Ohio State University: Recovery Month celebrates students in and seeking recovery from substance misuse

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration declared the first National Recovery Month in 1989. Following the federal government’s lead, the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) at The Ohio State University has hosted a university-wide celebration for the last eight Septembers. The timing is fortunate, said Ahmed Hosni, assistant director of the Student Wellness Center and leader of the CRC.

“We absolutely take advantage of the fact that Recovery Month is one of the first things to happen on campus after students arrive,” he said. “We appreciate the opportunity to share all that we do during Recovery Month. It’s a great platform for us to talk about the work we do to support people who are seeking recovery at Ohio State.”

For the duration of September, members of the Ohio State community can participate in recovery-related events, including Naloxone training, sober tailgating, yoga, recovery meetings and art classes. The holistic approach to recovery is essential to successful outcomes, said Mackenzie Hogan, the CRC’s program coordinator.

“Recovery is the whole picture,” she said. “If I just focus on the recovery part but not who I am as a person, I won’t be as successful. The facets of wellness are all interconnected.”

For some people in recovery, these non-traditional events may take the place of 12-step meetings. Hosni noted that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, with a heavy Judeo-Christian foundation, may be off-putting to some students. So, beginning this year, the CRC is hosting non-secular SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) meetings. SMART is a science-based, self-empowering program that can be used to manage recovery from any type of addictive behavior.

“We are going to support students, no matter which pathway they choose to establish and sustain their recovery,” Hosni said.

Recovery Month is not just for Buckeyes in recovery, Hogan said.

“Recovery is for everyone,” she said. “Especially living in Ohio, I believe almost everyone has been touched by recovery in some way.”

There will be a recovery ally training on Sept. 15. The training is open to students, faculty and staff. The goal of the two-hour program is to teach participants to create an environment where those in recovery or seeking it can ask for help and feel empowered and celebrated.

Hosni began the ally trainings, the first at any university, in 2015. By 2017, he was presenting the idea at a national conference.

“It’s really taken off,” he said. “It’s a point of pride for us that Ohio State was the first school to do it. We’re excited to be able to contribute to the field of collegiate recovery in that way.”

“Here at Ohio State, if someone is struggling, we want them to be able to get help,” Hosni added. “Having people who identify as recovery allies, who understand the resources, who are willing to have meaningful conversations with people who might be struggling, that creates an environment where help-seeking behavior is encouraged.”

Celebrating recovery can help combat the stigma surrounding it, Hosni said. Even if a person is not ready to begin their recovery journey, knowing that they will be treated with respect when the time comes can make a difference.

“You are planting a seed,” Hosni said. “You may not be around to see it blossom. The idea that recovery is possible, and that recovery is worth striving for, those messages will be heard by students who may find recovery once they’re alumni. We want them to know that the university they love so much cares about them, too.”

In fact, Hosni said, alumni often attend CRC events after graduating because of the community they find there. This community is the key to recovery and the backbone of Recovery Month.

“As great as Mackenzie and I are, the most important people for those students, who are struggling, are their peers. Community is always the answer.”

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