Collegiate Recovery Programs

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I’ve been talking to people directing the Collegiate Recovery Community programs around the state, trying to build up my sense of history and fact-checking information. I’m behind schedule, it’s been time to write and promote the efforts of all these Recovery Warriors. I need to point out; Collegiate Recovery Communities, with some financial support from the University/State, PAY into the school, they do NOT cost the school and they really deserve to grow.

I have witnessed universities resistant to opening recovery centers and promoting groups due to the conception that parents of students, including potential students, don’t want to hear that the school has a problem on campus. I witnessed this in Ann Arbor, where U of M has a fully functional Collegiate Recovery Program now but back in the day resisted opening one because of how it would “look”. This was a campus where a student would die, sometimes each semester. Usually alcohol-related; acute alcohol poisoning, falling out a 4th floor window, severe car accident, etc. Die. It brings to mind William White’s great line, “College is an abstinence-hostile environment”. So true.

Here’s a link about an incident on Duke’s campus last week. To me, at that point, appearances be damned!

My bottom line is; People, we can all stop pretending any segment of the population does not have a drug problem. It crosses all barrier’s; economic level, social strata, race, creed, religion, gender, ages, etc. And always has! So let’s end the judgement and now we can get to the good news. These Collegiate Recovery Programs work! Because recovery is a real thing. And it is contagious. Recovery spreads!

Now, back to the money!! The University of Texas has one of the strongest U system of Collegiate Recovery Programs in the US and going back some twenty + years, the data to show for it. The simple breakdown of the data shows us what I personally have witnessed in a number of ways, on a number of fronts. (I love when things can be simple) Strong campus recovery communities save and make money because of:

  • Student retention. When you keep a student, rather than “lose” him/her out of the school, it is “cheaper” and better for EVERYONE. It’s the same as an employer/employee situation. The upfront cost to search, find, interview, hire, orient and train an employee becomes costly when you have big turnover. You want to retain them!
  • As the programs grow in strength and reputation, they attract new students who are in the market for a recovery program. You increase enrollment.

The University of Texas reports millions of dollars “made” because of factors like this. You understand, I want it because it saves people from danger, ruin and death and because someone did it for me. But hey if it makes money too that’s what we call a win-win.

Texas Tech’s program goes back 30 years, since 1986, and has full scale how-to-do-it Collegiate Recovery Curriculum links here. Here is a major summary: 2015 Collegiate Recovery Asset Survey Monitor.

I count 27 states supporting some 49 Collegiate Recovery Programs across the land, with our own Southeast region hosting the most; 8 states supporting 15 campus programs. They are growing so fast accurate numbers are hard to obtain. It is said there are a total of 90+ on the boards. An Association of Recovery in Higher Education non-profit has grown from this and is working to gather and aggregate this data. Ann Casiraghi from the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities out of Lubbock, shared that Texas Tech University is spearheading a plan with ARHE; Collegiate Recovery Communities across the country are participating in a survey to create a national collegiate recovery database.

As they frame it, “The collegiate recovery school movement began with the development of school-based recovery support services at Brown University (1977). A collegiate recovery program (CRP) is a supportive environment within the campus culture that reinforces the decision to disengage from addictive behavior. It is designed to provide an educational opportunity alongside recovery support to ensure that students do not have to sacrifice one for the other.”

ARHE is having their 7th National Collegiate Recovery Conference in Atlanta in April.

Speaking of ARHE and getting back to NC, Tim Rabolt (an ARHE Board member) wrote a great three-part series on NC Collegiate Recovery for the Huffington Post blog. Tim is a graduate student at The George Washington University. He’s been in recovery from his mental and substance use disorder since spring of 2011, his senior year of high school. During his freshman year at GWU, he was a founding member of the GW collegiate recovery program, a support service for students with mental or substance use disorders. He’s interned with Athletes for Hope and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Plus, he is a current Outreach Organizer for Facing Addiction, a national nonprofit planning the Unite to Face Addiction rally on October 4th, 2015 in Washington, DC.

NC Collegiate got a lift with seed money, a state-wide funding grant, for seven schools; UNC-G, UNC-W, UNC-C, UNC-CH, NCA&T, ECU and WCU. More money is now called for! Other NC schools are growing programs, either through purely volunteer work, such as NC State or through other funding, like UNC-A. Reports of the growth of recovery communities at Appalachian State, Meredith College, UNC-Pembroke and Duke abound. I may have missed some.

