A new group at Eastern is attempting to provide an environment for students dealing with substance abuse, disorders and staying sober.
This group, the College Recovery Community, is now in the process of recruiting members.
The organization has grown throughout the nation in the past two years but Eastern is the only campus in Illinois giving the program a shot.
Eastern’s chapter of the club is technically in operation, but as for now they do not have any students partaking in the organization.
Eric Davidson, associate director of Health Service, approached Mike Tozer, an alcohol prevention, intervention and recovery specialist to start the club.
“We’ve been trying to get the word out throughout the year across campus,” Tozer said. “If we get a couple students interested, I think that the snowball affect would go from there.”
Tozer submitted a grant form for $10,000 to help start the program.
He said he wants to begin regular meetings and create a place where students can go and talk and get support from other students about being sober and trying to stay clean while they are going to classes and dealing with peers who are drinking.
Tozer has a long history of work in the field of substance abuse.
He has been working in it for the last 25 years and for the last ten years he has been teaching an alcohol and marijuana intervention class on campus.
Tozer himself has been in recovery from drinking and using drugs for 27 years.
“For me, the problem got to be significant,” Tozer said. “It became very miserable to live when I was drinking and doing drugs. There was no magical movie moment.”
One day, Tozer woke up and realized how unhappy he was from the drinking and the drug use and decided he did not want to live that way anymore.
“I am very familiar with the pressures,” Tozer said. “I did a majority of my drug use and drinking throughout my college years, so there’s an understanding about what students go through.”
Tozer did not try to get sober until about a year after graduation but he said he understands how hard it would be trying to do that in a college environment.
Tozer said if a couple of students were to come to the club, others would too, as students do not like to come forward alone with their abuse problems in many cases.
“(We want to) make the campus aware of recovery, help battle the stigma. Recovery is an OK thing. It’s not something you have to be ashamed of,” Tozer said. “Just because you have a problem doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, but you need a little support and help along the way.”
This is why creating social types of events where students who do not want to drink have the option to come and meet with like-minded people is important, Tozer said.
Tozer said he also wants the organization to be somewhere where students who have grown up with family members who have gone through addiction can go for support.
“They might not have that problem, but we also know it is hard growing up in that environment,” Tozer said. “We’re going to have support meetings for them as well.”
Tozer said he wants there to be separate meetings, one for those who have substance abuse problems, and one for students who have family members with these problems.
“There are a lot of students who grew up in that family and have to go home during spring break, where they go back into that environment,” Tozer said. “We realize that’s really difficult, so we want that to be a part of what we do as well.”
Tozer said he wants students to take an active role in the program.
“I’m not going to be a big boss by telling them what to do,” Tozer said. “I want them to develop this to the way they want it, not based on a bunch of standards or rules that I create because it doesn’t work that way. I want them to create it to the way that it will work best for them.”
Tozer said they are looking for students to be in the organization who want to be free from addiction from substance use, who have maybe gone through treatment or want to remain abstinent.
“We’re providing that place for them to support that way of life,” Tozer said. “Students want to drink and stuff, and that’s fine, but there is just a certain percentage of college students, about 10-12 percent, in the United States who are dependent on some type of substance.”
In the organization, students can be as visible as they want to be. Tozer said they will do their best to keep students who want to be anonymous, but if the students want to go out and market they can.
“It’s up to each student. We just want them to know that they have a place where they can go where they can be with people who are going through the same thing,” Tozer said. “It’s not something that’s going to be announced throughout campus or posted everywhere that this student is coming here.”
The organization has a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a website on eiu.edu.
Molly Dotson can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]