I became convinced that recovery schools and collegiate recovery programs were the future of substance use disorder treatment and stigma reduction.
Having pretty limited experience with airline travel, I was a bit nervous on my way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport. “I feel like something will go wrong”, I confessed to my girlfriend on the way to the terminal. I was on my way to Washington D.C. for the Association for Collegiate Recovery in Higher Education’s annual conference. The opportunity to travel for work and school was an exciting prospect, not to mention being able to leave Minnesota for once without bleeding out my bank account. So despite my apprehensions I was in good spirits as I was herded through security.
Everything went perfectly fine until my flight got delayed twelve hours. Attempting to sleep on the floor of the terminal was completely futile. It was a rough night (Shout out to the old man that brought me a blanket and pillow). Eventually I made it back on the plane and left for D.C. I wasn’t exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed, but my excitement for the conference was not completely crushed.
Once I was all checked in and got my little name badge with the bright red “first timer” ribbon adhered to it, I checked the conference schedule to see where I ought to be. I was somewhat anxious that I would fall through the cracks and miss something important, fueled by the fact that I was there by myself and everyone in this city walked with a sense of purpose and had somewhere to go. The schedule said that there was a recovery meeting ten minutes out and I was already in the right building. Perfect. Of course I should have been looking for a meeting already. Staying in an airport full of bars, stressed out, by myself for 12 hours wasn’t tempting exactly- but it was spiritually exhausting.
There I met Abby Foster of Heroes in Recovery, an organization that interviews people in long term recovery about their experiences, and hopes to reduce stigma surrounding substance use disorders. We had already been in brief contact about doing an interview for the website. Abby was one of the many people I met at the conference that exemplified the hard work behind the nationwide recovery advocacy and collegiate recovery movement. After the meeting and being interviewed, my exhaustion subsided a bit and I became more aware of the big picture of what we were doing here in D.C. Here were hundreds of clinicians, professionals, students and professors all with the express goal of placing a collegiate recovery program in every school in the country.
It didn’t take long to get swept up in the excitement. I started to make plans for next year. StepUP ought to bring more students, we ought to host a presentation on student leadership in a CRP etc. In the swampy July heat of Washington D.C. at George Washington University, I became convinced that recovery schools and collegiate recovery programs were the future of substance use disorder treatment and stigma reduction.
This conference was the first time I had seen so many intelligent, capable and passionate people all working towards a common goal. That could be due to my limited experience in the professional and academic world, but I do think the ARHE and the schools involved are special. The ARHE and Hazelden Betty Ford sponsored town hall on the opioid epidemic was a powerful thing to be present for (video link below). If you ever have the chance to be a part of recovery advocacy on this level, please do. My involvement in StepUP has a new significance in my mind now. This isn’t just about Augsburg, this is about recovering young adults all over the world getting the same chance at an education that I did.
Opioid Townhall Video – Live from George Washington University – can be found on our Facebook page.