I heard Jennifer Cervi, Collegiate Recovery Community Coordinator of UNC-W, give an excellent, authentic talk to a prevention class at the NCFADS conference last year that rocked the house.

Talking to Anthony Greenidge, Clinical Counselor at NCA&T, Tracey Suggs, Collegiate Community Coordinator at UNC-W, Frank Allison, Program Coordinator at UNC-CH and Jarmichael Ross, Collegiate Coordinator at ECU, I hear of lots of programming and fun activities happening on campus. Community means social activities and what they report is that as their groups grow, students who do not necessarily have a drug problem but want to be a part of fun and recreation sans alcohol (and other drugs) join in. Allies abound. Alliances and friends are made. Brain cells are saved! Sober tailgates, bowling parties, Halloween parties, movies, speakers on recovery-related topics, and much more are happening. Sobriety and emotional connections are re-enforced. Chancellors, Athletic Directors and other school officials are attending along with the students.

All these centers/schools are developing social media outlets to not only communicate with interested parties and promote events but also to break stigma through greater visibility. Web pages, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit for social activism and more.

As these and other schools grow their groups they will develop interconnected communities statewide for current and future students in recovery and that is beaucoup healing. I foresee a day when there is a state collegiate recovery conference yearly, with the webs of recovery growing ever stronger as they share what works around the state. Community.

We have not even cracked open the High School Recovery Programs topic yet. That’s what the Association of Recovery Schools is advancing, not to mention Young People in Recovery. These groups are coming right behind the wake of Collegiate to spread the message and recovery support down into the young where it becomes more than supports, it becomes prevention. Word is these two groups are merging, for greater effectiveness.

Another resource is Transforming Youth Recovery created from funds donated by the Stacie Mathewson Foundation. Stacie lost a son, who first faced the challenge of chemical dependency in his early adolescence, and their foundation and resources are committed to preventing addiction and protecting the health of our youth. They are focusing on the impact that primary, secondary school and college environments have on young people. They launched an initiative using community asset and capacity building that is already changing the lives of students with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues.

One way to frame this, the ultimate goal of all of this; To increase prevention. As the saying goes, “We want to shrink drug using careers and grow sustained recovery careers”. We need to keep that in mind as we decide the wisest way to spend our dollars. The prevention programs already in place are needed and will be grown and supported by this bigger snapshot. It’s so important, Greg Williams, The Anonymous People director is making his next documentary about high school recovery programs and more. There’s a trailer here; Generation Found.

This is but a thumbnail sketch of something whose time is here and now! Let us continue to strike while the iron is hot! Whoever you are, wherever you go, I say; think of yourself as a Recovery Ally and Drop on by to say Hi!

My Father’s Son


I always want to “top” my last essay, which can’t always happen, it’s not natural.   Life is a wave; incoming, pause, outgoing, not a straight left-to-right line as my thinking often is. Nature is cyclical; time to contract before another expansion.  Life ebbs and flows, it waxes and wanes.  As a leading American Buddhist said, “…but it’s still the moon”

I understand my impulse as a mixture of things; a need to grow/shine/stretch; a need to communicate what’s inside of me outside of me, also some component of the disease of addiction (or my ego) that always wants “more” all the way to some kind of impulse to heal my (mostly gone) family. The longing for family that still lives inside of me. Life’s been coming at me fast with plenty of travel around the state and out-of-state including an invite from my brother to hang with him as he musically directed the 18th Annual Mark Twain Awards in Washington DC.

A comedy award that went to Eddie Murphy this year and was broadcast on PBS this past Nov. 23rd   (and will be re-run).  It was great to see my brother and instructive to see some of the best comedic minds alive including Dave Chappelle & Chris Rock at work and up close. I did not get any selfies just a shot of me speaking to Dick Gregory, with Chappelle behind me.  Dick is a hero of mine, a comedian from way back, late 50’s -60’s, successful, very funny and he, like Richard Pryor, had an epiphany in his life and he actually left show biz and turned to political commentary, action and advocacy.

Anyway, I’m looking for a thread throughout all this coming at me and I’m at a loss.

