Recovery Is the Real Adventure
By JENNIFER MAURER
Exploring the next step for collegiate success
Recovering from the disease of addiction is hard work at any age. It can be especially challenging in college when so many social activities seem to revolve around abusing substances — from fraternity and tailgate parties to concerts and sports events to everyday dorm life. It doesn’t take long for new students to question whether anyone gets through college sober, much less in recovery.
The relatively recent movement to establish collegiate recovery communities (CRCs) and sober dorms and halls is long overdue and can be lifesavers for students pursuing higher education while in recovery.
Increasingly, students don’t have to leave campus to find a 12-step meeting, substance-free social activities or a counselor who understands addictions. But for some students, especially those in early recovery, more support may be needed to successfully navigate entry or re-entry to college. That’s where transitional living communities like Next Step Recovery in Asheville, North Carolina, come in.
COMING HOME TO EXTRA SUPPORT
Next Step Recovery is an off-campus community that provides additional levels of structured support and recovery education for men in early recovery. The program supports more than 20 men at a time, primarily between the ages of 18 and 25, who live in one of four residential houses. As part of Next Step Recovery’s sober living community, residents have 24/7 access to recovery support from peers and a team of 10 staff members that includes licensed addictions specialists, case managers and on-site house managers.
Located just minutes from the University of North Carolina Asheville, which has a CRC, and a number of other excellent public and private Recovery offers an intensive outpatient program for residents who need extra recovery support to be successful. All residents participate in 12-step and weekly house meetings, relapse prevention education, dialectal behavior therapy for relapse prevention, and outdoor adventure therapy.
House and case managers help ensure every resident finds a sponsor, develops a relapse prevention plan, works a daily 12-step program, and secures full-time education and/or paid or volunteer work. Next Step Recovery’s staff also help families understand the disease of addiction and how to support their own healing and their son’s recovery process.
A DAY IN THE LIFE (IN RECOVERY)
A typical day at Next Step Recovery might start with making breakfast; heading to school, work or volunteering; having lunch; checking in with a case manager when needed; cooking dinner with housemates; participating in group dialectical behavior therapy with other residents; and attending an Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meeting before heading back home.
Weekends might include a day hike in the mountains with fellow community members and Next Step Recovery staff and then heading back to Asheville to relax, cook dinner and head out to a meeting. Every step of the way, residents have access to peers and staff who are committed to their own recovery process, one another and living a successful, substance-free life.
What I Learned from a Transitional Living Program
A Next Step Recovery alumnus shares his story
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 6 years old. I have a love and obsession with blues and rock ’n’ roll. I come from an urban environment, and I adore anything city-related.
What is your relationship to addiction and recovery?
I started using drugs when I was 12, and since then, my life got progressively more unmanageable. I got kicked out of high school three separate times, had multiple overdoses, run-ins with the law, neglected my own education, and led myself into a life that seemed to have no way out. I was stuck in a trap. I entered the recovery process two years ago. Since then, I found my way out. I’ve been actively engaged in recovery for multiple years now, and that has allowed me to build a life I couldn’t have even imagined while using.
What prompted you to seek out Next Step?
When I was in inpatient treatment, it was brought to my attention that I may not be ready to return home and that I may need some more continuation of care to have the best chance possible. After being brutally honest with myself, I agreed to pursue after-care in the form of sober living. I landed at Next Step Recovery from the recommendation of a counselor, and it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
What sorts of programs did you get the most out of?
Definitely the case management program and also the life skills groups and the relapse prevention groups. The case management program allowed me to turn goals into reasonable and obtainable steps. The life skills groups taught me what an adult would need to turn these steps into my larger goals. The relapse prevention group taught me how to balance a program of recovery with my everyday life — especially what to look out for so I could continue to progress and maintain a healthy life in recovery.
How does or did being in recovery and also in school work for you?
Honestly, it is difficult at times. Balancing both and making sure I do my best in all aspects of life is a challenge. It is worth it to me because I have career ambitions, and I have freedom in recovery. Ultimately, for me, this is what recovery has prepared me for. Recovery has been a blessing and has taught me to do difficult things that have resulted in an investment in myself. It helps my self-perception, too, because with an education, I’m actively transforming myself into the person I want to be, and I never have to sit idly and be unsatisfied with myself ever again.
What did Next Step teach you about yourself?
Next Step taught me that I am a person worth investing in. It taught me that there is a way out of the struggle. It taught me that there was no reason I couldn’t be a successful and healthy individual. It taught me that if there is something I feel strongly about and want to do, there is nothing wrong with pursuing it and putting my heart into it. It taught me to live and learn in a healthy environment.
What advice would you give others right now considering getting help?
If in your heart of hearts you feel like it’s time to do something different, do it. It’s always a risk leaving behind what we’re used to, but for me personally and countless others from every walk of life, the reward was well worth the risk. Give it a full-fledged effort and persevere. You may just surprise yourself. There is always hope.
What career track do you think you might take?
Currently, I am on track to major in political science and to also concentrate in substance use disorders. My dream is to be a lawyer.