I find that being a substance free student can be discouraging. From substance using students not understanding me, to my sub free dorm not actually being sober, there are very few places at Brown where I actually feel comfortable being myself. I spend most of my time alone in my room or at Andrews up until the point when the stoned/drunk students come in. It is a combination of feeling ostracized from others and self-imposed isolation. But Brown has come up with a solution for students like me — the Donovan House.
The Donovan House is a program house for sub free students and students in recovery. The Donovan House, which I am very excited to live in next year, will offer a number of advantages to the students living there. There will be a zero tolerance policy of substance use by anyone in the house, something that is not currently enforced in my “alcohol/drug free” dorm. I will no longer have to fear leaving my room and smelling weed at 10 am when I’m walking to class or see boisterous drunk kids roaming the halls on the weekends. I’m not trying to shame anyone who participates in those activities — have all the fun you want— but it does personally affect me when it happens in my living space where it isn’t supposed to. In the Donovan House, I will have a space where that fear won’t even enter my mind. I know I will be able to take solace in that fact. In the house, I hope I will be able to get to know people intimately for who they are and, possibly, why they don’t partake. Without the presence of drugs or alcohol, I find I really get to understand and empathize with someone.
The RPL of the house will be sub free and therefore have an intimate knowledge of what the students in the house struggle with on a daily basis, making them well-equipped to help out. To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about the RPL’s in my dorm. I’ve probably interacted with them a handful of times, and that’s fine, but, on a particularly hard day, I don’t feel comfortable confiding in someone I don’t know. From what I have been told about the RPL in Donovan House, that won’t be the case. The RPL there will be there to support the members of the house in their times of need and also to enforce the zero tolerance policy. That will be a tremendous relief to me.
My hope is that the various programming to be offered at Donovan House, which is likely to include discussion groups, will help bridge the gaps among sub-free students. People are sub-free for various reasons whether they be religious, related to past trauma, a matter of personal preference, or experience with addiction.
I’ve noticed a common divide between those in recovery and those who are not. Students in recovery tend to stick with one another, and those who aren’t do the same. I’ve wondered why this is the case. Perhaps it is a matter of mutual misunderstanding. Since the members of the Donovan House will be living with one another and will be in programming together, the two factions in the house may come to know each other and set aside what differences they have.
Living there, I know all of the members will have one thing in common — we don’t get intoxicated. And while that might not be important to most, it is to me. My entire life is based around the avoidance of substances and to meet other kids like me can only positively affect my interactions.
Maybe I’m being too idealistic about what will actually go on in the house. But I imagine Donovan House being the first place at Brown where I can feel totally comfortable, knowing there won’t be the looming presence of alcohol or drugs, where I am surrounded by people who actually understand me and who I, in turn, understand as well.