When Imran Vahora was struggling with addiction and other personal problems through his early years of college, his uncle would often comfort him by giving examples of successful people who also went through tough times.
“He told me whether or not you’ve experienced failure, just give it your all and you’ll always end up succeeding,” Vahora said. “Through Facebook, he would show me pictures of people like Eminem, who failed out of high school; Albert Einstein, who is rumored to have had dyslexia; and The Beatles, who were told early on they had no musical talent.”
Because he got through those tough times, Vahora has reevaluated his life and he is now a Student Government Association (SGA) senator at Raritan Valley Community College; and if he continues the hard work, he will earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in five years. But even with this success and any further success he may have in the future, Vahora believes that his recovery from addiction will not just be a temporary challenge, but a lifelong one.
Vahora's path to recovery started during the 2014 spring semester when he joined the RVCC student organization BACCHUS. John Shantz, the president of BACCHUS at the time, said of the organization and of Vahora joining, “BACCHUS’s goal is to help people in the community make healthier decisions in their life. Sometimes, that can include the members of BACCHUS themselves. I invited Imran into BACCHUS because I thought it would be helpful for him. He was making a lot of dangerous decisions at the time.”
Those decisions were to use drugs, which Vahora was initially reluctant to talk about in this interview. But after considering how it could help other students experiencing the same problems, he started to talk about it with some ease.
“I wanted to get clean because people were telling me I was doing stupid things that I couldn’t see myself doing. There was one time where I woke up in the morning and saw my car with scratches and a destroyed mirror. All I could think about was, ‘What happened, how did I get here?’”
Shortly after joining BACCHUS, he became the organization’s Vice President of Event Oversight and went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with a friend. He has been “clean” for the past six months, meaning he is not just staying sober, but is starting a new lifestyle. He does not put himself in situations where people are using drugs, and he taught himself to not resort to using drugs when something goes bad.
Staying “clean”, according to Vahora, is not just a day to day challenge, but an hour to hour one. He said that he constantly thinks about using again, and has to tell himself not to. He does this by considering what may happen if there were a tragedy. “Tomorrow, God forbid, something terrible can happen, like a friend or family member passing away. But is that a reason to use? No, because that person would have wanted you to stay sober.”
Vahora credits much of staying clean to going to meetings and working the 12 Steps. When he is not at meetings, he will often hang out with friends or play roller hockey. He has been playing roller hockey since high school, and two things that attracted him to it were equipment that he could easily attain, and an outdoor roller rink close to his house.
“Some people don’t understand that you can still have fun and not be messed up,” he said. “Life gets better when you’re clean, and one of the best parts is that people will talk to you more.”
Vahora has made many new friends in the past six months, some of whom drink. But unlike some of his past friends, when his new friends drink they never do it in front of him, or talk about it to him.
As a clean and inspired senator, and the only one to have enrolled in another school, Vahora’s personal goals are to get more student clubs and organizations to work together, and get more students to join student clubs and organizations.
“I want to get more students involved in clubs because there’s something that will interest anyone. If you like DJing there’s the Radio Club. If you’re into the news there’s The Record. If you’re interested in helping your community by promoting healthy lifestyles, there’s BACCHUS. Joining a club is also automatic networking. When you go to another school, you may meet somebody in the same club or organization that you were part of at RVCC, and get to know them in that way.”
Vahora also deeply believes in the importance of SGA’s role in the school. “Since we take everything students say, without us, the school would be run differently. The people who run this school would not be told as much what the students are thinking. They would just be left having to assume.”
After his term as senator, Vahora plans to graduate from RVCC and transfer to the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, where he wants to earn his Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He likes this school because they have a pharmacy program with classes geared toward research pharmacy, as opposed to retail. From there, he wants to spend his life researching cures for diseases.
On students approaching him with questions or advice, he said, “I am very outgoing and I’ll say hi to anyone. If anybody wants to walk up and just say hi, I won’t find it weird. I’m usually the one to do it to other people anyway.”