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Campus Celebrity: Jillian Bauer

We all have vices.

Whether dedicating an unintentional, excessive amount of time scrolling through Instagram, binge eating or dropping one too many f-bombs in your everyday exchanges, everyone is all too familiar with bad habits.  For some, the occasional weekend turn up is no more than a fun habit. But at some point, that usage can escalate and transition into a dependency, eventually taking the form of alcohol abuse or dependence which over 17.6 million Americans suffer from.

Photographer, Temple University professor and founder of The Rooms Project, Jillian Bauer, 31, wanted to shed light on the experiences of those that have confronted their addictions and are in the recovery process.

The Rooms Project is a serious of photos accompanied by audio stories of those living in recovery. Those profiled are candid with Bauer in their stories of their childhood, the burgeoning of their addiction and being in recovery.

Bauer’s inspiration for the project came from her own history of alcoholism and drug addiction which developed during her undergraduate years at Temple. “I had a pretty hard time for about 12 years from the time I came to Temple as an undergrad until I got sober…” said Bauer. “I would wake up the next day after drinking. Even if I didn’t blackout, I’d feel really ashamed and remorseful about it. If you’re in college, I’d say everyone has that friend that consistently apologizes for getting a little too crazy the next day. I felt bad about it, it wasn’t funny to me, it was funny for a little bit, but then it became embarrassing,” she shared.

For those in college that suspect their alcohol use may be abnormal, Bauer says some telltale signs of alcoholism include: blackouts, guilt, experiencing anxiety that can only be satiated by alcohol as well as relationship troubles. “I had problems with my parents, with my friends, I had a ton of relationship problems where I was bouncing into a ton of unhealthy relationships that were conducive to me drinking,” Bauer said.

Bauer’s drinking problem in college continued to follow her into her adulthood. “People think that if they’re holding down a job for example, a high powered job, that they might not have the disease of addiction and alcoholism…I was a very high functioning addict and alcoholic. I had a really great corporate design job, I was teaching night classes at Temple and I was running my own photography company on the side. Yet, when I was drinking and using, I was blacking out and emotionally, I was really struggling.…There are people that I’ve met: high powered attorneys in center city and doctors [with addictions]. There’s a lot of people that you wouldn’t think are alcoholics that are,” she said.

Current and recovering addicts aren’t the only ones that can find inspiration in The Rooms Project; it’s a general testimony to humankind’s ability to thrive and overcome. Even more awing, its founder, who is nearly two years sober, is continuing to prosper and her desire to help those that were once in her place is ceaseless. In addition to her project getting the attention of Newsworks and Philadelphia City Paper, Bauer is also working on her Master’s Degree in Interactive Design and Media from Philadelphia University.

She hopes to be able to meet more people through her project and eventually be a full-time professor at Temple. While Bauer has already profiled a number of people for the project, she wants to be able to get stories from 100 people in recovery. She currently has a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to connect with people across the country. But for now, Bauer’s short term goal is rather simplistic: “Getting to tomorrow and still being sober.”

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