In spring 2019, the Campus Office of Substance Abuse Prevention (COSAP) gathered data on drug use and drug prevalence amongst undergraduate students at the University of New Mexico.
According to this data, “students who had reported using alcohol in the past 30 days (276 cases) consumed an average (mean) of 2.67 drinks each week.” Furthermore, “26.5% of all students reported having had five or more drinks in a sitting on one or more occasions over the past two weeks.”
The study also reported that 14.5% of students used unprescribed painkillers.
However, just as abuse is prevalent on campus so is substance abuse recovery and support.
The Association for Students in Recovery (ASIR) is a student organization at UNM that offers support and guidance for students, staff and community members in addiction recovery. The fellowship holds recovery meetings twice a week led by members of the organization. They host general meetings every two weeks and plan monthly dinners and other events for all members.
Among other resources, ASIR aims to provide a welcoming atmosphere, complete anonymity, and possible referrals to professional off-campus treatment agencies for all members, according to John Wilde Fennelly, one of the founders and current president of ASIR.
ASIR was founded in 2016 but eventually fizzled out due to its most prominent members graduating. This semester, ASIR has returned to UNM’s campus with a plethora of ideas on how to build an encouraging and informative community for its members.
For example, in 2018 ASIR attended the Association for Recovery in Higher Education's (ARHE) 2018 Student Leadership Summit and Collegiate Recovery Skiathon in Keystone, Colorado. The summit trip, which was largely funded by UNM’s Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) and the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM), offered ASIR an opportunity to expand its community through extensive networking among students and faculty across the nation, while also involving daily recovery meetings and conferences. ASIR is hoping to plan two such events for the upcoming year.
“We are hoping to attract students who want to change their lives professionally so they can live their lives and change their communities for the better,” Fennelly said.
Fennelly said he believes ASIR is unique due to its on-campus location, it consolidates recovery and schooling for its members.
Future goals for ASIR include the organization becoming its separate organization with individual chapters. ASIR is planning on opening up chapters both at the Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) as well as New Mexico Highlands University, Fennelly said.
Another recent initiative to support and advocate for students in recovery is the Collegiate Recovery Center (CRC). The idea to institute a CRC on campus was established by Marni Goldberg, the program specialist of the Department of Psychology’s Basics in Addiction Counseling Program. Through her role as a specialist, Goldberg interacted with several students in recovery and formulated her idea for the CRC, which would primarily function as a drop-in space for such students, she said.
The CRC space will officially open in October of this year in Logan Hall, and it will provide services such as peer mentoring, yoga and mindfulness, a recovery library counseling and service opportunities. Additionally, the CRC will serve as the official meeting place for ASIR’s recovery efforts once it opens (until then, ASIR recovery meetings will be held in the Student Union Building).
The center is currently co-sponsored by the Department of Psychology, Women’s Resource Center and COSAP. It will be open to UNM and CNM students as well as members of the community.
Longterm goals for the CRC include maintaining a permanent space and advocating for a sober living dormitory for students, she said. However, the CRC has already managed to achieve a short-term goal as well. The Collegiate Recovery Center partnered with COSAP and attained a $3,000 grant. Part of this money is being used to furnish the Center’s space, while the other part will be utilized to complete a campus-wide needs assessment, which will release its results in the spring.
Goldberg stressed the advocacy element of the CRC as well., “This is an advocacy issue for students in recovery on this campus. We can only help each other by sharing our recovery and the resulting empowerment will be organic,” she said.
Though drug abuse is prevalent on campus, the foundation of ASIR and CRC will provide an abundance of resources intended to educate and support students in recovery while offering them a space of comfort and encouragement as well.
As Marni Goldberg put it, “We’re not ashamed of this. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to advocate for each other.”
Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli