It seems the image we have of college these days has become less of the student carrying books through a leafy campus and more a booze and drug fueled party where everyone is hooking up. The college years are ripe for overindulgence. In everything. And for those already fighting an addiction to alcohol or drugs, the atmosphere can be devastating. A few college campuses (and the number is growing) are working to get ahead of the substance abuse problem and rather than kick students out for their transgressions, help them stay sober and graduate. Kennesaw State University in Metro-Atlanta is one such college. The first in the southeast, in fact, to create a Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery (CYAAR) and it’s offshoot, the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC). Started in 2007, the groundbreaking idea educates students about addiction, guides them through the recovery process, and provides academic support. Once a student is sober for six months, they enter the CRC to maintain their sobriety while surrounded by people who are going through the same thing. I recently interviewed two KSU students about their journey through substance abuse, their failed collegiate experiences, and their involvement with this program. Danny, a senior, is the treasurer of the CRC (many of the students work in the center’s offices before and between classes), and shared with me how he dropped out of several universities before coming to KSU specifically for this program. His friend and fellow student and CRC member, Lindsday, uses her experience with alcohol to educate incoming freshman about the dangers of addiction. She told me those classes, the outreach part of the CRC, is her favorite part, her passion, really, and that she is working toward a degree in the recovery field. Lindsday says the schedule she maintains with the CRC, it’s outreach program, her classes, and homework, is exactly what she needs to stay sober and focused on graduating. She, too had failed at staying in school before. Listening to their stories, I wondered whether with the amount they had on their plates combined with the need to avoid imbibing made for a dull college “experience.” They assured me that they weren’t missing out on anything. Lindsday told me about tailgating parties, movies, concerts, dinners out, all with friends who are members of the CRC. In Danny’s words:
“There’s not a whole lot of other students who are in recovery so, a lot of what you hear in conversations, a lot of what other students do in their spare time is different than what I do in my spare time and it’s good to have a community where I can relate to people.”
I love that KSU is doing something to help its students (and attract new ones) by not ignoring the all too real problem of young adult addiction. That it doesn’t wish to just dismiss the issue and force those students off campus but offer them the same chance at a higher education and degree while supporting their recovery and sobriety. This should be on every college campus in our country.
My story on the program, including my interviews with Lindsay and Danny, and the Director of the Center, Teresa Wren Johnston, airs Wednesday, October 29th at 11pm and again the 30th at 4pm. I will include a link here after it airs.