Students recovering from drug or alcohol addiction now have the opportunity to live with other students who are also pursuing recovery in a supportive Living Learning Community (LLC) called Rock Recovery starting the fall of 2016.
Gerard Love, associate professor in counseling and development, is the creator of the program and he said that this LLC is something he has always wanted to see at the university.
“There’s a need on college campuses for a place for students who a pursuing recovery to live,” he said. “We are looking for students who are looking for a safe, supportive abstinence-based environment to live in.”
The program is developed to help address the needs of students who have completed inpatient or outpatient treatment and committed to active recovery. Through the LLC, he explained that students will be in a supportive environment with like-minded people, which is an important key to active recovery. He said that this program will allow students who are pursuing recovery to feel welcome and safe on a college campus, where the stereotypical perception of college is to engage in risky behaviors.
“Recovery is not just about not drinking, but recovery is about engaging in specific behaviors that help support sobriety and part of that being commitment to abstinence, support from other people that are in recovery and perhaps participation in like A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) or N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous),” Love explained.
Love explained that there is a difference between substance abuse and addiction.
“If someone is abusing a substance, they may be using too much, they may be using too often, they may be using at an inappropriate time and place, but they do so by choice,” he said. “That’s where you draw the line between substance abuse and addiction. If someone’s addicted, they may be using too much too often, inappropriate time and place, but it’s not by choice.”
Love defined the phrase “not by choice” as a person having a difficult time reshaping their behavior despite negative consequences.
He included that students in the LLC would be working in 12-step programs with sponsors. Students will also be paired with a mentor and graduate students studying addiction counseling will have the opportunity to assist the students with addiction specific counseling. The students will also have the opportunity to complete the ropes course, which Love described as a great opportunity for self-discovery.
“There’s a lot of heavy collaboration and utilization of a lot of campus recourses for that Living Learning Community to have some joint, kind of common adventures,” Love said. “You know whether it’s kayaking down at Morraine or doing some camping trips, learning new activities and learning sober activities are kind of cool things.”
Love said that there are about 40 other universities and colleges that provide a safe space for recovering students. Slippery Rock University recently joined the Association of Recovery in Higher Education as an institutional member. The collegiate recovery program, Rock Recovery, places SRU among a group of prestigious institutions, such as Chapel Hill, University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University. The only other university to offer a recovery program in Pennsylvania is Penn State University.
“It’s pretty cutting edge that we have the opportunity to provide this kind of service to students,” Love said.
He explained that the pilot program is to happen in the ROCK apartments.
“We are starting off small with two four bedroom units in ROCK apartments,” he said. “Then also included is one of the apartments that’s not used for students to live in is going to have a common meeting area and that’s where the LLC students can congregate and meetings will take place there.”
He said the common meeting area will provide students with a confidential meeting space.
“There’s a kitchen in their common meeting area,” he explained. “One of the areas that gets overlooked a lot, but is a really important area for a holistic program is nutrition. So we are going to be looking at the role of nutrition in ongoing recovery, highlighting a different aspect of nutrition and how that helps support sobriety and recovery.”
Love said he likes to think of the journey to sobriety as a rollercoaster and through this program, he wants to help students flatten the roller coaster.
Love explained that there have been a few concerns with students being able to remain anonymous, but that the program is going to be very low-key for students involved and that the only shame comes from the stigma that society puts on people pursuing recovery. However, Love feels as if the general body of students today are more open-minded when it comes to understanding addiction because most people in today’s society are touched by addiction in someway.
“Most people that are in recovery are incredibly proud of the fact that they made it and so you know, particularly people that are like new in recovery, most people are pretty proud of themselves because it’s a new identity that they are taking on,” Love explained.
Students who are interested in this opportunity can contact Justin Kleemok, assistant director of residence life and coordinator of LLCs.