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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

 White Memorial Fountain. Credit:  Andrew Brodhead /

I am not in recovery but want to learn about being an ally

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It is important to acknowledge the reality that colleges and universities can be a recovery- hostile environment, in which maintaining recovery is not only challenging, but greatly stigmatized. While individuals do the work to support their personal recovery, it is also our responsibility as an entire community to ensure we are creating environments in which every student can flourish. 

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Recovery Ally

Being a recovery ally can be as simple as doing the following things: 

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about the bio-psycho-social dimensions of addiction and recovery. Spend some time researching and learning about the experience of students in recovery. Notice your biases and blind spots when it comes to your understanding of substance use. Take a look at some of the resources, podcasts, and blogs linked below. Follow a range of people in recovery on social media to diversify the perspectives you are hearing.
  2. Shift Personal Norms: Do not assume that everyone uses substances. Consider that the sight, smell, and sound of substance use can be an immediate trigger for those in recovery. Be respectful and mindful of common areas, and think critically about times when you choose to have your door open. 
  3. Advocate and Amplify: Part of being an ally is recognizing where you have power. Students in recovery are often minoritized by their peers, whose voices tend to be the loudest. When we say and/or echo things like, “Well everyone drinks on campus,” or “this is college, they should just expect that alcohol is going to be around,” we further marginalize and exclude those in recovery. Taking on the perspective of a student in recovery when deciding how to approach in policies, or directives within your residence is crucial to advocacy.
    • When deciding on collective norms in your house/residence, keep those in recovery in mind and amplify those voices. 
    • Do not speak on behalf of someone in recovery without their consent and do not disclose anyone's recovery journey without their consent. That is their story to tell. That said, you can support them when they choose to speak up and you can also speak more broadly about your support for the recovery community and put on that lens when in conversations with others. 
    • It is important to center of voices of those in the recovery community when advocating. Ask yourself, “Where is this information coming from and what it is that those in recovery are asking for?” Use your voice to amplify the voices of recovery. 
    • Advocate for more substance free social events in your clubs and residences. An all-campus party where alcohol is present or people show up drunk may not feel inclusive to folks in recovery even if no one is handing them drinks or pressuring them to use substances. 
  4. Support, don’t stigmatize: Consider the language you use when discussing substance use. Use person-centered language when talking about the variety of experiences around substance use. 
  5. Make your get-togethers and kick backs substance free. If you are hosting a gathering and someone new walks through the door, do not automatically hand them a drink. Make drinking an opt-in activity rather than a default or a given. ALWAYS provide EANABs and put effort into your mocktails. Only having water as an alternative to alcohol sends a strong message to folks in recovery that they are not welcome.