Widening the Circle
To determine what would work best on their campus, students researched other recovery programs. They attended mutual help groups in the community, visited local service providers and went to hear speakers.
As they communicated with other colleges with recovery programs, they discovered the focus varied from traditional 12-step programs with membership limited to students in recovery to groups that incorporated students with a family history of addiction or provided limited access to allies of recovery. However, all had an emphasis on recovery support services.
“These visits increased the students’ confidence and provided them with a sense of belonging to a larger movement,” Likcani says.
On campus, students interacted with faculty members about their plan to develop a collegiate recovery group. They reviewed options of a closed group for people in recovery only, semi-closed group that involved students in personal recovery and those in recovery as family members and an open group that involved all of the above and “friends of recovery.”
Ultimately, they decided to structure the organization as open to anyone in recovery, seeking recovery or contemplating recovery. Allies are also welcome to attend. “We wanted to make it very inclusive so that people don’t have to disclose their background,” says Scheibe. “That protects students who want to be private and not let anyone know what they are experiencing.”
Students armed themselves with knowledge by attending training about collegiate recovery groups and substance abuse prevention and treatment. Leaders attended training specific to recovery support and a statewide conference on recovery support on college campuses.
In 2015, Recovery Central was registered as a student organization and started receiving some funding from the university and was given a space to meet.
They spread the word about the new organization through social media — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — which was included on flyers that were posted throughout campus buildings and in the dorms. They participated in involvement fairs, held open houses, connected with the peer, mentoring and counseling offices, and emailed professors, inviting them to share information about the group to their students.
They also enlisted the assistance of the campus police. “They are the people who interact with students who might be struggling,” says Scheibe. “We wanted them to have flyers and information on hand that they can provide to these students as an option.”
Focusing on attracting students from all majors, the group organized drug- and alcohol-free activities to reduce stigma, help members bond and make recovery an acceptable and attractive lifestyle on campus.
Recovery Central’s mission is one of service and giving back. “One of the really cool things we organized was a bike ride around central Missouri to raise funds for the veteran’s hospital, specifically for veterans in recovery,” says Likcani.
In its first semester, the organization had 20 members — many of whom were graduating seniors, which meant that they had to continue to attract student members in the fall of 2016. “Our outreach is proven to be successful, and our Facebook group continues to grow,” says Scheibe. “We are ready to start anew with the incoming students.”