Teresa Johnson On the Academics of Recovery and the College Campus

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In a world where celebrities, athletes and the superstars of society pop in and out of rehab and treatment centers as if going to a day spa, it is easy to be misled to believe that one stop fixes all.  Today the public is led to believe that addiction and recovery is a destination rather than a process, and for too many of today’s young adults, this image glamorizes addiction and minimizes the hard work of recovery.

The debate over whether addiction is a chronic illness, disease or self inflicted behavior has long separated our society and addiction continues to carry a moral stigma. The stigma associated with addiction is damaging enough when we are talking about an adult, but what about today’s young people? Is it okay to brand a young adult in recovery from addiction as a problem, not worthy of our emotional and financial support?

Before you answer, think about this – it is estimated that there are more than 50,000 college students inAmericawho suffer from alcohol, drug, eating and other addictive disorders. Some of these students have acknowledged their addiction, sought treatment for it and have incorporated into their lives, strong, successful recovery programs. As the director of Kennesaw State University’s Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery where student in recovery from addiction participate in a peer recovery program,  I see their struggles and their successes everyday. Our job is to provide those students with a supportive place that offers opportunity and hope while empowering them to succeed in college and in life.

But if we continue to allow ourselves to label them as problems because of age old fears and worn out misconceptions, we are essentially turning our backs and telling them that they are not worthy of our help. If these students were afflicted with another type of chronic disease, the outcries would be loud and the support would be plentiful. So how can we best allocate resources and support a generation of young adults trying to turn their life around?

I believe that the best investment we can make in college-age student’s recovery is to be open and real about the addiction epidemic that has infiltrated our young population.  Parents and patients alike expect the addict to be “fixed” after investing thousands of dollars in treatment. And then they keep their fingers crossed as their son or daughter enters the collegiate world.

Finding resources for the recovering addict and alcoholic on the college campus today is limited.  Money is found for prevention, education and even to some degree treatment for an unseen population, but barriers spring up when we admit we have alcoholics and addicts on the campus by offering recovery support.  Supporting recovery in college would be admitting that we have a problem.  However, I submit that supporting recovery on the college campus does not mean we have a problem, on the contrary it means we have a solution.

For the thousands of young adults on the college campus today who are in recovery from addiction, unseen and anonymous working a program and living committed to recovery, who do the hard work of self reflection and community building, I say BRAVO!

In order to advance at all in our handling of addiction and these precious human resources, we as a society must open our minds and the doors of our universities and colleges to offer hope and a visible community of support.  Join us on campus at Kennesaw State University Sept. 10, 2011 to celebrate National Recovery month at the Run for Recovery. The Run for Recovery (click here to register) is just one of hundreds of celebrations taking place during the month to support and honor those in recovery. Join the Voices for Recovery sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

One thought on “Teresa Johnson On the Academics of Recovery and the College Campus

  1. Hi Teresa, great blog! I am starting up a blog myself about college students living in recovery. To my dismay, my college (Arizona State University) has minimal resources for students living in recovery or struggling with active addiction. Any suggestions on how to get administrators to take notice of this ‘invisible’ population?
    Thank you,
    Leandra Huffer