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BREAK FREE FROM YOUR PAST AT THE VSU COUNSELING CENTER

On Sept. 12, the VSU Counseling Center launched a returning support group, “Breaking Free,” for students whose lives have been affected by parental figures with addictive behaviors such as substance abuse or gambling.

Mark Williams, assistant director of the alcohol and drug program, facilitates the group. Many different topics were discussed such as letting go of the need to control every situation, self-care, setting boundaries, improving confidence and building healthy relationships.

“As some might say, one out of four young people grow up in a home where addiction is prevalent,” Williams said. “If those numbers are accurate and you apply that across campus, that’s a lot of students who have some degree of baggage, probably from the environment they were growing up in.”

Everyone’s perspective of life varies. Someone who grew up in a stable household may see life differently when compared to someone who grew up with a parental figure who struggled with alcohol or drug abuse. Affected students may have had to mature fast to learn how to care for themselves or maybe even participated with their parents.

Due to these circumstances, some may find it hard to admit certain situations they’ve endured. Some hold on to the pain and assume they will burden people if they share. Some try to hide how they feel out of shame and embarrassment.

Support groups give students the chance to be vulnerable in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

Struggling students may yield to faulty thinking whenever considering their past or present position: “I’m the only one who has experienced this. No one understands me. No one could ever help me with this. Who would ever want to hear me out? This is just who I am.”

You are not defined by your circumstances.

“[A student may] think they’re the only one, when really, there are other people who say ‘No, I’ve been there,” Williams said. “Here’s what’s worked for me.’ Or [a different student] could say ‘Well, what has worked for you?’ And it’s that mutual sharing that helps. It’s the nature of the group.”

Everyone’s story is unique and worthy of being heard. Sharing with a group may seem intimidating at first, but it could be one of the most liberating experiences to finally let things be known as they are. Sharing could also help other afflicted students realize they are not alone.

“Breaking Free” meets once a week every Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Health Center in the Counseling Center Group Room. If you would like to register for the group or have any additional concerns, call 229-259-5111 or email Mark Williams at mfwillia@valdosta.edu.

Photo and Story by Tristen Petty, Staff Writer.

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