All About the Journey
Allen would like to make incoming and current students aware of the misconception that a college campus is a dangerous climate for those in recovery. “The resources we have makes it inviting for students to attend MSU and not feel the temptation they think they might,” he says.
The immediate goal for the Traveler’s Club is to let students know it exists. Besides a social media presence, the organization sets up at events like Sparticipation, the student involvement fair. “Students who struggle with alcohol and drug problems tend to discover it in college, not before,” says Allen. “This is why we try to engage them as freshman since they are on this road to discovery.”
Allen says that students often reach out to the group after finding it online or being referred by the Olin Health Center. “We try to match the person contacting us with a peer,” he says. “So, a male caller will speak to a man and vice versa. We will invite them to a meeting or offer to talk.”
Making students comfortable goes a long way toward combating stigma. “Some people who call us do not have experience with people in recovery. When they come to the meetings they see that we are regular college students. There’s nothing extraordinary about us other than we are students who don’t drink or use drugs,” Allen says. “We show them that we are doing just fine and are doing what we want without being partiers.”
Allen says that the group doesn’t always talk about substance abuse or being in recovery, which is welcoming to newcomers. “We often just talk about life,” he says.
The Traveler’s Club meets weekly, with rotating themes. One week, they will hold a general community meeting with ice breakers and the next week hold health promotion workshops on topics such as financial or sexual wellness, yoga or fitness. The members all play a role, from representing the organization, to serving as treasurer, events planner and secretary, to managing the social media accounts.
Social opportunities include “sobergates” where people in recovery can gather before sporting events, holiday parties and a lounge at the health center where students can study or hang out.
“Students will meet in the lounge and exchange phone numbers,” says Young. “A lot of the magic happens after that. They go to meetings together, play basketball, go out to eat. Peer support is an important aspect to what we offer. Developing strong friendships helps students stay sober and excel in school.”
To help plan for future services, in May 2015, the CRC sent an anonymous survey to students who had attended a meeting or event during the previous academic year. They discovered that 100 percent of the respondents had a 3.0 GPA or higher, with 57 percent above a 3.5, and 87 percent rated their quality of life as “high.”
Proving the need for dedicated sober housing, they found that 75 percent lived off campus, and close to 40 percent had a roommate who used drugs or alcohol. And 66.7 percent of students who enrolled or returned to school after the initiation of MSU’s Collegiate Recovery Community identified the presence of campus-based recovery support as a very important factor in their decision to attend the school.