Recovery and Recovery Communities on Campus

The transition to college can be a difficult period for any student—you have new found freedoms but are also facing new financial and academic responsibilities and are in a new environment with less immediately available support from family and friends. Students in recovery, however, have additional stressors above and beyond these.

What Is “Recovery”?

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.” Being “in recovery” often encompasses a commitment to abstaining from any addictive or compulsive behavior from which an individual is recovering (e.g., alcohol or substance use, gambling, eating disorders, sex/pornography addiction, self-harm), as well as an individual devotion to improved health and well-being.

Recovery from Alcohol/Substance Use Disorders in the College Environment

While there are a number of college students who do not partake in alcohol use, alcohol and substance are prevalent on campus. Recognizing a school’s drinking environment can pose potential risks for recovering students, many colleges and universities are establishing support systems to help foster the personal and academic success of these individuals.

Campus Recovery Communities 

In order to serve the growing number of college students in recovery from an addiction, college campuses nation-wide have built collegiate recovery communities (CRCs) geared to provide recovery support services and promote academic growth. CRCs offer a variety of services to recovering students, including but not limited to peer-to-peer social support, 12-step meetings, academic support, sober leisure activities (e.g., sober tailgating, recreational activities), and sober living arrangements. CRCs also offer dedicated support staff and physical space for students to gather, meet, and socialize safely and soberly. 

With the first CRC efforts kickstarting in the 1980s, there has been a rapid expansion in the number of schools who have implemented CRCs unique to their own campus culture and needs. To date, there are registered CRCs located throughout every region of the country. Please visit the Association of Recovery in Higher Education’s (ARHE) website for detailed, up-to-date information and to see a complete list of colleges and universities offering collegiate recovery services, as well as support resources for students in recovery. 

If you are interested in learning more about CRCs or hearing some of the stories of students living in recovery, check out the Stories of Impact at the Transforming Youth Recovery website. 

Support While in Recovery

For students in recovery who are transitioning to college, check out Thriving in College: A Guide for Students in Recovery [pdf].  In addition to these university-specific support systems, there are many national, regional, and local entities designed to support a student in recovery. These agencies include, but aren’t limited to:

Al-Anon
“Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a drinking problem.”

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
“Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.”

Cocaine Anonymous
“Cocaine Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others recover from their addiction.”

Gamblers Anonymous
“Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem.”

Marijuana Anonymous
“Marijuana Anonymous is a fellowship of people who share our experience, strength, and hope with each other that we may solve our common problem and help others to recover from marijuana addiction.”

Narcotics Anonymous 
“Narcotics Anonymous is a global, community-based organization with a multilingual and multicultural membership. NA was founded in 1953, and members hold nearly 67,000 meetings weekly in 139 countries today.”

Overeaters Anonymous
“No matter what your problem with food – compulsive overeating, under-eating, food addiction, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or over-exercising – we have a solution.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline
“SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.”