“Students in recovery from addiction are a hidden population on campus. There is still a tremendous stigma attached to both an addiction identity and a recovery identity.”
As the founder of UBC’s first community dedicated to recovery from addiction to alcohol, drugs, and/or behavioural addictions (like gaming), Sara Fudjack, who is in her third year of a PhD in Social Work, sees first-hand how being in recovery from addiction can impact students.
“Students talk about it adding another layer of social anxiety to their life, where they don’t feel comfortable disclosing due to stigma, and social events where alcohol is served or substances are being used can feel overwhelming.”
When Sara arrived on campus, she was surprised that there was no service dedicated to helping students in recovery from addiction at UBC.
“I came to UBC from Colorado. Collegiate Recovery Programs are relatively common on campuses in the States and are well used, but there wasn’t anything at UBC. I also know from my practice as a social worker and my own experience of being in recovery, how valuable supportive communities can be.
But being new to campus I didn’t want to impose a solution, so I did a study with the help of an AMS Impact Grant. I talked to UBC students who are in recovery and asked about what services they would like and there was a real desire for something dedicated to supporting recovery, led by peers with lived experience.”
Plans for a Student Recovery Community, the first of its kind in Canada, were quickly established but it took a moment of persistence to get the project moving:
“President Ono visited our Department and spent some time asking PhD students what they were working on. You don’t get long to explain, so I just made a point of saying ‘student recovery community’ as many times as possible and somehow that message stuck and the University agreed to support the idea of a recovery community. Dr. Heather Robertson, Executive Director, Student Health & Wellbeing has been instrumental in helping us to get started.”
The Student Recovery Community received start-up support from VP Students in September 2019, offering confidential support for those in recovery or those wanting to face addictive behaviours for the first time. This includes:“We try and provide a safe, supportive and inclusive atmosphere to help our participants identify their self-directed recovery goals. Most of our work is done through small group meetings but we have one to one sessions, for anyone who feels uncomfortable in a group setting.”
- Weekly All Recovery Meetings: An All-Recovery meeting is peer-based, and welcomes all who struggle with addiction, are affected by addiction, are wondering if they may have a problem, are curious about recovery and/or support the recovery lifestyle.
- Drop-in hours: A safe space to come and hang out with other students in recovery! We always have plenty of free snacks, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
- One-on-one support: Often times, students who are in recovery or struggling with addiction and/or are curious to find out if they may have a problem or if recovery might be for them, want to talk in a safe, private, confidential setting with another student who can relate.
Want to contact the team
via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
via Instagram: @recovery_ubc
“Our community comes with an understanding that recovery is varied, you don’t need to be on the twelve-step plan, or to be practicing total abstinence- about half of our participants follow this, and the other half follow other recovery plans. It’s all about what works for each individual. We try and provide a safe, supportive and inclusive atmosphere to help our participants identify their self-directed recovery goals. Most of our work is done through small group meetings but we have one to one sessions, for anyone who feels uncomfortable in a group setting.
Our peer mentors can also talk with you about additional resources, share some of our own lived experience, and answer any questions you might have. We are open to anyone who wants to pursue recovery or is simply curious about recovery from addiction and if it might have a place in their life.”
The other part of the project is raising awareness of addiction and recovery on campus. The Coffee Bike travels around campus providing free pour-over coffee and tea. While preparing the coffee/tea, the team simply has conversations about recovery and provides information about the Student Recovery Community. This helps to raise awareness and normalize recovery, reduce stigma, and also spread the word to students in recovery that there is a safe space for them.
“It’s amazing that something as simple as the Coffee Bike can elicit such great responses. Students who dealt with addiction as teenagers and came to UBC already in recovery come up to us and say that they’ve always felt unable to disclose that part of their lives even though it’s something they really want to talk about. We’ve had faculty members who’ve been with UBC for many years reveal that they are in recovery, and say that they’ve never told anyone at UBC until now.
We’ve even had students tell us that they’ve requested accommodations from their departments for another health or personal problem because they were too afraid to disclose the real reason for needing support, their addiction or recovery. That’s not a healthy situation and we really hope to change the conversation so students who experience addiction and recovery are made to feel safe enough to be able to ask for help and embrace their identity at a place like UBC.”