How I Overcame A Semester of Addiction and Academic Probation by Jay Guevara

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide and abuse

Four years ago, on August 25th, 2016, the same day that I opened for two-time national slam poetry champion Guante at an VCU event, I survived an overdose caused by sleeping pills. 2016 was a rough year. January I almost killed myself prior to a trip to perform at NCA&T, still processing the loss of a close friend who was also my first lover. In February, I went cold turkey on abusing lean. In May of that year, I spoke for a VCU-Talks event in front of one hundred fifty people about my journey as a former grade school dropout and gang affiliate. That same month, I went from sleeping in dorms back to sleeping on floors. In June, I had accumulated several injuries within my right shoulder and ankles along with finding out that I would enter my sophomore year on academic probation. In June, I went to my first concert and it was to see Joe Budden’s [at the time, final] show at the Howard Theater. Days prior to the overdose, I spat in a cypher with Nickelus F, Big Dev, John Chillum, Radio B, and more on The Cheats Movement Podcast. I even remember on the day of the show performing on the same card as Guante, I left it all out there. I left a lot of pain in a packed auditorium which was the same spot I did the VCU-Talk in May and people loved it. Except for one person on the slam poetry team I was on. I remember leaving halfway through the Guante set because I didn’t want to hear anything the team was saying to me in order to deescalate the situation. I was physically hurting and did not want to be in my dorm with my vices, so I was overly active that week, further hurting myself.

After I overdosed, the next few days I found myself very quiet. Still in shock of what happened, I tried to refocus on my academics. It was like shadowboxing in the dark. I knew what I was fighting but I couldn’t see a way to hit my goals. After having withdrawal symptoms during a sociology exam which was a combination of nervousness, excessive sweating, hot and cold flashes, I finished my exam and ran rig ht to The VCU Well. The VCU Well is a wonderful resource on campus that helps people find their road to recovery, do research on them if you’re a VCU Student reading this. The next day, I headed to my clinical research job feeling defeated. I remember being in my supervisor’s office twiddling my thumbs, thinking of what I was going to say. Trouble is, I didn’t know exactly what to say. Eventually, I mustered the words to inform them that I was on academic probation. No mention of an overdose. No mention of drug abuse. Just the academic probation. The two supervisors knew there was more going on with me, so they referred me to the student learning center to make an academic advising appointment. There I learned how to create a schedule to organize the things I wanted and needed to do such as making time to study, working out, work, and extra-curricular activities to make downtime.

After I planned my work, I worked my plan. After the overdose, I found ways to reinvigorate my character. Fitness wise, I took on a boxing conditioning training style for that semester after gaining influence from a boxing anime called Hajime No Ippo. I saw my semester of overcoming academic probation and addiction as a boxing match. In the first few weeks, I was down in the earlier part of the semester but knew I had the capability to bounce back and win the fight. Not only I felt like I needed to find the perfect balance of work and play, I needed to see if this plan of a schedule would be the right thing for me during a daunting semester. I hosted open mics during the semester with the national slam poetry program I was a part of. It started to land myself opportunities. A future internship in The Cheats Movement Podcast reached out to me to help the platform bring Joe Budden to The Broadberry in Richmond to perform that October. Months prior, I saw Budden perform and that same day, the phrase “The Mission Is Too Great” and The Mission itself was born due to events that happened that day. Days after that, two co-founders of a platform VirginiaGotNow reached out to me to become their Richmond representative for the brand and I became excited. My first interview for the platform was with underground hip hop legend, Nickelus F, who I did a cypher with back in August for The Cheats Movement.

The constant hip hop and health influences helped me find more peace and answers with the issues I’ve faced all throughout 2016. In that semester, I learned that I had to process my situation first. UNDERSTAND AND OVERSTAND TO BECOME A BETTER PERSON, ONE MUST REALIZE WHEN TO SEEK HELP. PLAN YOUR WORK WITH THE HELP OF OTHERS AS NEEDED. THEN WORK YOUR PLAN. At the end of the semester, thanks to a balanced schedule of studying, working, working out, and making time for things I love to do, I finished the semester with a 3.4 GPA to get myself out of academic probation and remain in school. Below I have a source from the American Addiction Center website that details specific withdrawal symptoms along with the timeline of said symptoms and treatment for whichever drug is being abused. Click the link here and the graph below also comes from that same source.

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