It was January 23, 2017 when David Seaman first walked through the doors of the Dawn Farm Spera Recovery Center in Ann Abor at the end of a long, downward spiral. At that time, he was a homeless, panhandling addict.
Exactly three years later – to the date! – Seaman stepped to a podium as student speaker at Washtenaw Community College’s Winter Honors Convocation. Today, he is a community activist, restaurant manager, 4.0 GPA-student and president of the college’s Collegiate Recovery Program with plans to transfer to the University of Michigan and later attend law school.
“In recovery, there are times when you take a couple steps in the right direction and things seem to feel like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,” said Seaman. “The lining up of (those two dates) was one of those moments for me.”
The 27-year-old Clarkston native congratulated his fellow students invited to participate in the Honors Convocation for achieving High Honors status during the 2019 Spring/Summer and 2019 Fall semesters or being an Honors or High Honors graduate candidate from Winter 2019 or Spring/Summer 2019. Then he shared a little about his past:
“My family had given up hope for me, the legal system was ready to throw me in prison, friends had closed their doors. I had burned every bridge, and didn’t have another couch to sleep on,” Seaman said. “I got sober not because I wanted to, but because the fear of returning day in and day out to the life I had been living outweighed the fear of the unknown life I would lead in sobriety.”
Fortunately, the unknown life of sobriety he’s experienced for the past three years is one full of support systems helping him overcome his once untreated substance abuse disorder. It was essential, he said, that work and school become extensions of his recovery program. They did.
For work, he got involved with Recovery is Good Business, a local organization that matches individuals with a group of local businesses interested in hiring those in early recovery. Seaman started as a dishwasher at the Detroit Filling Station and steadily worked his way up to a front-of-house manager.
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About one year after getting clean, Seaman enrolled at WCC and has continued to build his recovery network with the Collegiate Recovery Program which, he says, “destigmatizes what it means to be in recovery on campus.”
The WCC Counseling & Career Planning office started its Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) in January 2019 to help students transition into the community and succeed in college while maintaining sobriety by providing fellowship, encouragement, resources, support groups, programs and events; as well as access to the college's student support services.
“The CRP offers a place for someone like me to succeed in what otherwise could be a hostile environment for someone in recovery,” said Seaman, who became president of the peer-to-peer support organization during the Fall 2019 semester. “I believe that in order to keep the level of success I have achieved, I must give back what I receive.”
Collegiate Recovery Program Coordinator Teresa Herzog, a 30-year public health educator, says Seaman brings a high level of maturity, leadership and compassion to his role as student president.
“He leads with compassion. I see his humanity, and it’s pretty special,” Herzog said. “We all have a lot to learn from him, and I’m grateful he’s willing to share his wisdom with us.”
While the support system that is helping Seaman succeed is specific and vast, he reminded the other honored students in attendance not to forget the community of supporters that contributed to their success.
In doing so, he explained why he accepted the role of student speaker in the first place – because he hopes his story can help somebody who’s facing the same challenges.
“For those of us here today who know destitution or poverty, forced limitations or degrees of inequity and have made it to the other side, we have earned a place among a privileged few,” he said. “Let us move on to the next phase of our development with this in mind. Let us take our individual stories of success and lend them to others who may be coming from similar situations.”
The Collegiate Recovery Program meets from noon to 1 p.m. every Wednesday in room 252 of the Crane Liberal Arts and Science Building. The program is also holding an open house from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Garrett’s Restaurant on the first floor of the Student Center. All are invited to stop in, learn about the program and enjoy food and “unleaded” beverages.