Hillary Belk entered her first intensive outpatient program for substance use disorder when she was just 18 years old. She drank uncontrollably during a school-sponsored trip her senior year in high school, and her parents wanted her to address the substance use issues before allowing her to go away to college in Colorado.
Belk was sober for 29 days before she went back to abusing alcohol. While at freshman orientation in Colorado, Hillary’s parents saw her the morning after a long night of drinking; they were unaware she had started drinking again.
"I just remember looking at them and telling them that I had everything under control," Belk recalled.
But she didn’t, and she wouldn’t until years later when she enrolled at UNC Charlotte and got connected with the Collegiate Recovery Community, which supports students recovering from substance use disorders.
Looking back, Belk can see now that she needed more support. She had a near-death experience at college in Colorado. After returning to Charlotte, she enrolled in Central Piedmont Community College, but later withdrew from classes. At the age of 25, she got a DUI and ended up in another recovery program. By the summer of 2008, Belk was bankrupt — physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
But she recovered, and eventually returned to CPCC, where she shared her story of recovery with a professor. Then she started sharing her story with her peers. Everyone she talked to knew someone who was struggling with substance abuse, or they were dealing with it themselves.
After transferring to UNC Charlotte, she met Debbie Insley, the University’s director of wellness services. Belk would go on to work with Insley to establish the Collegiate Recovery Community.
Belk, now a certified substance abuse counselor, helps those recovering from addiction and other mental health issues in Asheville. But she stays involved with UNC Charlotte’s Collegiate Recovery Community by attending group meetings, conducting seminars and working with new students who enter the community.
Belk said the Collegiate Recovery Community saves lives. It saved hers.
"I was going nowhere very fast," Belk said. "And because of the support that I’ve had, that direction has shifted and changed and it’s allowed me to be in a position to help others move in a direction that shifts and changes from what they were doing as well."
Gifts from UNC Charlotte donors help campus programs like the Collegiate Recovery Community provide essential support services to UNC Charlotte students. Thank you for your generosity and support of UNC Charlotte.