Student overcomes sobriety issues to earn degree

Published by Rachel Arceo on

Often quiet with a small smile at the ready, AAOT student Tayla Griffin regularly attends her Zoom classes with the camera on, eyes focused on the instructor, her own office in the background.

Math professor Mary Stinnett praises Griffin as a model remote student.

Tayla Griffin celebrated two years of sobriety in January 2022; soon she’ll walk the UCC graduation line.
Photo by Tayla Griffin

“Tayla ensures her camera is on, she is poised to ask her instructor a question during class and treats the remote classroom as if she is ‘in’ the classroom, even interacting with other students,” Stinnett wrote in an email. “But what separates her from a traditional ‘face to face’ student? She doesn’t even live in Douglas County!”

Griffin is a second year student on pace to walk for graduation this year who resides in an Oxford House in Grants Pass. Oxford House, a democratically run sober living house in Grants Pass, opened up in July 2021.

Griffin has never in fact attended class on campus.  Starting amidst a pandemic in the fall of 2020, she only had the option of online or remote classes, so when she received an opportunity to move in to her current home, continuing as a remote student was important.

Because of UCC’s burgeoning array of online and hybrid classes, Griffin was able to still attend as a full-time student without commuting and use the UCC scholarship she was awarded last year.  That’s not to say it has been easy. 

However, after years of on-and-off attempts at other community colleges in both California and Missouri, this time Griffin is feeling the success of completion.  She attributes her achievements to her two-plus years of recovery and sobriety.

“Getting clean and getting into recovery gave me the time and motivation to get my butt in gear and do something different with my life,” Griffin said.

Her process to sobriety involved moving from Missouri to Grants Pass in 2019 to live with her sister.

“I wanted to get away from the drug life, get settled in, and start a new life,” Griffin said.  Unfortunately, she relapsed while living in Grants Pass.  It was about then she decided going into a treatment center was her best option.

Griffin then chose an inpatient treatment center in Roseburg.  After her 30-day stay, she contemplated returning to her sister’s home in Grants Pass but decided her sobriety would be better supported in another sober living house, so she quickly moved into a Roseburg Oxford House.  She stayed there until she received an opportunity to return to Grants Pass to help start a newly minted Oxford House, where she still lives today.

After achieving sobriety, Griffin, who worked at a busy call center, admitted she wanted a change in jobs and opportunities.

“I hated it,” she said. “I knew I needed to go back to school and improve my options.” With an interest in helping others achieve the contentment she was enjoying through sobriety, she turned to UCC with an interest in the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor certificate.  With help of an advisor, she then decided to go for her AAOT, while still fulfilling the requirements for the CADC.

“Tayla is the ‘model student’ for remote learning. She knows her abilities and weaknesses and recognizes she would not learn the best in a fully online classroom. However, she thrives in the remote classroom,” Stinnett said in an email.

Not only is Griffin a diligent student, but also her experience and successful sobriety have enabled her to make the career change that motivated her to return to school.

Last year when an opportunity to attend a free training as a recovery mentor arose, Griffin jumped at the chance.  “I figured it might help me get my foot in the door to the work I wanted, which it did,” Griffin said.

Still a full-time student, Griffin is also now a Certified Recovery Mentor for Adapt, a comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment center that Griffin herself attended over two years ago.  She works two days a week, often attending classes in her very own office.

Griffin, who had a history of jobs in food service, now marvels at her new professional life.

 “I was blown away when I started at Adapt,” Griffin said. “Wow, I have my own office!”

Although sobriety has emboldened Griffin to continue the work involved with the school, her biggest challenge is staying focused.

“I have ADHD and being able to concentrate or understand the work is my biggest challenge,” Griffin said.

“I really do enjoy school. It’s stressful, but it’s supposed to be,” Griffin said with a light laugh. “I am happy I stayed, even though I thought about not continuing this term. I’m happy I did because I now graduate this summer,” Griffin said.

“It will be my first degree, in anything,” Griffin said. “I’ve been to school; I just usually stopped; I wasn’t motivated through my addiction,” Griffin said over the phone.

“I feel good; now I get my associate’s degree.  My mother had degrees; she went to school full time and worked full time with kids, which is ridiculously hard,” Griffin said with awe and a smile that could be heard over the phone. Her mother passed away five years ago.

“She made it happen, though. I know she would be proud of me; she always was, but I know she would like to see me doing well,” Griffin said.

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