foundation is here to assist that process. If you or someone you know is interested in applying for a scholarship from the Ammon Foundation, please visit our website.  For more positive stories about recovery, visit the Ammon Foundation blog!