My life feels a bit like the slow-motion scene of a film due to the death of my 93-year-old Father, Geno.  His wife, Maryanne took such good care of him right up to the end. Due to her efforts he was blessed to die at home.  My father was a classic Italian-American immigrant tale; dirt-poor childhood, fought for the US in WW2 then came back and assimilated, losing his thick Italian accent and climbing the ladder of the American dream. He was a sweet heart, a wonderful Italian chef-the best spaghetti you ever had-a good provider, a successful white-collar executive (who longed to have his own restaurant and did) and a man who kept his feelings bottled-up. At some point I realized that the poverty of childhood and his war experience were crushingly horrible and that led to what we call PTSD and bottling his emotions was a coping mechanism that was quite effective for him. I am grateful that he got to experience me in recovery, which I think for him mostly meant I was not hitting him up for money anymore.  He smoked cigarettes until the end, toughest guy I ever knew. I love him and miss him terribly.

As Richard Rohr reminds us, Teilhard de Chardin, wrote of the sacredness of life and that there was an evolutionary plan in every living organism. He believed that the ego and body are one and that the act of surrender to all of our feelings will ultimately lead us home, allowing the embodiment of spirit. He saw love as the most powerful force in the universe. We are love. Our purpose is to love and my character defenses are essentially blocks to loving.

The truth of my life and recovery have shown me the importance of grieving, healing layers of abandonment issues, and the blessing of life events triggering grief past and present. So despite feeling a bit lost I’m grateful for it all.  I will continue to do my footwork as more will be revealed.

Happy New Year to all.

Mercy!

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Nine Faces of the Soul

Have you studied the Enneagram?  I’ve been immersed in it recently and it’s got me searching my heart. Socrates said that Plato said,  “An unexamined life is not worth living.”   I am inclined to agree. Increasing self-awareness is at the core of recovery, the spiritual path.  It builds humility, making us right-sized, shrinking arrogance and leading to greater honesty and through all that promoting change. The Enneagram breaks humanity down into 9 personality types and rings deeply true for me.  As I remember a past mentor telling me, I am an 8.

enneagramThe Enneagram was brought to the west by the rascally Russian philosopher Gurdjieff but was probably developed within the mystical side of Islam, meaning Sufis. All the substantial religions, including Christianity have an esoteric/mystical wing.  Muslim scholars grew and refined sciences & arts long before western man: astronomy, mathematics including algebraic calculus and more.

My enneagram states:

“Eights find their identity as enforcers of justice {why I always loved Marvel comics like the Avengers! :) }, taking pride in their willingness to defend the weak.  Eights survived their childhood by taking a tough personal stand.  (As an eight said, ‘I thought I was looking for the truth, which came out as questioning authorities’)  Eights carry a suspiciousness of ambiguous presentation, mixed messages, or unclear chains of command. The preferred state of existence is highly amped, fully energized forward motion. {Thankfully growth and age mellow some things :) }  An eight will happily go into control mode to make goals materialize.

And on it goes.

This, I’m mildly chagrined to say, is me.  I’ve studied it before but it is really ringing true these days.

If you couple that impulse with the release I received from ending the denial of my addiction you have a vitalized combo. To me, shining the light on what’s wrong with our society as the first step toward creating a more just world is liberating and necessary so I always feel like, “What are we waiting for, let’s get to it?”  Yet there is great wisdom in patience.

We are surrounded by examples of change agents. Allow me to give you a few examples, starting with one in our own back yard:

Here’s a link to the summary email from Morganton’s Jim Van Hecke who promoted a lovely conference -Carolinas Conference on Addiction and Recovery- that brought many aspects of the community together to look at our common problems and find solutions, building community in the process.

Here’s a link to a CNN story about a West Coast success story of epic proportions. It’s about an agency, Homeboy Industries and a Priest who helps stoke hope in former gang members.   His motto is, “You’re not as bad as the worst thing you’ve ever done.”   No matter what, most of us can relate to that.  If you’re interested there’s a full documentary.

Lastly I loved this documentary, Slingshot. It chronicles the story of inventor Dean Kamen, best known for the Segway. He made his fortune developing medical delivery systems and then set about to use engineering to aid humankind.  The thing about the Segway that’s not  well known was that it come out of his development of a much better wheelchair. The wheelchair is amazing and from that came the stabilizing engineering that gave him the Segway.

Like people moving their chairs around on the deck of the Titanic, we seem to ignore foundational issues this country has.  Or we see but feel unable/incapable of a response. We resist the fact that the hull has a great big gash in it and until we heal the breech we are doomed.  Sadly, this makes me sound like so much of the bombast and blather that counts for political campaigning these days. That is absolutely not what I am talking about. I’m talking, at this Holiday season, about love and our hearts and the growing of a collective vision. That ideal is still and always an option for us.  The truth is if we look at our own shadow than we can stop being mad at others for theirs.  So I have to say I appreciate and am grateful for the chance to do that with you.

