CRC Response Letter 2018

Student Wellness Staff and Members of the Collegiate Recovery Community Share Their Thoughts

Response written to a recent issue of the Review

Full text is included below, as well as on the Review’s website: Letter to Editor and Opinion Piece.

Here at Student Wellness and Health Promotion we discussed a recent issue of the Review entitled the “Drunk Issue.” We had a lot of thoughts and feelings, and one of our assistant directors, as well as a member of our Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) wrote and submitted responses to the Review for publication. We have reproduced their responses here on our website for you to view.

It is important that students understand the negative consequences related to high-risk drinking and know strategies to make responsible decisions. We offer many resources to assist students in assessing their alcohol use, as well as other substance use. Our counseling services are confidential, and we encourage students to use our anonymous ScreenU tool to receive personalized feedback about their use.

Letter to the Editor (full-text)

Written by Assistant Director for Substance Use Recovery, Jessica Estok

Nov 5, 2018: Dear Editor,

I am deeply disappointed that at a time in our society where we just experienced what is believed to be the deadliest attack against Jews on American soil, the Trump administration attempting to define transgender out of existence and remove birthright citizenship, and with mid-term elections approaching, you decided to publish “the drunk issue.” It was clear which side of the issue you favored. In publishing immature fluff pieces, such as about drunk recipes and drunken outings, emphasizing the fun that can be had while drinking, you left out an important part of substance use: The part where alcohol use has consequences. The part where alcohol use can turn to misuse and dependence. Even a student who was interviewed as being in recovery was not identified as being in recovery; they were defined as an abstainer. This is very different, and language matters. Perhaps if you were truly interested in the pursuit of journalism, you would have highlighted the difference. You would have taken a balanced view on alcohol, and you would have also highlighted substance use disorders as a disease since it has been recognized as one by the American Medical Association since 1956. Instead you relied on anecdotes about drinking and going to a local orchard frequented by families with small children, going to class, and watching sports. The levity with which you approached this very serious topic is not only offensive, it is damaging. It calls into question your leadership and your journalistic integrity. I coordinate the Collegiate Recovery Community on our campus. The CRC is an organization that provides students who identify as persons in long term recovery (from drug and alcohol use) a safe place to talk about their experiences. This issue is exactly why they need that. College is a hostile environment for students in recovery, and you have perpetuated that culture.

Letter to the Editor Op-Ed (full-text)

Written by CRC member Rachel Ryding

Nov 5, 2018: To the Editors of the Review,

I am writing you as a graduate student at the University of Delaware, and as a member of the Collegiate Recovery Community. We are a group of students who are in recovery from substance use disorders (including alcohol) and students who have been impacted by the addiction of friends and loved ones. And we found your recent “Drunk Issue” to be highly problematic. To be honest, many of us found it to be appalling and juvenile.

Partying is stereotypically portrayed as a right of passage in college, something that is expected if not encouraged among our peers. The American college experience is often characterized by excessive partying. Your decision to move forward with publishing this issue because, as you said, it is “a time when everyone could use a drink” has exemplified this assumption of the norm. However, normalizing problematic drinking behavior is dangerous and downright irresponsible. Proliferating the perception that everyone drinks, and that everyone wants to drink, is part of the problem.

Approximately 20% of college students in the United States fit the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health consistently show that college students drink regularly, heavily, and binge at higher rates than members of the same age group who are not in college. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States; more people die of alcohol-related deaths than drug overdoses. Yet, despite the pervasiveness of the harms produced by alcohol, there persists a double standard in how we think, discuss, and write about alcohol consumption as a culture. Sure, it can be fun. I am certainly not calling for prohibition of alcohol, and we’ve all had our good times with alcohol. But what happens when it stops being fun? What happens when a student is no longer “allegedly” drinking before class as a one time experiment, and is now drinking before class every day because they can’t seem to stop?

In your issue, you offered a Straight Edge perspective. You also included pieces about Al-Anon and the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol consumption. This was probably an attempt to balance your coverage between light-hearted and serious. But these pieces were far outweighed by the content of the rest of the issue that joked about and celebrated drinking in college. Profoundly missing from this issue was a realistic assessment of the negative impact of alcohol problems on college student populations, or the acknowledgement that college students can have drinking problems too.

When a student starts to struggle with their drinking, but has only seen messages that make light of heavy drinking in college, they are less likely to seek help. They are less likely to talk to their peers about their concerns, because they think that if everyone else can handle it, they should be able to as well. They fear that there must be something wrong with them that they can’t keep up with the rest of the crowd. They don’t understand that the crippling anxiety they feel before beginning to drink each day is definitely not normal. They don’t understand why their mental health may be declining. And if they don’t see examples of students who have experienced substance use problems and found recovery, they think that they are alone. How do I know this? Because that was my experience as an undergraduate at a university with a party culture very similar to UD.

I finally got sober towards the end of my sophomore year in college, but not without incurring enormous social, academic, and legal consequences. If I had known that it was possible to have alcohol problems at 19, if I had seen any alternative messaging about college students and alcohol, or seen examples of young people in recovery living vibrant and exciting lives, maybe I would have sought help sooner. It is my hope that any student reading the Drunk Issue who may have a problem with alcohol knows that there is a whole community of students on UD’s campus who are in recovery, and that being in recovery can be just as “normal” as the binge-drinking college student.

Learn More About the Collegiate Recovery Community at UD

Weekly meetings are Tuesdays at 2 p.m. at Student Wellness & Health Promotion, located at 231 S. College Ave

Recovery from drug and alcohol use is a voluntary commitment to a sober lifestyle. A person in long term recovery is actively engaged in activities that promote sobriety and overall wellness.

Our Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) is designed to be support based and student oriented with the goal to provide a resource for college students who are actively working to protect their sobriety and a resource for students who have been impacted by the addiction of a close friend or family member. We will assist students in developing a foundation for long term and sustained recovery by providing a safe and confidential environment to discuss topics and ideas supportive of recovery. Establishing appropriate support for one’s recovery efforts is essential for academic success.

We host weekly Recovery Yoga on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm in Christiana Engagement Center. Recovery Yoga is FREE and open to all UD students.

For more information about alcohol and other substance use recovery or the Collegiate Recovery Community, contact Jessica Estok at jestok@udel.edu or visit sites.udel.edu/collegiate-recovery/.