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Collegiate Recovery Community marks first full semester

By Chelsea LoCascio
News Editor

The Collegiate Recovery Community started at the College last semester with the intention of helping students who struggle with addiction and substance abuse as well as staying on the path to recovery. In an environment where filling weekends with alcohol and drugs might be common for some, the need for the program grows as students’ ideas of fun often turn into destructive dependencies.

Community Recovery Supervisor Christopher Freeman said that in the 2014 National College Health Assessment survey conducted by the American College Health Association, 54 percent of college students in the nation had negative consequences associated with substance abuse.

“We don’t know how severe the negative consequences were,” Freeman said, but these incidents could be as minor as embarrassing themselves at a party to as major as being arrested.

In a Signal article from Wednesday, Sept. 9, Freeman said that about 6 percent of college students, or around 200 students on a campus the size of the College, develop a substance dependence. Despite this statistic, a surprising lack of students have yet to utilize the program, Freeman said.

According to the addiction treatment website Elements Behavioral Health, a 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that about 20.8 million Americans aged 12 and over need treatment for substance abuse, but did not receive it, and 95.2 percent of those people felt they did not need treatment. Students might not seek treatment for several reasons. For example, they might not be ready to quit, do not know where to get treatment, fear what others will think if they stop using or do not having enough money for treatment, the same site reads.

Collegiate Recovery offers several easily accessible resources, such as Lion’s House — housing for students in recovery and a house mentor, according to tcnj.edu.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to be tempted,” Freeman said. “(Lion’s House allows the students to) come together and support one another’s goals of sobriety.”

Although Lion’s House is just for students in recovery, the program also provides counseling services for those who either have a personal history with substance abuse or know someone who does. One of the groups, Recovery Road, is specifically for students in recovery.

“It’s an opportunity for students to come together and talk about their experiences,” Freeman said. Group members also discuss other solutions to coping with problems rather than turning to drugs and alcohol, he said.

Another group, called Alcohol, Drugs and Me, is not necessarily for people with an addiction, but a way to educate anyone of their relationship to drugs and alcohol and how to prevent future abuse, Freeman said. He began an additional unnamed group that has grown from its three initial members last semester, and Freeman expects it to be even bigger when they meet for the first time this semester.

“We’re developing a group (of students) who don’t have a problem with substance abuse (but who want to get involved) because substance abuse has affected them. Most people can identify someone of concern,” Freeman said. “They want to help them and help others.”

Although they have yet to determine a specific purpose for the group, Freeman wants to hold movie screenings followed by discussions about addiction to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

A big part of bringing people with or without a history of substance abuse together through the program is during their late night events, which they call RECreate Your Night. Every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight in the Student Recreational Center are various games and crafts, Late Night Activities Coordinator Lisette Stanzione said.

“What I’m looking to do is create a community within the RECreate Your Night events,” Stanzione said. “Hopefully (the students are) seeing the same faces coming back, meeting new people and becoming friends just from coming to these events.”

According to RECreate Your Night’s Facebook page, the group recently sponsored a dodgeball tournament on Thursday, Jan. 28, laser tag on Friday, Jan. 29, and volleyball on Saturday, Jan. 30, with more events to follow. Freeman said that over 2,500 students participated in the late night events last semester. According to Stanzione, anywhere from 10 to 75 students showed up for each event.

Stanzione said they wanted the name to highlight recreation and the idea of knowing how you spent your night.

“It’s an emphasis on the recreation and also with the (College Recovery Community) and everything that it means. You’re recreating yourself with the activities that you do,” Stanzione said.

Although these events are open to anyone, they are a good way to keep students occupied on nights when they might have otherwise turned to drugs or alcohol, Freeman said. For anyone battling an addiction, Freeman encourages them to get involved with the program to not only stop substance abuse, but to help their mental health as well.

“Mental health and addiction are two sides of the same coin,” Freeman said. “For somebody with a history of addiction, getting connected with others is really important… We really want to get a community of support around them.”

If you or someone you know has a history of substance abuse, email Christopher Freeman at freemanc@tcnj.edu or call (609) 771-2134.

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