A news story was reported in Minnesota last October (2015), that covered the success of the P.E.A.S.E. (Peers Enjoying A Sober Education) Academy for the last twenty-five years as a recovery high school. This successful school exemplifies specific design worthy of repeating.
Recovery High School
Recovery – All of the students enter the school after signing an agreement to be clean and sober, as do their parents. If they ever test positive, then they and their parents agree that they will have to leave the school. If that occurs, they try alternate methods to help with recovery.
Addiction – Often, the students come after the beginning of the school year. Many parents have tried alternative methods and believe that once school starts, their kids will be motivated and stay clean. Unfortunately, the peer pressure is too great for many of them. Removing them from their school, neighborhoods and other places where they had access to their drug of choice, will help them conquer their addiction.
Support – The recovery school provides group meetings, small classrooms, a personal CD (chemical counselor) and other methods of support that facilitate their recovery.
PEASE Academy Recovery High School also helps students gain entrance into a local college that provides mentors for them when they graduate high school.
This article also covers other recovery high schools. Recovery High Schools address the various and complex needs of all their students. The larger schools may be able to provide newer technology and more opportunities such as sports and arts, but they do not give the majority of students what they need most which, in my opinion, is the deep seeded need to be seen, heard and cared for.
We need to find a way to spread the good news of these recovery schools so that every student in jeopardy during recovery can have the same change to a new and better life.
A Comparison of Rutgers University & Texas Tech’s
College Recovery Communities
Texas Tech University (TTU) is unique in that they provide at least one of the many types of recovery support group meetings now available, seven days a week.
Texas Tech Tulips
Having access to support group meetings daily, gives college students in recovery from substance abuse, addiction or alcoholism, a sense of security by providing a safety net available whenever they need it. An evidence of the success of this support is the fact that students in the College Recovery Community (CRC) have a graduation rate of 70% and a small relapse rate of only 8%. Their CRC has been successful at providing the proper environment that leads to success for most of their recovery students.
Academic Success for Recovery Students
Both TTU and Rutgers proudly boast that their recovery students have above a 3.0 GPA on average.
How it works
TTU’s CRC requires six months of sobriety for most recovery students. However, they do make exceptions depending on the circumstances. This practice may be contributing to the success rate as well as the higher GPAs, which are above the average GPAs for non-recovery students. The six-month sobriety requirement has proved to be a valuable deterrent to college dropouts, collegiate apathy, and continuing sobriety. A similar requirement should be implemented in all college recovery communities to help facilitate the success of these programs.
The rules are necessary in most cases, but having the flexibility to make exceptions for a few students shows their commitment to doing what is necessary for each individual. Even though they are in recovery, they each have different issues that need to be addressed.
There are no absolute truths or rules that can be applied to every college student in recovery. Acknowledging this truth, while seeking ways to accommodate these differences, is an impressive feature of TTU’s college recovery community.
Providing an altruistic project for recovering students is an excellent method of pulling them out of their formerly egoistic behavior, where their main focus was to satisfy their own wants and needs. Working with their fellow recovering peers can build important bonds and allow them to think of the needs of others in the midst of dealing with their own issues.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” (Borchard, 2011).
According to Borchard (2011), not only should people be involved in volunteering, but afterwards they should also participate in a follow-up survey asking questions about how the recovery student felt as a volunteer. This would help assess which students would benefit from further volunteer projects as part of their treatment and as a requirement of their time in the CRC.
Support for Counselors at College Recovery Communities
Rutgers noted in his textbook, “Alcohol and drug counselors also need adequate supervision and administrative support” (Roth & Finch, 2010. p. 247).
Rutgers Scarlet Knight
This acknowledgement, again, shows the commitment and dedication of those affiliated with Rutgers’ CRC. Counselors need to be aware of their own potential stressors while dealing with college students in recovery. Having the option to take concerns to a director or the administrative board relieves the counselors of undue responsibilities in the face of new and unique problems they may encounter.
Proper administrative support can pave the way for a healthier program for counselors, students, and faculty. Supervision is important in any profession, as everyone performs better when held accountable for their actions.
Counselors also need ongoing education as new techniques are still in development for college recovery communities.
Obstacles for students in recovery
Another impediment facing recovery students, acknowledged by Rutgers, is that our culture, generally speaking, expects everyone to be able to handle having one or two drinks and nothing more. This is simply not possible for an addictive personality that has experienced addiction.
Most people who have no experience with addictions tend to be inconvenienced by the prospect of having a person in recovery attempting to enter their social network. This reaction can cause the person in recovery to feel even more self-conscious and burdensome than they already do.
Some of these students have been abandoned by, or have experienced constant criticism from their families. Empathetic counselors can help the students learn to deal with this type of humiliation by understanding that the people who feel this way are probably dealing with their own issues and feel they do not have time for someone else’s problems.
This particular article is primarily about high school and college students who are in recovery for substance abuse, addictions and alcoholism. Much of it would also apply to people of all ages in recovery.
In most cases, the online Twelve Step Program chat room should be just as useful as a face to face meeting. In fact, it may be more useful for people who are too shy to speak in front of others. The chat room allows them the opportunity to speak without worrying about facial reactions, such as shocked looks or even giggling. It gives them the protective barrier they need. Regardless of which type of meeting is used, it would still take time for all members to feel comfortable enough to participate.
Another advantage to meeting online is that no one is seeking transportation to get to a meeting. Some of the participants may not have a car or money for transportation. Not all family members are willing to get their loved one to a physical meeting in a brick and mortar building. In this respect, the virtual meeting solves a problem for many people.
The challenges an online chat room presents are that the person in charge of the group meeting is unable to view the participants’ physical reactions. Therefore there are no facial clues, body movements or uncomfortable movements that can be noted and addressed.
It could also present challenges to those who prefer to be in an actual physical group where they can smile, hug and connect energetically to others. Some people need the physical human connection more than others. Also, some of them may just want an opportunity to get out of the house.
I believe both options should be available whenever possible. However, the online chat room offers a viable method of getting people into group sessions and Twelve Step meetings when other methods are not an option.