Let’s get real about addiction

Isabella Breda, Editor in Chief

In fall 2020, Alijah Hernandez wrote an opinion piece about the lack of visibility of the resources for those struggling with addiction and drug use at California Lutheran University.

On April 6, the Cal Lutheran community learned about the loss of one of our students, most likely the result of a drug overdose, through a Ventura County Star article.

Cal Lutheran needs to build a framework of resources to support students who are struggling with addiction.

Addiction is deeper than abusing substances–it’s not as easy as just “saying no.”

Jessica Kaemmerling, a 19-year-old psychology major at Moorpark College and staff member at an adolescent treatment center that supports kids struggling with mental health and addiction issues said at one point, alcohol took control of her life.

“I have bipolar one disorder, and I stopped taking my medication, so that I could drink because I couldn’t drink with them, they made me too sick,” Kaemmerling said in a phone interview. “What that signifies, to me, is me sacrificing my own health, wellbeing and everything–any ounce of stability I may have had at that point–to drink. That became my biggest priority.”

Kaemmerling is now approaching two years of sobriety.

Reaching out for help, however, is not easy because of the stigma surrounding addiction.

“Stigma not only impedes access to treatment and care delivery; it also contributes to the disorder on the individual level,” Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a New England Journal of Medicine article.

Cal Lutheran Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals senior Anisha Bagga has been sober for nearly five years. Bagga said she believes creating space to have open, honest conversations about addiction is essential.

“In one of my classes–I’m a psych major–and so we were talking about, you know, suicide and it’s more important to talk about suicide than think of it as a taboo,” Bagga said in a FaceTime interview. “I think that’s kind of the same thing with drug abuse, alcoholism is the more we keep it as a taboo and don’t want to talk about it because we feel like it’s gonna push kids to do it… we have to talk about it, and, and make it a safe conversation for people to feel safe to talk to us about it.”

Cal Lutheran needs a safe space that could help foster these conversations.

One sustainable option that is in place at over 130 private and public colleges and universities in the U.S. is a Collegiate Recovery Program, or CRP.

According to a 2019 Inside Higher Ed article, CRPs provide a place for students to access addiction counseling, support groups, recovery programs “or simply hang out and talk in a supportive, alcohol- and drug-free environment among peers. Some programs, like Sacred Heart’s, even offer weekly meditation or yoga classes.”

While Cal Lutheran is a dry campus, meaning possessing drugs or alcohol is a student conduct violation, it is inevitable that some of its students are struggling with substance abuse.

Kaemmerling said addiction can affect anyone.

“Addiction doesn’t have a face, you know what I mean? I know people who are top of their class, I know people at the bottom of the class and we were all doing the same thing,” Kaemmerling said in a phone interview.

Kaemmerling said for the majority of her teen years, she “was actually a very serious student as well as a very disciplined ballerina. I was gonna go professional, actually.”

But she suffered an injury when she was 15 that she said left her with much more free time.

“When I suffered that injury, I was so heartbroken… and I struggled because like every other area of my life other than school and ballet I had kind of like taken the heat off of and I hadn’t focused much on it,” she said. “And so when I got back to school like socially, I didn’t really have very many friends. So a great way, I learned to make friends, was to drink.”

According to a 2016 report by the Center on Young Adult Health and Development, “among the general adult population in the United States, it is estimated that 5.3% to 15.3% are in remission from SUD [substance use disorder]. The exact number of college students who are in recovery is not known. It is estimated, however, that one in six US college students meet standard clinical criteria for current abuse or dependence on alcohol.”

According to the Amnesty Policy in the student handbook, students are encouraged to seek help if their wellbeing is endangered, and in these cases the conduct officer “will have discretion to review the incident and consider granting amnesty to the student(s) who acted to protect their own health and safety or that of another person(s).”

Despite this potential protection, “a student who has been extended amnesty may still be required by the conduct officer to take part in specified educational activities in order to bring awareness to patterns of drugs and/ or alcohol use.”

If a student who is struggling with addiction reaches out, they should be connected with counseling, support groups and treatment centers, if necessary.

For example, Pepperdine University’s Alcohol and Drugs Policy states that students have access to confidential counseling and treatment and, if appropriate, the on-campus resources can refer students to off-campus treatment.

“Insofar as federal and state laws and professional ethical standards permit, no staff member at the Pepperdine health and counseling centers will in any way notify the administration of the name of a student who seeks help for a substance abuse problem without prior written permission from that student, and no records will be forwarded to the administration regarding the services or the problem,” the policy states. “Confidential counseling and treatment are available to students through the Student Health and Counseling Centers or by referral to appropriate agencies off-campus. Please contact the Counseling Center at 506-4210 for more information.”

Cal Lutheran’s Alcohol & Substance Abuse Policy states that the university “developed a program to assist in the prevention of illicit drug use and the abuse of alcohol by students and employees. The program provides services related to drug use and abuse including dissemination of informational materials, educational programs, counseling services, referrals and University disciplinary actions.”

Resources available to struggling students should be spelled out in high-visibility areas around campus and online. Kaemmerling and Bagga both said there is a large sobriety community in Conejo Valley, students should be made aware of this and directed to those vital local resources.

Students who are struggling with addiction who take the huge risk to reach out for help shouldn’t be required to take part in anything that won’t serve them in their journey to recovery.

“Back when I was like really in the crux of it like really heavy using, it was kind of like, just leave me alone, like, I’m not hurting you, like, what does this have to do with you, just leave me alone,” Bagga said. “I think, pushing for [someone to seek help] for me always like made a little more resistance, but I feel like if someone had said like, ‘hey, like if you’re having troubles, and like, here’s a safe space for you when you’re ready.’ I think… that is more helpful just knowing that I would have somewhere to go.”

Dr. Beth Turner, director of Cal Lutheran Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) said CAPS has created a handout on alcohol abuse in aim to help guide those who want to connect their friends with resources.

“The best thing you can do if you’re worried about someone abusing alcohol or substances is to talk with them about it. Share your care and concern for them in a non-judgmental way,” Turner said in an email interview.

Turner said anyone can submit reports to the Campus Awareness, Referral, and Education (CARE) Team about any student they are concerned about. “The CARE Team meets regularly and reaches out to students to provide support and resources. Anyone can email the CARE Team at [email protected] providing information about the student they are concerned about; more information on the CARE Team can be found at https://www.callutheran.edu/care/.”

Cal Lutheran Wellness Resources also has an Alcohol and Other Drug Use website, with information about the effects of alcohol consumption, marijuana addiction and links to further education.

There needs to be a cultural shift at Cal Lutheran.

People struggle with substance use disorder everywhere, Cal Lutheran students deserve a supportive space to open up about addiction.

Local resources:

Support Groups

SMART Recovery

Thousand Oaks

Agoura Hills


Alcoholics Anonymous

Thousand Oaks

(805) 495-1111



Ventura County Health Care Agency

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Clinic Hours: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

(805) 981-9200.


Ventura Center

24 East Main Street Ventura, CA

(805) 652-6919


Oxnard Center

1911 Williams Drive Oxnard, CA

(805) 981-9200


Simi Valley Center

3150 Los Angeles Avenue Simi Valley, CA

(805) 577-1724


A New Start for Moms

1911 Williams Drive, Suite 140 Oxnard, CA

(805) 981-9250


Wildwood Recovery

Residential Treatment Center

(805) 493-5741

[email protected]

Intensive Outpatient Program:

(805) 497-1900

[email protected]


Ventura County ACCESS

Free, confidential assessment: 1-844-385-9200


Oak Forest Recovery


[email protected]



Complete list