Program would focus on sobriety during college

Steve Pulley (center) takes a break from swimming with fellow physical therapy students, Greg Hayden and Ellen Schafer, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Pool on Tuesday. Pulley is training for an Ironman competition in Wilmington, North Carolina, and is hoping to raise $14,600 for the College Recovery Program.

When Steve Pulley dipped his bicycle into the Atlantic Ocean on May 18, 2014, after a 3,133-mile ride across the United States, it didn’t mark an ending.

The completion of his “Ride4Recovery” started what appears will be a lifelong mission for Pulley, helping young people with addictions navigate the gauntlet of drugs, alcohol and peer pressure at college, a situation underscored by the recent bust of a drug network involving past and present College of Charleston students.

Despite the rigors of being in physical therapy school at the Medical University of South Carolina, the 28-year-old Pulley has continued the pursuit of one particular mission: starting a Collegiate Recovery Program at the College of Charleston, which the college has been working on during the past year.

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education says CRPs offer “students in recovery from addiction” opportunities to experience programs in the college environment that provide support and help prevent a return to using drugs and/or alcohol.

“It’s like a sober fraternity,” Pulley says.

The association says research has determined that the programs are most successful when they provide a university-dedicated staff member, a space on campus and a focus on abstinence-based recovery.

And while dozens of CRPs have been established at colleges across the nation and the Southeast, not one has been set up in South Carolina.

Pulley’s passion is the kind that draws deep from personal, truly intimate experience.

Pulley, who grew up privileged in Mount Pleasant, was addicted to both drugs and alcohol from age 13 to 20.

“I did them all, but heroin was my drug of choice and I was an addict,” said Pulley in a 2014 interview. “Charleston is a big small city and everyone knew me from being on the street, panhandling, running around downtown and getting arrested.”

His parents, Jeff and Valerie Pulley, estimated that they spent between $300,000 and $400,000 on treatment programs during those years.

The turning point came when Pulley found a program that clicked for him: Louie’s Recovery Halfway House in Statesboro, Georgia, and Georgia Southern University’s Center for Addiction Recovery, which is considered a “Collegiate Recovery Community.”

To look at Pulley now, those who didn’t know he was an addict would never guess it. He’s a healthy, driven person. In addition to his studies, he is currently training for an Ironman competition in Wilmington, North Carolina, in October with hopes to raise $14,600 for the College Recovery Program.

Pulley says physical fitness played a “huge part in my recovery,” in addition to mental and spiritual healing.

Pulley, who received MUSC’s Charles Banov Humanitarian 2016 Award, has been working on several levels locally to chip away at the addiction problem in Charleston.

He helped launch a 12-step recovery program at MUSC and started Run for Johnny, a nonprofit dedicated to the life of Johnny Schulte.

The 31-year-old CofC student was an “active member in the community of sobriety,” when he became ill with an aggressive lung infection and had to be administered pain medication.

“Johnny was not able to stay away from the pain medication after his stay at the hospital,” the nonprofit’s website says.

The organization seeks to provide scholarships to students in recovery.

But Pulley’s big goal, for now, is the College Recovery Program. With allies, he has helped raised nearly $300,000 for a program at the college. That would be enough to sustain a program for three years.

Just before the Fourth of July holidays started, Pulley got some good news.

In statement from CofC President Glenn McConnell on Thursday regarding the drug bust, he confirmed that the college will launch a Collegiate Recovery Program this fall.

“It (starting the College Recovery Program) has proved to be a lot more challenging than riding a bike across the country,” says Pulley.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.