OU Counseling Center introduces Grizz Recovery Program

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Autumn Okuszka, Features Reporter

College can be a challenging experience for any student. For those in recovery from addiction, it can be challenging in a way not many would understand.

According to a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 80% of college-aged people across the nation reported drinking alcohol and over 40% reported marijuana use within the past twelve months alone. 

In an environment where both alcohol and drug use is prevalent, it can be difficult for students in recovery to maintain their sobriety while also maintaining their class attendance, grades and social life. 

The OU Counseling Center (OUCC) aims to ease those difficulties by introducing the Grizz Recovery Program, a Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) funded by The Children’s Foundation and Jamie Daniels Foundation

A CRP is dedicated to building a supportive community for students in recovery, as well as those who hope to be in recovery. These students are given the opportunity to have a genuine college education and experience free from alcohol and other substances. 

Dr. David Schwartz, director of the OUCC, believes it could be beneficial to give students in recovery a place to gather and meet with other students who are experiencing similar challenges.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a health issue of any kind, you can feel like you’re alone,” Schwartz said. “I think having a program like this on campus will hopefully open people’s eyes to realize, ‘I’m not alone.’”

The Grizz Recovery Program currently provides a recovery lounge located in room 403 of Hamlin Hall to hangout in between classes as well as gather for weekly recovery meetings. The program also offers one-on-one individualized case management services and sober social events. 

Jennifer Cervi is the coordinator of the Grizz Recovery Program. As someone who is in long-term recovery herself, Cervi has taken part in the development of other CRP’s across the nation.

“When I was looking at [graduate] schools and looking at how I was going to be successful, I needed recovery support,” Cervi said. “That’s what gave me the inspiration to start the [CRP] at [the University of Michigan] during my master’s.”

Cervi is committed to giving students the opportunity to enjoy a genuine college experience without having to sacrifice their recovery. She understands that maintaining sobriety can feel like a full-time job.

“I love working with students, and I want to give them this authentic experience without having to sacrifice their recovery because it’s a tricky thing,” Cervi said. 

Both Schwartz and Cervi are passionate about reducing the stigma around substance misuse. They hope that through the Grizz Recovery Program and other CRP’s in general, the stigma could be minimized on college campuses. 

“One of the biggest mistakes we make when it comes to health in general in this country is stigmatizing things like this issue,” Schwartz said. “People will treat it like it’s a moral failing or a character flaw. It creates untold amounts of damage to not only the people most directly affected, but us as a society, too.” 

Cervi and Schwartz want students who are considering joining the Grizz Recovery Program to know they don’t have to be afraid to reach out. A lifetime commitment to sobriety can be intimidating, but it is something that the Grizz Recovery Program can help students navigate.

“[Students] don’t have to be afraid to walk in the door. You don’t have to have super long sobriety to come,” Cervi said. “We are one of the most welcoming groups on campus because everybody has been through a similar story. Here, you will find people that are going through the same thing.”

For more information regarding the Grizz Recovery Program, students can contact Jennifer Cervi at [email protected]