By Jonathan Kopeliovich

The University of Connecticut Recovery Community held their monthly Recovery Ally training on Thursday, October 21st where they taught individuals how to support those recovering from addiction.

In these monthly sessions, Sandy Valentine, the URC Health Promotion Manager, reveals where recovery resources are on campus and how to destigmatize language when supporting someone in recovery.

“How can you be that supportive person and if somebody was using stigmatizing language in your relationship, they’re not going to be the person who you suddenly, you know, say I need, I need help. And it’s not the language that you’re using at that point somebody tells you that they’ve been watching you and listening to you for a long time before that and so we want to create a recovery friendly campus here,” Valentine said. 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that negative language surrounding addiction can reduce willingness to seek treatment and impact the quality of care. The resource suggests replacing “addict” or “junkie” with “person with substance use disorder” (SUD) to avoid characterizing a person by the disease. A person is more than a disease; for example, people with cancer aren’t called cancers. 

The URC, which is also part of Student Health and Wellness, holds its primary All Recovery meetings every Monday which are specifically for those struggling with SUD. Those meetings aren’t based on a traditional 12 step program, Valentine said. 

“There’s all kinds of pathways to recovery, but in all our recovery meetings we don’t really talk about drugs and alcohol that much, we talk about things like inner peace, like communication, and relationship building healthy boundaries,” Valentine said. 

These meetings can help build up a supportive community for those with SUD. Seachange Recovery, a rehabilitation center based in Los Angeles, emphasizes the importance of positive peer pressure and a lifeline when hitting roadblocks on the journey to sobriety. 

“It’s definitely a lot more like a supportive environment. And I feel like, you know I’ve said this before, but like I feel like my friendships now are a lot more genuine, because they’re not based on using. They’re based in like you know a genuine friendship, whereas before, like my friends from home, pretty much the only thing I would do would be drugs and alcohol,” an anonymous URC member said about the All Recovery meetings. The source wished to remain anonymous to protect their privacy. 

To supplement these meetings, Valentine does something called recovery coaching. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that recovery coaches provide non-clinical support in the form of emotional support, connections to resources like clinics, and service events that could instill a sense of community. Valentine goes on to say that while recovery coaching can be very helpful, it is not meant to be a substitute for clinical psychotherapy. The website Family Addiction Specialist states that the distinction between recovery coaches and therapists is the medical certification. Recovery coaches aren’t nationally certified and don’t have to follow the same laws that licensed professionals that therapists do, the source said. 

Therapy can help treat outside factors that reinforce addictive behaviors,  MedlinePlus stated. The site, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (also part of NIH), said that some of the most common factors that increase the chances of addiction are mental health disorders, a troubled home, and a difficult social life. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (part of NIH) recommends therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and multidimensional family therapy. MDFT recognizes that substance use can be motivated by family conflict, a poor social life, and is effective in reducing drug use, the source said. 

“To summarize, MDFT reduces drug and alcohol between 41% and 66% from intake to completion, and treatment gains are consistently maintained up to 1-year follow-up. Between 64% and 93% of adolescents receiving MDFT report abstinence from substance use at 1-year. MDFT also reduces the severity of substance-related impairment at 1-year post-intake; 93% of young adolescents in MDFT reported no substance-related problems at 12 month follow-up,” a 2011 meta-analysis published in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America by Cynthia Rowe said

Valentine says that the URC can facilitate connections to therapists, psychiatrists, and clinics outside of UConn. One of the programs that can fill in the gap are residential clinics. Alexandra Helfer, the chief clinical officer of Mountainside Treatment Center in Connecticut, says that most of their patients come from referrals from medical professionals. The people that come in are usually in immediate need of recovery assistance, Helfer said. For example, some people need a controlled environment to taper off substance use so they don’t experience extreme withdrawal symptoms like depression, body tremors, and hallucinations. This is called detoxing; under the care of a medical professional and counselor, the body can safely rid itself of toxins, a video by Mountainside stated. Aside from using medications, Helfer says that the biggest help comes from the community being built inside the rehab center.

“We have a community group with the whole community to kind of start the day right, get everyone you know, kind of pick a theme for the day, have everyone go around kind of give credit gratitude, ask for help and give a chance to really utilize their peers for that piece. And then the next piece is everyone goes off to small group clinical processing, so the therapeutic group processing portion and that’s kind for the most part with their primary therapist. From there, we have spiritual enhancement, which is not religious based, just spirituality based. THen there’s afternoon programming. We have wellness, which consists of meditation, yoga, acupuncture, we have ropes course, we have hikes, we also have 12 step programming, smart recovery programming,” Helfer said. 

However useful these programs are, financial barriers can hinder those seeking help from recovering. The Addiction Center stated that inpatient rehab can cost $6,000 to $20,000 out of pocket for a 30-day program. However, Helfer said that usually, insurance can cover most of the cost. Their treatment center contains a scholarship fund for financial aid.