After battling his own addictions for 40 years, James Wilder wants to use his personal experiences and stories to help others find the treatment they need. The Lake View resident is currently attending classes at Kennedy-King College to earn his associate degree in addiction studies, with the goal of becoming a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC).

Though KKC offers a high-quality addiction studies program, James found the school more by happenstance. While staying at a recovery home in Englewood, he saw the campus from the window of the bus he was riding and thought, “I’m going to take some college classes.” After meeting with staff at KKC, James says there was no looking back.

Through his courses, he’s learned all about the nuances of understanding addiction as a disease. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” he says, as each individual has their own personal story and battle.

For James, that story includes battling not only addiction, but bone marrow cancer as well. Upon his cancer diagnosis, his doctors didn’t expect him to live longer than six months. But after receiving a stem cell transplant – and treatment for his addiction several years later – James has been able to turn his life around.

He sees his courses at KKC as a blessing and says his instructors and advisor, Kay Trotter, have been fantastic. According to James, “their hard work has made my educational journey easier.”

After he graduates next year, James plans to become a CADC and one day start a nonprofit organization that serves uninsured or underinsured individuals who are battling addiction. For one of the first times in his life, he’s looking forward to the future, finally feeling like he has found his purpose.

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