Chappo: Advocate for recovery

By Amanda Duchsherer
Digital Communications Specialist

MINOT, N.D. – Science and self-discovery helped Michael Chappo find recovery in his alcohol addiction.

“I think so many people have an idea of what recovery looks like from the media. It’s always downtrodden individuals in an overly lit fluorescent room with the paint peeling, and it’s such a sad thing,” he said. “Recovery isn’t like that. It’s ‘do,’ it’s not ‘don’t.’ It’s creating a life.”

For Chappo, a Minot State addiction studies major, that included going back to school and using his past to become an advocate for individuals struggling with addiction.

“What happened to me, happened to me. I’m not going to allow the shame of what happened stand in my way for what I want anymore,” he said. “And I want to help people. And I want people to know that hope is possible.

“Everyone has a past that you don’t have to live in the prison of anymore.”

The Minot native’s first experience with alcohol was in high school. That euphoric experience quickly morphed into an addiction that Chappo dealt with for the next decade and a half.

In 2012, he entered treatment but found the program didn’t meet his needs.

“You can’t prescribe recovery. Maybe ABC works for you but XYZ worked for me. Is anyone more important? Absolutely not, everything is perfectly legitimate,” Chappo said. “And that’s the whole discovery aspect of it, because in a very real way self-improvement and self-discovery is a very big part of what recovery is.”

He spent the next three years researching the psychology of addiction on his own while working at a law firm and in theater jobs in Minneapolis.Michael Chappo“I started understanding that psychology is legitimately based in science, a demonstratable, observable science,” he said. “And what are therapy styles? Oh, they’re just ways of reframing what and how we think about things.”

A move back to Minot in 2017 provided the fresh start Chappo was waiting for.

“I knew I wanted to come to humanity’s aid in a more proactive manner and I decided to go and jump full forward and get this degree, and it has honestly been one of the best experiences in my life,” he said.

During his time at Minot State, Chappo has helped launch a student recovery group and brought North Dakota first lady Kathryn Burgum to campus. It was at her Recovery Reinvented event Spring 2019 where he first publicly announced being in recovery.

“It didn’t bother me,” he said about his debut. “I think that’s one line we have to say over and over again, ‘it’s nothing to be ashamed of.’ I have a past. We all have a past.”

As Chappo looks toward his graduation in December 2019, his journey has led him to one important philosophy about not only addiction, but the totality of life’s experiences.

“If you change your mind, you change your life.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 07/02/19   

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