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Collegiate Recovery Community provides safe space

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Emily Moore/THE REVIEW
College campuses can be challenging environments for those in recovery


For alumnus Ethan Kirk, a childhood friend’s road to substance abuse recovery was what sparked his decision to become a co-founder of the university’s Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC).

After accompanying his friend at recovery-focused meetings to provide support, and after noticing drug use and heavy binge-drinking among university students, Kirk decided to help make a change in the lives of those suffering.

The CRC provides support inside and outside of its weekly meetings. The university’s CRC, one in about 150 of such communities at colleges and universities nationwide, recently began its second academic year on campus.

Kirk said although the CRC was originally conceptualized as a resource for students recovering from substance abuse, the group is open to any student in recovery, whether from trauma, an eating disorder or another problem. Advocates are also welcome at meetings, as are students who who want help a family member or friend who is in recovery.

Kirk founded the CRC in spring 2014 with Jessica Estok, a substance abuse counselor at Student Wellness and Health Promotion. The CRC has two other student co-founders, but their names could not be released for confidentiality reasons.

Since its founding, CRC members have attended conventions and conferences. They have planned events for the university community like this semester’s Thursday evening Recovery Yoga, which they co-sponsor with Student Wellness and Health Promotion and Sexual Offense Support.

The CRC also focuses on the experiences of students in recovery, specifically its 11 members. The multifaceted nature of the CRC can be seen in the goals and values that guide it, Kirk said.

“The CRC was founded on the principles of education, educating the UD community and the local community about the disease of addiction,” Kirk said. “It was founded on the principle of fellowship, providing that safe place for students to talk openly and freely about their issues.”

Although Estok is a counselor at Student Wellness and might refer a CRC student to campus or outside services, she said she does not offer counseling during CRC meetings.

During these hour-long meetings, students discuss recovery in a group setting and help one another, Kirk said. He said the support between members also extends beyond their meeting place in the Student Wellness building: in his experience, members can help one another to feel less isolated and to adjust to and connect with the campus community.

Meeting agendas tend to vary based on the needs of the membership and what they wish to discuss, Estok said. However, the first and third meetings of the month are devoted mainly to talk of recovery and other meetings typically split time evenly between those discussions and community planning.

When focused on planning, the three to four members whose schedules allow them to attend meetings may coordinate campus-wide events or activities like movie nights and pumpkin-painting just for their members.

Being able to share and discuss one’s experiences with like-minded peers is valuable to students, Estok said.

“I think other people that have had similar experiences to [the group members] is one of the most powerful things that [the CRC] can provide for them,” she said. “Just knowing that they’re not alone in that can be helpful, and that there’s other students on campus that are also in recovery and that it is okay, it’s good.”

For Estok, the idea to start the CRC came when she learned of a funding opportunity from an organization called Transforming Youth Recovery, which was awarding grants to colleges and universities working to create collegiate recovery programs. After gauging student interest in a CRC, Estok and her co-founders began their work.

The university’s CRC has since received that grant funding, using it to purchase promotional swag like T-shirts and pens and to events for the university community.

Aside from student interest in a recovery community, part of the perceived need for a CRC is apparent to Estok based on data: about 40 students in the class of 2019 identify as being in recovery, she said. This number is based on data collected from the AlcoholEdu survey taken by incoming undergraduate students under the age of 26. Estok said that according to her data, one percent of the entire student body as a whole identifies as being in recovery.

Going forward, Estok said she hopes the CRC continues to grow as a resource for students dealing with recovery and that it gains visibility on campus.

She said college campuses can be challenging environments for those in recovery, and are known as “abstinence-hostile” environments.

“ […] I feel like—and it’s not an original quote from me, it’s been said by many people that are working in collegiate recovery communities——‘A person should not have to choose between a college degree or their sobriety,’” Estok said.

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