Organization provides support for students struggling with addiction

Kelsie Britton

Empowering Students in Recovery provides weekly peer support to Kent State students who are in recovery from substance abuse.

“The group was designed to provide a safe place for students who are in recovery from substance use issues,” said Maureen Keating, chemical dependency counselor for University Health Services.

Keating explained why the group was named Empowering Students in Recovery. 

“People who are faced with addiction or substance abuse issues often feel like they’ve lost their power,” Keating said. “Part of the timing came in that people recognized that students in recovery, when given support, do well in academic situations and that it’s difficult to be in recovery, especially in a college setting.”

Keating said the main substances abused at Kent State are alcohol and marijuana.

“Through their use, students may be missing classes; they may not be completing homework. They might be depressed or anxious,” Keating said. “Some students have been arrested. Some have been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.”

Keating said students who attend the group recognize they have issues with addiction and are currently substance-free. She said students who think they are beginning to develop the warning signs for addiction are also welcome. The group can also direct students to other outside resources. 

“We can give them lists of meetings in the area, or if they needed a treatment provider or more intensive treatment, we could make referrals,” Keating said. “We let them know about books and films that might be helpful for them.”

Keating oversees the meetings alongside extern and Kent State doctoral candidate Emily Gathright.

“Part of the reason I wanted to be involved with this is it sounded like a really great opportunity to meet a need in the Kent community that wasn’t being met,” Gathright said. “It’s a very warm, friendly and nonjudgmental environment, and it’s very interesting to hear people’s stories and hear them share and receive support.”

Sean, a sophomore psychology student who asked for his last name to be withheld for privacy, is a regular at the meetings.

“Being a student in recovery is like finding out you have a stacked deck against you,” Sean said. “Participating in this kind of group gives me a chance to give back a little bit. Helping others is a big part of other people’s recovery.”

Sean said he tries to use his experience with addiction to help others by encouraging them and showing that recovery as a college student is possible.

“In recovery programs, one of the ways that people get support and stay sober is through other people’s experience, strength and hope,” Keating said. “When somebody comes to a group and is struggling, somebody is probably in that group that struggled that same way and can help them.” 

Empowering Students in Recovery is in its second semester and so far has a small core group membership.

“Sometimes it takes a while to start building,” Keating said. “Part of the way you build is to get the word out. If students come and they like it, they’ll come back and they’ll tell other people.”

Empowering Students in Recovery meets Fridays at 3:30 p.m. in the lower level of the DeWeese Health Center.

Contact Kelsie Britton at [email protected]