Help with that first step
‘I absolutely needed my college to support me in the way Ohio State did,’ says Raylin Smith ’14.
Raylin Smith ’14 arrived at Ohio State in January 2013 determined to start a new life. The film studies major dreamed of making movies. It all seemed within reach, except for one thing: She was having trouble getting control of her drinking.
She’d had her first drink at 16. “I didn’t know I had a disease,” she said, “and I didn’t know that the first drink would lead to what it did.” Skipping high school to drink and smoke by her senior year. And daily drinking at her college in Washington, D.C.
“My disease was getting worse, to the point that I dropped out of the D.C. school,” she said. “I thought D.C. was my problem, that people there were crazy. I was able to transfer to Ohio State, but I found myself doing the same thing, the same behavior. I was so disappointed in my life. It was such an empty, dark place that I ended up in.”
She wanted to stop. “I wanted to get better, but I couldn’t on my own. I made rules for myself, but every rule I made, I broke. Finally, I reached out to the counseling center at Ohio State, and that’s when my story started to change.”
A counselor in the Office of Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service directed her to a 12-step meeting in Columbus and suggested she sit near someone her age. “I told him, ‘That’s ridiculous, no one my age has my problem.’ I always thought of 12-step meetings as these old bearded men who lived under bridges. I was like, ‘Oh my God, is this how bad it is?’”
Terrified, she went to the meeting, where she met Sarah Nerad, program manager of Ohio State’s Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC).
“Sarah was exactly my age, 22 years old, and she’d been in recovery for five years. For the first time I didn’t feel so alone. I didn’t feel so terminally unique.”
At Nerad’s invitation, Smith began attending CRC meetings, workshops and outings, including a sober spring break trip to Florida. “The best thing about the CRC was finding a community of students committed to recovery,” she said.
She shared her moviemaking dreams with Nerad, who told her about a national video contest to promote how social media can help students in recovery. Smith produced a film starring her CRC friends. To her surprise, her video took second place.
Smith’s talent came to the attention of Connie Boehm, director of Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center within the Office of Student Life. Boehm hired Smith as a photographer and videographer for the center, which houses the CRC.
“Raylin is so talented,” Boehm said. “Conversations with her helped me learn about what students go through in recovery.”
Through her job, Smith learned about a Hollywood movie being filmed in Columbus and got hired as an intern. On set, she met a casting director for Betty Mae Inc., a Los Angeles casting company whose credits include “American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Training Day.
To her astonishment, the casting director invited her to interview for a job as an assistant. Smith snagged the position and moved to Los Angeles with her fiancé, Michael Sabo ’14, whom she met in the CRC. Sabo is an environmental education instructor in Los Angeles.
Looking back, Smith — who recently was promoted to a casting associate position — can hardly believe how her life has changed for the better.
“I absolutely needed my college to support me in the way Ohio State did. And for that, I am so grateful, because I don’t think I would have graduated. I certainly wouldn’t be sober. And I don’t know if I would be alive if Ohio State hadn’t supported the CRC.”
She wants all colleges to embrace this path. “Drinking is huge part of college for American students. It is so deeply ingrained,” she said. “That’s why colleges need to offer recovery programs, to change the vibe of campuses and change our culture.”
Continuum of caringBased at Ohio State, this national center is leading the conversation on new approaches to the problem of alcohol and drug misuse.
Recovery takes a communityThey say “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and the efforts of Houston native Sarah Nerad certainly support that theory.
To assistTo help ensure programs of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery can continue after 2017, when the Hilton Foundation grant is scheduled to end, visit give.osu.edu/HECAOD.
To support the Collegiate Recovery Community with scholarships and other needs, visit go.osu.edu/CRCfunding.