Courtesy of MCT
With an addiction to alcohol and marijuana six years in the making, 19-year-old Stephanie realized that just as drugs and alcohol had affected her family life and friendships, it had also impacted her education.
“There was this drug-related conflict on campus that I ended up missing my finals for,” Stephanie said about getting caught with drugs on campus. “I remember sitting there with this security guard, at Columbus State (Community College), thinking, ‘Something’s got to change.'”
Even after three and a half years of sobriety at Ohio State, the fourth-year student, whose name The Lantern agreed not to fully disclose, said the negative connotations associated with addiction recovery are so strong it’s difficult to feel any sense of community at OSU.
“I feel invisible,” she said. “I know staff members, I know students who are in recovery, I see them on campus all the time and you get really excited, but you have to keep quiet about it.”
OSU’s Collegiate Recovery Community is a new program for students in recovery like Stephanie. Established late Spring Semester, the program aims to build a secure community focused on student encouragement and engagement.
Headed by the Student Wellness Center, this collaborative OSU effort combines the expertise of individuals from Counseling and Consultation Services and University Residences and Dining Services.
The CRC is designed for any student who is in the addiction recovery process, though requirements for how long one must have been in recovery have not yet been decided.
“We want this to be, as much as possible, a very healthy community of mutual support,” said Curtis Haywood, a licensed professional clinical counselor for CCS. “We don’t want to exclude any student that’s serious about recovery. If they’re serious about recovery, we want to be there with open arms welcoming them into this program.”
The program, now in its early stages, will go into full force this fall. Besides peer interaction, Sarah Nerad, program assistant for drug and alcohol abuse recovery program at SWC, said the program will be able to offer students alumni engagement opportunities, scholarships, weekend events and monthly educational sessions.
“There will be a lot of, ‘Let’s go experience life, let’s have fun, let’s have a genuine recovery experience,'” she said.
Within the following year, the CRC is set to have its own recovery house for residents who are in recovery.
Although the CRC does not replace a 12-step recovery program, it does offer some of the same elements: a sense of community and a safe place. However, it also differs from some programs because it is not as formulaic as a 12-step recovery program might be. A 12-step program is a set of outlined steps used to overcome addiction, initially proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous. In the end, involvement in CRC will only increase the support an individual is receiving.
“I don’t want this program to be a particular pathway of recovery, I don’t want it to be 12-step-based, or faith-based, I want it to be everything,” Nerad said. “I want everyone to feel welcome regardless of how they got into recovery.”
The timing of this program is in line with national trends; institutions throughout the country are becoming more serious in how they serve the people in recovery. OSU has had services for those in drug and alcohol addiction recovery for years, but none have been as extensive as the CRC.
“We’re trying to meet a current need,” said Amanda Blake, wellness coordinator for the SWC. “We’ve been providing services for students in recovery for a long time; we’re just trying to take it a step further now.”
Modeled after a Texas Tech University recovery program, the CRC also borrows successful elements of other similar university programs, Blake said. According to one of Texas Tech’s formulas, it is estimated that OSU has 950 students in recovery, making a recovery program very worthwhile, Nerad said.
Besides OSU, two universities in the Big Ten, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Michigan, and two Ohio universities, Case Western Reserve and Ohio University, have recovery programs like CRC, Nerad said.
This is not OSU’s first time trying to create a recovery program. In 2009, OSU attempted but failed, mainly due to a lack of student interest, Haywood said.
By incorporating the expertise of many university departments, as well as student input, the CRC has formed a solid program.
“That’s one of the really cool things about it, I think, is the collaborative effort of the different areas of OSU to try and help a recovering student,” said Simon Woliver, a CCS clinical fellow.
Through the CRC, OSU will not only be able to have a place for students in recovery, but will also attract future students in recovery.
“We’re not only potential(ly) improving retention, but we’re also giving students a reason to be here,” Woliver said.
The CRC is a direct counter to those kinds of feelings, Stephanie said. Knowing that OSU has made a unique place for those in recovery is encouraging.
“Ultimately, you need a community you can engage in that doesn’t revolve around drugs or alcohol,” she said. “There is a place where I belong on campus.”