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Lori Dorsey '90 helps those recovering from addiction
Feb. 27, 2012
Recovery from addiction is a difficult, lifetime process, something that Lori Dorsey ’90 knows well. She talks freely of her experiences and, not only has she been clean and sober for 24 years, but her life’s work has been to help others get there as well.
Dorsey is a senior public health promotion specialist for the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. In this position, she helps fund, license and oversee mental health and substance abuse treatment agencies.
Dorsey dropped out of the University of Rhode Island in 1974 after just one semester and never thought she would complete a college education or have a career. She became addicted to prescription painkillers and developed a problem with alcohol after a serious car accident.
“Every day for 10 years it was back pain, drinking and pills,” Dorsey said. “Education was the furthest thing from my mind.”
Dorsey eventually completed a detox and 37-day inpatient treatment program and attended drug abuse counseling. She began her education with addiction-focused trainings that were held at the CCRI Knight Campus on Saturday mornings.
In 1988, she enrolled at the college to finish her education. She was a divorced single mother of two toddlers and had just begun her recovery from addiction.
“At age 33, I thought I was too old [for college] and I had a lot of social anxiety,” she said. “I was terrified but knew I had to get a life.”
A chance encounter on her first day of school put her on the path to her career. Dorsey began having an anxiety attack just before entering a classroom for the first time and met Professor Linda Corrente, at that time the chairwoman of the CCRI Human Services department.
Corrente gave Dorsey some orange juice and struck up a conversation. As their relationship grew, Corrente counseled Dorsey on what career she may want to pursue.
Dorsey began to excel in her classes and her interest in human services solidified during an internship in a family counseling center for alcohol and drug issues. She graduated in 1990 and went immediately to Rhode Island College, where she studied human services and sociology.
Dorsey has pursued many different jobs in her field and has seen it change over the years, with emphasis moving from treatment to recovery.
“One of the reasons I’m so open about [my recovery] is that one of my biggest goals is to eliminate the stigma [of addiction],” she said.
Dorsey encourages people of any age to go back to school and credits CCRI with helping her make a new start, calling the college “a huge part of my story.”