Campus recovery center provides ‘sober support’

University of Texas’ innovative (but long-standing) student support program is explained in this article. Why don’t any Michigan universities have a program like this?

After an attempted suicide, stints in a hospital and psychiatric ward, substance abuse, a nervous breakdown and two months in a rehabilitation center, Britney Salyer found sobriety at UT.

The marketing senior got involved in University Health Services’ Center for Students in Recovery when she returned to UT after leaving a rehabilitation center.

“I went into rehab with no intentions of quitting anything,” she said. “But I got introduced to the program, stuck around at UT and got back into the swing of things.”

The center provides counseling services and sober social networks for University students, whether they are in treatment, have gone through rehabilitation or need sober support to avoid addiction.

Substance abusers become acclimated to dealing with life and relationships with drugs or alcohol. Laura Jones-Swann, the center’s alcohol and drug education coordinator, said the program teaches life skills that help students mend relationships.

“I used to not be able to do class presentations without downing a drink,” Salyer said. “It took me a while to regain my steam, but now I don’t feel overwhelmed or nervous at all.”

UT is one of seven universities in the country that provides programs for recovering students. The program

began in 2002 with seven students and now has 50, but Jones-Swann said she still knows all of the students’ names.

“I stay connected to the students through our Wednesday night meetings where we talk about relationships and just get really, extremely honest with each other,” she said.

If a student is absent from the meetings for more than two weeks, she said, she sends them an e-mail to check in.

Students who experience organizational hazing, particularly episodes of forced binge drinking, often seek services at UHS.

The most recent study of alcohol-related deaths on college campuses, conducted in 2001, found that 1,700 college students died from unintentional alcohol-related injuries and deaths that year. UT officials said this emphasizes the importance of preventative measures taken by the University.

After 26 months of sobriety, death is not an alternative for Salyer, as it once was.

“It took either rehab, jail or death to get me to quit,” she said. “As long as I am willing enough to go into the program and be open about things, then I’ll be OK.”