Opinion: Alcohol & Health

You’re Never Alone: Creating a Community for Recovery on Campus

Responsible alcohol consumption and prevention are often the focus of outreach and education programs on college campuses. Programs designed to reach students and young people in recovery are often overlooked. Kelsey Hinken—Prevention Coordinator at the Collegiate Recovery Community and MPH student at University of Kentucky, and Tara Moseley—a volunteer at Young People in Recovery (YPR) and student in recovery at University of Louisville—shared their views on the importance of recovery resources for young people on campus and in our communities.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for students in recovery on campus?

Tara Moseley (TM): Alcohol can act as a social lubricant in so many parts of college life. It’s hard to make friends when you don’t want to go to keg parties and don’t know how to express why you don’t. That can make it feel like a hostile environment from someone in recovery.

Kelsey Hinken (KH): It’s so hard to be in recovery on campus because people have different ideas of what recovery looks like. Some people really don’t know what it is or how to talk about it.

In your experience, what are the most critical needs of students and young people in recovery?

KH: Making sure students know they have tools and resources that will help them feel comfortable is key. It is crucial to create a sense of community and safe spaces. Knowing they have people they can reach out to and go to meetings with can prevent students from using.

TM: I completely agree. When I first started at community college, my friend and I built up an existing recovery group. It is so important that people know they have a community of other people that are going through what they’re going through. Starting the conversation and letting people know it is okay to talk about recovery—opening that door—is a crucial part of recovery.

How have the programs you work with helped young people in recovery?

KH: For the first UK football game of the season, we invited the entire campus to a “sober tailgate.” It was a great chance for our students to engage in something that is part of the college experience in a safe space. It enforced the idea that it is okay not to drink—and still have fun—at events like these.

TM: YPR ran a workshop for young people in recovery who were transitioning into the workforce. We helped them with their resumes and cover letters, offering strategies to explain dips in GPA or gaps in resumes, and we connected them with local employers who understand their backgrounds.

What’s on the horizon for your work?

TM: As someone who works on campus, in the community, and on the federal and state level with YPR, I can say that we are beginning to see engagement on a larger scale. People are starting to understand, and universities are starting to engage with us to bring conversation and more resources to campus.

What advice would you give to college students about how they can support their peers who are in recovery?

KH: One big thing is that even just talking about recovery is huge. Having people who aren’t in recovery participate in this community can create a protective circle of allies. Anyone can be an ally.

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