Mississippi State is a new member of the national Collegiate Recovery Community that works to provide support for members of the university population in recovery.
The campus joined the national CRC effort during the 2013 fall semester. Ten members strong, the CRC meets Monday nights in Colvard Student Union. Whether recovering from an eating disorder or substance abuse, all interested students are welcome to participate.
Weekly programs sometimes focus on recovery topics like anxiety or depression. Other seminars can involve time management, financial planning or other life topics. Periodic social activities include sober tailgate parties, bowling nights and informal get-togethers, among others.
John Clay, MSU's CRC coordinator, said recovery in the early stages can be difficult, but the challenge of staying sober can seem even greater at institutions of higher learning. Offering support can drive the dynamic of people becoming happier and healthier than they were before the disease was ever manifested.
"While it's hard to say, statistically, how many students are in recovery, the fact that students were talking about a program before we even announced it shows the need to have a place for support," said Clay.
Senior accounting major Derek M. Easley of Raymond, a student member of the CRC board, said positive social connections are key to maintaining sobriety. After he transferred to MSU two-and-a-half years ago, he sometimes felt as the only person on campus in recovery, Easley said.
"It matters to young people to feel accepted and be part of a group," he said. "My purpose on the board was to give the perspective of a student, so I told them the students need something to do on a Saturday night that doesn't involve church or drinking."
Clay, who has worked both as an administrator and therapist in mental health and chemical addiction, agreed.
"If you look at the trends in addiction treatment, 18- to 24-year-olds have more of a need for support systems," he said. "The CRC is not a treatment facility; it's for helping people who are already sober stay that way. It gives them the support services and tools that they need, especially the community bonds that they need when they're having a tough time."
"Our real goal is for these students to have the same college experience as all the other students, but to do it without drinking or using."
CRC organizers continue working to expand support services. One plan is to offer an attendance-based scholarship. Also, members hope to develop, renovate or build a campus meeting space for the organization. The social network will be strengthened as more students in recovery join, Clay and Easley agreed.
"We've got a really good community; we keep in touch, and nobody's sitting at the house twiddling their thumbs," Easley said. "It can be hard to get plugged in when you're sober, but together, the community is sharing experiences, strength and hope. There's strength."
The campus CRC is a Division of Student Affairs outreach program administered by University Student Health Services' health education and wellness department. Student Counseling Services and the Longest Student Health Center also have provided support.
The collaborative effort laid the foundations for CRC's success, Clay said.
Financial support for the CRC is welcome; contact the MSU Foundation at 662-325-7000 to learn more. More information on CRC at MSU is available at http://www.health.msstate.edu/health.