There will be a holiday coming soon, but allow me to stop and wish you all the best.

2016 Clinical Supervision Training

2016ClinicalSupervisionFor years I have said I have a book in me. Of course, then Anthony and Jessica told me to write these newsletters and I had to put up or shut up. Anyways, the book comes from my experience as a man in long-term recovery working in the treatment world and would have three parts. A favorite writer Jim Harrison uses a form of three novellas. Part two would be the topic of Clinical Supervision as the doorway into greater truths. It is a crucial component of a successful recovery oriented system of care. We must support the helpers/teachers/counselors/case managers/nurses of the world so they do not burn out! Not to mention the Mom’s/single mom’s/what-the-heck everybody needs to be supported from burn-out!

What I look for in my life is experience. Those with greater experience are supports for me in my journey. And for my money, my esteemed (glad to call him a) friend, L. Worth Bolton is one of the most experienced teachers in the state. He has seen it from most angles and can expand the understanding of all the facets that make up treatment and recovery. That is why I feel compelled to trumpet this 2016 Clinical Supervision training of his. For those of you in the field, if you’re in need, if more support will improve your practice and life I want to highly recommend this series. Just as we humans must participate in our recovery (medical/physical/mental/spiritual), we workers must actively advocate and participate in our well-being too.

Mercy

I have a newsletter written but it’s not time to send that one out yet.  There are a couple of big (ger) topics I’ve been crafting stories on but neither of those are done.  One is the Peer Support Training Council which, alongside a number of men and women I now count as my friends, I have served on.  We have completed a training curriculum but the real story is Peer Support in North Carolina and its central importance to a fully actualized Recovery Oriented System of Care.  Second is the budding Collegiate Recovery Communities of NC who deserve support and trumpeting. We’re talking about UNC-CH, UNC-W, UNC-G, UNC-C, ECU, NCAT plus NCSU, UNC-A, UNC-P, WCU, ASU and Meredith College and maybe more I’ve missed.   But it’s not time for those yet.

I’m feeling a bit stuck in life at this minute and have been thinking about -The Artist’s Way. Do you know this book? It’s a set of educational/spiritual exercises that have helped millions of people around the world discover-and recover- their creativity.  It works to get us unstuck.  I worked through it one time.  It was great, it’s not tedious or “hard” but the opposite, fairly straight-forward/direct, well written and very popular.  She knows creativity, having written a number of books plus movies and plays and was married to (my favorite living) American director Martin Scorsese.  I just want to give it a shout out because I was reading an old interview with Mel Brooks, who I call a comic genius and he said, “Some critics are emotionally desiccated, personally about as attractive as a year-old peach in a single girl’s refrigerator. It’s easy to say crap is crap, and it should be said.  But the real function of a critic is to see what is truly good and go bananas when he sees it.”

I wholly agree and Julia delves into that in depth in her book.  She writes about the Shadow Artist who cannot actually “do” so must tear down and I think it’s particularly pertinent in this violent time.  I’m no expert on war but I am a student and I see no way out of these strifes without true forgiveness on all sides. So I work to heal the “war” within myself as I read my spiritual reminder for the day, which states:

“Ask for mercy, not justice”

Our lives are progressing nicely. Things are going good, and each year in recovery brings more material and spiritual gifts. We may have a little money in the bank, a new car, or a committed relationship. We have a little self-confidence, and our faith in a Higher Power is growing. Then, something happens. Someone breaks into our new car and steals the stereo, or the person we’re in the relationship with becomes unfaithful. Right away, we feel victimized. “Where’s the justice?” we wail. But if we take a look back on our own behavior, we may find that we’ve been guilty of what’s just been done to us. We realize we wouldn’t really want justice – not for ourselves, and not for others. What we want is mercy.

We thank a loving Higher Power for the compassion we’ve been shown, and we take the time to appreciate all the precious gifts that recovery brings. Just for today: I will pray for mercy, not justice. I am grateful for the compassion I’ve been shown, and will offer mercy to others.

CCAR Recovery Coach Academy

The CCAR Recovery Coach Academy training this past September, with Betty Currier and Brenda Monforti, was such a success it’s happening again, starting in January. New schedule, new location, all the info is here.

The application is here.