The University of Connecticut Recover Community added a new dimension to its services this semester by opening a residential house.
“As someone in recovery, yes, you want to socialize with your peers in the college setting, but the nice thing about having a residence is that you can still have fun…and be with your friends (and) do all the things (they do) …but you can do it in a safe environment,” URC Coordinator Gilda Cabral said.
The Cordial Storrs House was identified as a location for the URC, which has existed since 2013, a year ago. While there are not currently any students living in the house, it has the capacity to house six students in three traditional doubles.
“It’s not just a place to live, but a place to support each other,” Cabral said.
In order for the house to be open as a residence, ResLife determined there must be at least three students living there, Cabral said. Cabral said they hope to have students living in the house by Fall 2018.
There are currently five full-fledged members of the URC. In order to be a member, one must be at least 90 days substance-free, Cabral said.
Cabral said having a central location is valuable for the students who, prior to the Cordial House being designated as a space for the URC, would gather in more casual spaces such as coffee shops.
“When there’s no recovery community… they have to leave the campus to have a safe space…to go to and to have people to be with,” Cabral said.
The little white house on Storrs Road has a distinctly homey feel to it. The living room has a circle of cozy armchairs and a mantlepiece decorated with glittery autumnal foliage and mini pumpkins with expressive faces drawn on with sharpie.
Off of the living room, there is a full kitchen which members have used to host breakfasts and brunches.
Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a study lounge which students can use to work or have a quiet space for conversation.
The house is decorated with artwork made by alumni of the program and a “Famous Faces of Recovery” project of pictures of celebrities like Robin Williams and Fergie who have struggled with substance abuse.
“(The project) drives home the point that recovery can be anybody,” Cabral said. “Everybody seems to know somebody.”
The URC has meetings every Friday. Last week the group shared their “Roses and Thorns” from the week, listing one positive thing that happened to them and one struggle they encountered.
The theme of the evening’s meeting was gratitude and members talked about what that concept meant to them.
The first meeting of each month is also a celebratory meeting. Last week the group celebrated one member’s 21st birthday with pizza, cake, coffee and a discussion about being 21 and sober.
The evening’s conversation often veered into lighthearted subjects such as daylight’s savings time and one member even brought his dog to the meeting.
The community does many activities together such as the Four Arrows ropes course, pumpkin carving, yoga and nutrition classes.
The members said they see the value of the URC as providing them with a community of people who understand their struggles.
“It is a rarity that kids in college are in this situation,” one member said. “(By) putting us all in the same spot, you have people you can relate to.”
The member said that, often when talking about his problem, others do not understand what he meant when he said he was unable to stop using and acknowledge his limits like most people can.
“People in the URC know exactly what you mean,” he said.
Another member said the community environment facilitates an open discussion about addiction and recovery.
“It’s a place you can go and makes you feel comfortable talking to people about your problem,” he said.
Cabral said students sharing their experiences with one another is one of the most effective ways of helping another student navigate his or her recovery.
“Nothing is more powerful than when you have a student who shares their story and can connect with another student,” Cabral said.
Cabral said the role of the community is to support recovering students.
“We’re here to facilitate, to empower students, to provide them (with) the tools they require so that they can support each other,” Cabral said. “Because, a successful recovery definitely is a community.”
Cabral said the community supports all pathways to recovery as well as supporting students academically and working on community outreach.
Cabral said all conversations she has with students are private and membership is not included on a student’s school record.
Cabral said the URC supports students who may relapse and begin using again.
“If there is a lapse, we support that lapse,” Cabral said. “We support them, we’re not going to judge them.”
Cabral said if anyone is thinking critically about their usage habits, they should not hesitate to come to the community for information and support.
“If that question comes to mind, don’t ignore it, reach out because it never hurts to ask those questions,” Cabral said.
A member said the community helps alleviate the feelings of isolation brought on by struggling with addiction.
“If someone is struggling, we are here and you’re not alone,” he said.
Cabral said she wants to let the larger UConn community know that the resource of the URC is there for anyone who wants to utilize it.
“We want our community of students here at UConn to know that we exist,” Cabral said. “We’re here for them, for their friends, we’re here to answer their questions (and) we’re here to support them.”
The URC’s weekly meetings are every Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the Storrs Cordial House.