Infograph courtesy of Pepperdine
The Pepperdine Counseling Center is starting a New Recovery Support Group for alcohol and drug addiction for both undergraduate and graduate Pepperdine students. The groups will meet weekly beginning Jan. 27.
The group is open to anyone in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction and anyone seeking support for alcohol or drug related problems.
“This group will provide a place for students to support, and learn from, one another,” Shaw said. “It is important to me that these students have a place to build community, and gain this support at Pepperdine.”
According to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education website, about 21 percent of young adults between 18 and 21 have substance abuse disorders and “the collegiate community is a fertile ground for supporting students in recovery and positively impacting the stigma associated with addiction.
Kimberly Shaw, a Pepperdine counselor and coordinator, said both Seaver and graduate students she spoke with who were in recovery said they felt as if they were “the only ones.” Referring to the national statistics of 21 percent of young adults from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website, Shaw said there are several hundred Pepperdine students currently in recovery from substance addiction and others experiencing consequences from alcohol/drug abuse.
Shaw has worked with college students who have made changes regarding alcohol or other drug use/abuse over the past 20 years. She began planning this group with a few students last semester.
“These students have provided input as to how the group should be structured and what would be most helpful to Pepperdine students,” Shaw said.
Junior Julia Thomas has been helping Shaw set up the group and spread the word. In Thomas’ personal life, she said a safe place to share her struggles with drugs and alcohol abuse saved her life.
“Most people look down on ‘drug addicts’ and assume they are bad people or less than,” Thomas said. “Little do they know, a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts are housewives, successful businessmen, or even 21 year old Pepperdine students like me.”
Thomas said she hopes to reap the benefits of having a support group on campus, making people more aware of this issue and how prevalent it is. Most of all, said she wants to create a place for people to share their issues and to help each other the way she was helped.
Thomas and Shaw share a similar goal for the Recovery Support Groups: to build a place for students to find support from those who understand and to learn from each other.
“It is important to me that the Group be a nonjudgemental, safe place for students to share and be honest about their successes and struggles regarding alcohol, other drugs, and recovery,” Shaw said.
Freshman Meredith Wadsworth, who said she personally knows people who have experienced substance or alcohol abuse, spoke of the importance of having support groups on campus.
“Not everybody understands,” Wadsworth said. “With a support group, you have people who aren’t as judgmental and know what you’re going through.”
Dylan Hood, a Pepperdine graduate student with a dual master’s in Public Policy and Dispute Resolution, will be a participant of the Group starting at the end of this month. Hood’s personal story of recovery from substance abuse led him to help people with prison histories.
“Addiction is non-biased and can affect everyone regardless of race, age, gender or economic status,” Hood said. “There is a need [for these groups] because there are people on this campus with addiction issues.”
Hood said the counseling center is another tool he uses in the process of recovery and keeps him accountable. Hood will have 16 years of sobriety as of Jan. 15.
“As someone that does one-on-one counseling and attends 12-step meeting, there is a mutually beneficial place for both,” Hood said. “A group also provides a place for fellowship and belonging, not necessarily achieved by an individual counseling session.”
Though group participants may be in individual counseling, Shaw says the group is open to everyone, even those who aren’t in individual counseling.
Pepperdine Counseling Center used to offer Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that appealed to students in recovery and students that are wondering if they have a problem. Although the groups will not be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, relevant topics from Alcoholics Anonymous meeting may be discussed, Shaw said.
Shaw also shared potential challenges that the program could come across.
“Students’ busy schedules and stigma surrounding alcohol and other drug problems are two potential challenges to getting the group started,” Shaw said.
Junior Melanie Greer said the counseling center was expanding to meet student needs by making these support groups for students struggling with substance abuse or addiction.
“As a Resident Adviser, I feel better knowing that the counseling center is providing these groups,” Greer said. “It gives students a chance to be in a familiar and safe environment while dealing with these issues.”
In the Association of Recovery in Higher Education website, recovery is “defined as a voluntary maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health and citizenship, recovery from addiction is a lifelong process.”
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