Collegiate Recovery Community helps students start over

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Laughter radiated among the basement walls of Michigan State University’s Student Services Building as members of MSU’s Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) worked together to make dog blankets for a local animal shelter on. Nov. 28.

A few years ago, the thought of laughter and positive friendships would have shocked MSU junior and CRC member Olivia Feldman.

After relapsing while abroad and getting kicked out of her gap year program, Feldman said she was lost and ready to return to substances as she entered her first year at MSU. Her plans were derailed, though, when she discovered MSU’s CRC.

Feldman said she started using substances in the eighth grade.

After transitioning to a small private school for high school, Feldman said she struggled with her mental health and self-medicated with substances.

Feldman said her family recognized her use of substances was not healthy so they sent her to a Los Angeles rehab center where she said she would participate in extensive therapy and activities to gain the resources necessary to tackle her substance use disorder.

After completing her rehab stay, Feldman said she remained sober throughout her senior year of high school and was doing well.

Her life took a quick turn, though, when she decided to participate in the Hevruta Gap-Year Program in Israel.

“I ended up relapsing,” said Feldman. “I wasn’t talking to my therapist or keeping up with my support so it just kinda shows how easy it is for people who have addiction, when you are not working a program, and you are not invested in yourself and your recovery, it will go downhill so fast.”

Eventually, her program director found out about her return to substances and Feldman said she was kicked out of the program.

Upon her arrival back to the United States, Feldman said she felt stuck and disappointed.

With only a few weeks left until the start of her first year at MSU, Feldman said, “I had this plan that I was going to return to use again because I was away from my family.”

Her plans changed, though, when she discovered the CRC at MSU’s annual Sparticipation — a fair that promotes student organizations and opportunities.

“It genuinely saved my life,” said Feldman. “I can confidently say I probably wouldn’t be here or at least I wouldn’t be functioning normally if I hadn’t found this space.”

According to the MSU Collegiate Recovery Community website, the CRC “serves students in or seeking recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction.”

Dawn Kepler, coordinator for the MSU CRC, said the CRC has a wide range of services and support that it provides to help guide students through their recovery.

She said some of these supports include individualized recovery and goal planning, referrals with campus and community partners, on-campus recovery housing, a live-in peer specialist for the recovery housing, recovery ally training, weekly all recovery meetings, the Jamie Daniel Memorial Scholarship, the CRC lounge that is available all hours of the day, social events every month and community service projects.

While these services are positively impacting students’ recovery journeys, they are also linked to improving the academic standing of students involved in the CRC.

“Properly supported students in recovery are some of our most successful students on campus,” said Kepler. “Our data has aligned with national research that shows that our students in recovery have higher GPAs than the average student.”

While they cannot claim causation, Kepler said 85% of students involved in the CRC had reported a cumulative GPA above a 3.0, and 54% reported a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.

After learning more about the positive impact the CRC was making on students in recovery, Feldman said she was convinced to attend her first meeting.

After this meeting, Feldman said she thought the organization was “so cool” and was excited to be surrounded by people who had similar struggles as she did.

“I just felt so safe, and like again, that kind of like sigh of relief happened and I was like I can do this and everyone around me is here to support me,” said Feldman. “It was definitely a blessing in disguise.”

Feldman wants those struggling with their relationship with substances to know that they “don’t have to hit rock bottom to seek help.”

“There’s always support,” said Feldman. “And it is never too late to seek recovery.”

Matt Catchick, a senior at MSU and a member of the CRC, had similar advice.

“From the perspective of someone who did have to have things go really bad for me to change my life around, I would say don’t wait,” said Catchick as he tied a knot in his dog blanket. “Don’t wait to lose people, don’t wait to have everything like fall apart to try and make meaningful change.”

Catchick also offered advice for those concerned about someone and their relationship to substances but do not know how to confront them.

“Just tell them what you see and try to take a non-judgmental observational perspective because sometimes when you hear from other people just what you look like, what you sound like, it can open your mind,” said Catchick.

Now, over 2 1/2 years sober, Feldman wants everyone to know, “you can start your day over at any time, nothing is permanent, you can just start over and pick back up again.”

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