When drinking and doing drugs is depicted in movies and television as part of the typical American college experience, IU students recovering from addictions said it's difficult to feel like they belong on campus. Students in Recovery at Bloomington gives students a sense of community as they recuperate.
According to the OASIS website, Students in Recovery was started in 2015 to provide a supportive group for students struggling with addiction at IU-Bloomington. The group meets every Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at the IMU, on the fifth floor of the student activities tower.
While substance abuse tends to be perceived as a problem for older adults, addiction can affect anyone regardless of age.
“I feel like if people saw who was struggling with addiction, especially younger people, they would be kind of blown away,” senior Anna Peabody said.
Peabody said she joined Students in Recovery her sophomore year after hearing former OASIS director Jackie Daniels discuss addiction at a Residential Programs and Services event and realized she wanted to get sober.
Peabody said at first, she didn’t see herself as struggling with addiction because she was only a college student.
“When I was contemplating getting sober, I was like ‘Well, I’m not an old man under a bridge, drinking out of a paper bag,’” Peabody said. “But that’s not what it is. It’s anyone.”
Students in Recovery is not only open to students recovering from substance abuse, but also eating disorders or any mental health conditions. The group meets weekly for students to discuss their recovery and support each other, senior Alex Shaffer said.
Shaffer joined Students in Recovery last fall after returning to IU from addiction treatment in Minnesota. He said while working with mental health professionals is an important part of recovery, having a support group made up of peers helps students feel like they’re not alone.
“It’s harder to relate when you’re sitting across from someone that you know hasn’t necessarily dealt with substance abuse issues personally,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said Students in Recovery allows students just starting to recover to connect with and be inspired by members with years of sobriety under their belt. Outside of meetings, members have a group chat so they can talk and reach out for support at any time.
“The reason a lot of us got to where we were at our worst was because of isolating ourselves and then just continuing to go down that hole,” Shaffer said. “It’s great to have that support.”
While Students in Recovery serves as a support group for students, the organization also needs financial and institutional support. Students in Recovery at Bloomington founder Jacob Desmond said it has been difficult to get help for the organization from the University.
“A lot of administrators have a tough time swallowing that there’s people that go to school here that shoot heroin in their veins,” Desmond said.
He said he thinks bureaucracy, IU’s large size and a general lack of interest from administrators are the reasons the group is low on resources and not well recognized.
There are other ways for the group to get money outside of University funding. Desmond said Students in Recovery has been trying to get a developmental fund, which would let donors give tax-deductible donations directly to the organization.
“It’d be nice to have one of those helping us out on our developmental side of things,” Desmond said.
Both Desmond and Peabody said IU students questioning if they have an addiction can reach out to Students in Recovery for any questions they may have about getting sober.
Peabody said she wants people to know addiction is a disease, not a judgment of character.
“I’ve had some friends tell me this before, but you’re not a bad person trying to get good,” Peabody said. “You’re a sick person trying to get well.”