A significant number of people in the UK each year have difficulty in controlling their use of alcohol or other psychoactive substances. Other rewarding behaviours such as gambling, gaming, sex, shopping and exercise can also produce similar issues. Loss of control of the substance or behaviour is a key feature of addiction, and can lead to significant physical, psychological or social problems.
Fortunately, the majority of people who develop such problems are eventually able to regain control over these behaviours, and enter ‘recovery’. Recovery is more than just sustained control over addiction, but rather an accumulation of positive benefits such as physical and mental health, and a satisfying and meaningful life involving participation in the rights, roles and responsibilities of society.
The University has its own ‘Campus Recovery Programme’ for people in recovery from alcohol, drug or behavioural addictions. The program has a weekly timetable of peer support meetings, drop-in services, peer support, ‘dry’ social activities and opportunities for volunteering and service to the local community. It is coordinated by academic staff from the Institute for Mental Health, but run by students supporting their peers to maximise educational and social opportunities whilst continuing a personal program of recovery from addiction.
Education is often a key part of recovery, but University life can present a variety of challenges to recovery. Therefore the University of Birmingham is setting up a peer-led support program for students wishing to maintain abstinence-based recovery. This project is being led by Dr Ed Day from the Institute for Mental Health in the School of Psychology, supported by a philanthropic grant from the CrEdo Foundation.
The primary goal of a CRP is to provide a safe haven for young adults who are struggling to maintain their hard-won abstinence from their addiction(s) while surrounded by the frequent temptations offered by the social context of a University campus. There may be an overwhelming lack of peer support for abstinence in these environments, and young adults struggle to either find or develop a social niche that is addiction-free. Non-disclosure leads students to experience considerable pressure, but even normative self-disclosure with non-addicted peers can create social distance. CRPs aim to promote hope and purpose, positive identity development, a sense of achievement and accomplishment, capacity for stable interpersonal relationships, and healthy coping skills by:
- support with completing the university admissions process, early orientation, developing individual plans of study, and general academic advice
- establishing a safe, anonymous space for students to express their struggles with addiction(s) and to receive peer support for behaviour change
- a weekly open meeting in ‘celebration’ of recovery that provides continued support to CRP members whilst also educating the wider community about the reality of addiction and recovery
- training student peer mentors to address both recovery and educational issues
- developing a student organisation responsible for facilitating recovery-orientated recreational and community volunteering activities
Did you once have a problem with alcohol, drugs or a behavioural addiction (food, sex, gambling, gaming, compulsive shopping, exercise or internet use) but no longer do? Are you in recovery from addiction?
If you answered yes to either question, please get in touch to help us develop this new community of support on campus.