Recovery Awareness Month
Wellness Wednesday Wellness Carnival: Sept. 7, Noon to 1:30 p.m. “I Support Recovery Day,” The Pit. Come out and show your support for persons in Recovery, Fun Games and Prizes!
Rally for Recovery: Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Moore Square in Raleigh.
Coffee and Donut Giveaway by Carolina Recovery Student Group: Sept. 19, 7:30 to 10 a.m., in front of Lenoir. Drop by and get a free cup of coffee and a donut on your way to class!
"The Anonymous People" film screening and panel: Sept. 20, 6 to 8 p.m., the Union Auditorium, movie followed by student panel, free popcorn!!!
Recovery Message Training and Narcan training: Sept. 29, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Union Room 3515. Learn the new inclusive language of Recovery for students in recovery, friends, and allies. Learn how to administer the life saving opioid overdose reversal treatment Narcan!
The work-hard, play-hard attitude common among college students can be hard for students recovering from substance use disorder. And it can mask the problem for students who may need help.
The Carolina Recovery Program has a month of activities planned for Recovery Awareness Month designed to increase awareness and decrease the stigma associated with recovery from addiction.
The events include rallies, a movie screening, guides to inclusivity and more. Audrey Wells of DTH Media Services sat down with Frank Allison, director of Recovery Initiatives, to learn more about recovery and the collegiate recovery program at UNC:
Q. Can you tell us more about Recovery Initiatives at UNC and about your job?
Allison: I do programming on campus to raise awareness about what recovery is and to decrease the negative stigma that can be associated with persons in recovery ... Around 60 percent of the general population think that a person in recovery is still struggling with substance use. They don’t realize that typically, being in recovery means that you no longer use. So that gives you an example of the negative stigma and the messaging I try to push back against. ... I am the adviser for the student group, the Carolina Recovery Group (and a distance education student at the UNC School of Social Work). It’s a student organization composed of students who are in recovery from substance use disorder.
Q. What services do you provide?
Allison: We do recovery coaching. Students who are questioning their use can come and meet with us for a confidential conversation. If they want to try and manage their use, we can engage in those conversations. In higher education, we call that harm reduction … My goal is to meet a student where they’re at. I don’t have a preconceived goal when I meet with a student. If a student is questioning their use, we can help them and target what their goals are and help them achieve that. We do several different events for the students in recovery so they can have a normal collegiate experience, but without alcohol or drugs. We do sober tailgates, we have a couple cookouts throughout the school year and those type of things where students can get together and have a good time.
Q. How did this get started at UNC?
Allison: It really got started at UNC because of Dean Blackburn. He’s the director of student wellness and an associate dean of students. Dean really started working with students in recovery many years ago, and that was the loose affiliation of students and they banded together and Dean would meet with them maybe every other week and sometimes have pizza for them and they would just talk about how to start a more formal collegiate recovery program.
Q. How did you get involved with this organization?
Allison: I actually got involved with the organization because I was a college student here. I am what they call a “non-traditional” college student. I went back to school when I was 45. I transferred here in 2013 and got a degree in Psychology. I wanted to go to the school of social work here, so I reached out to Dean, trying to get involved with some things on campus. He said, “Hey, we’ve got a student group, come to that.” So I started coming to the student group and that’s how I got involved. ... Now I work for the program.
[Read DTH coverage: How students in recovery fare in the classroom]
Q. What’s the importance of this organization?
Allison: A college is an abstinence-hostile environment … Having programming that will help support that student and protect their recovery is vital. ... If you don’t know what recovery is, and you don’t know that you can go to college without using, then you don’t know that you can do it. So part of what we do is hopefully let people know on campus that they can go to school without substances. I don’t want anybody to have to choose between their substance of choice and their education … The upper layer is to engage with faculty and staff and the greater population on campus and let them know that you don’t have to drink to have fun. … We try to push back on the cultural norms, the mores we have on campus about the drinking culture and challenge those conceptions that people have.
Q. What do you want to accomplish with the month of activities in September?
Allison: We want to raise awareness. Texas Tech is one of the largest collegiate recovery programs in the nation … There’s an equation (researchers there have developed). You plug in how big your campus is and the end result will tell you how many students are in recovery or willing to be in recovery on a campus. That equation with our population is about 450 students ... I know about 75 students. Part of what I want to do this much is reach those (other) 375 students. I want to provide opportunities for students in the program to tell their stories and interact with the student body so that they can let other students know what it’s like to be in recovery … If you don’t know anyone in recovery, you’re left kind of trying to create an image of what a person in recovery is.
Q. Which events are you most looking forward to (and why)?
Allison: The (movie screening of) Anonymous People is one that I think the student body would be most interested in. ... I am a person in long-term recovery. And for me that means that I haven’t had to use any mind-altering substances in a little over 10 years. Being in recovery has allowed me to become a better brother, better uncle. It’s enabled me to go back to school, get a degree, get enrolled in grad school and help students on our campus stay in recovery or find recovery. I didn’t tell people that before I saw “The Anonymous People.” The movie helped me understand why it was important for me to tell people that, so it’s a pretty powerful movie to me personally…
A lot of times in our country, we treat (substance abuse) as an acute disease. We stick somebody in 30 days of treatment, and then we have a graduation ceremony and we send them back into the world (without support), and then blame them when they have a relapse. It’s kind of like having a tree in a sick forest and you pick up that tree and move it to a healthier area, get it growing again. Then when it’s good and healthy again, you pick it back up and you stick it back in (its former) environment. My hope is that more people will realize and come to agree that substance abuse disorder is a chronic illness and it should be treated like other chronic illnesses … That’s what I think is important about the movie: it really explains in detail this process and what it means to be in recovery and the movement that’s happening.
Q. Are there any signs or risk factors a student should look for in considering whether they need help from Recovery Initiatives?
Allison: There are certain signs and symptoms to consider, but I highly recommend that if you are questioning your use or that of a friend, please reach out to us for a confidential conversation.