That Community Spirit Shines Through

Coming out of the gate, they looked to the community to find someone in recovery who could serve as the face of the CRC — someone who was young, vibrant and who has walked their path. They found it in Taylor Milam, now a senior social work major at the university. Milam, who is not a member of the CRC, was hired as program management assistant at the organization’s launch.

As a student peer who has been sober for seven years, Milam brings a unique perspective to promoting the CRC on campus as well as in the community.

“Being a student in recovery makes me relatable,” he says. “It helps students feel comfortable being involved in the program and talking to me. This is important as some of our students are very new to recovery.”

Milam, who brought with him two years of experience working at a men’s sober living facility in Birmingham, sprang into action, working to help develop and implement programs and serving as the face of the CRC by setting up information tables around campus, facilitating meetings and reaching out to recovery groups around the city.

“Birmingham has a strong recovery community,” Milam says. “It is because of this strength that we are successful here on UAB’s campus. Our student population comes from various 12-step groups, Refuge Recovery meditation groups, sober living centers and treatment centers around town. We realized that to be successful we needed to tap into this community, so that’s where we started.

The UAB collegiate recovery program helps students stay on track.

“When I was hired, I knew at least 30 students in recovery personally,” he continues. “It just took me reaching out to them and letting them know that we were here. We plan CRC-related events that are open to the student body and community alike. This includes hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking and climbing the rock wall at the rec center. Allowing our students to form a unique community on campus while at the same time encouraging them to stay connected to their main source of recovery is crucial.”

Having a dedicated space is key.

“They need a location to come to between classes to study or decompress,” Milam says. “There’s a prayer and meditation room they can access, or they use our group room for meetings. We believe the most important thing we provide is a full range of services for students on campus. These services promote their education and recovery.”

A sober lifestyle-friendly environment is a strong recruitment tool for universities seeking to attract serious students with high GPAs — like those in recovery. Silva and her team work in collaboration with the admissions office to let students — especially those at community colleges — know there is an active CRC on campus.

“We have a presence at every new student and transfer student orientation,” Silva says. “We let students know we are here before they arrive on campus. Prospective students who are considering the school often ask to come to the recovery meeting, and new students are involved before they even start academically. It gives them an immediate feeling that they belong. They know they won’t be lost in a crowd before they arrive on campus, which lowers anxiety and stress.”

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