I attribute the gift of starting my recovery journey almost entirely to my family, whose support was vital to me. However, my true turning point happened when I was in college. I moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating from high school. As you can probably imagine, the typical college environment is not conducive to a life in recovery. Freshman year was a battle of fitting in, balancing schoolwork, managing time and adjusting to a life without my parents.
For thousands upon thousands of students across the country, the pursuit of education is halted due to addiction and the lack of adequate recovery support services. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) is changing that trajectory. ARHE is the national collegiate recovery association that represents over 100 colleges with recovery programs on their campus.
As a student in early recovery, I felt that the college experience was an impossible uphill climb where I would be met with drugs and alcohol everywhere I turned. Finding a collegiate recovery program (CRP) gave me a path I never thought possible.
CRP meant that I had a support system — not just for my academic career, but for my recovery as well. A CRP meant that I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, and that I wasn’t fighting the battle alone. It was possible for me to connect and get support from other students in recovery.
I am passionate about spreading the benefits of collegiate recovery to campuses across the country and across the globe. No longer does a student or young person have to choose between the path to recovery and the path to a college degree.
When I attended that first meeting, there were only a couple dozen other schools with recovery programs. Now there are nearly 200. My hope is that collegiate recovery becomes available at all colleges.
We also need more recovery high schools supported by the Association of Recovery Schools (ARS), as well as better prevention, intervention and recovery support in all high schools across the country. For me, the intersection of recovery and education is one of the most powerful concepts I’ve had the opportunity to experience.
So what can you do to help your child in recovery and help spread the word?
Find the nearest CRP or recovery high school and learn about the work they do for students. If your child is intimidated or not interested, consider an introductory meeting with one of the students or staff members. Even better, attend the national ARHE/ARS conference to connect with countless staff and students from around the country. Most importantly, spread the message that treatment is effective and recovery is possible — no matter what your background and no matter what obstacles you may be facing.
One of the ARHE’s mottos is “Collaboration, Guidance, Expertise,” which are words to live by if we truly want to turn the tide on the addiction crisis and make recovery available to all.
To this day, I’m still amazed how easily addiction can affect an individual and a family and distance them from what they love and cherish. I hope these words inspire you to help your child reach recovery and lead a healthy life.
This post was originally published in 2017 and has been refreshed and republished.