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LivingWell helps to celebrate recovery month

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This September, UVM celebrated Recovery Month through Living Well’s Catamount Recovery Program, a programmed housing option for students recovering from addiction.

“The Catamount Recovery Program was developed to create a community and a home for students that are in recovery,” Amy Boyd Austin, coordinator of the Catamount Recovery Program, said.

“Recovery means you are abstinent from substances and you are working in an active program,” she said.

The annual celebration emphasizes the importance and benefits of recovery from substance abuse addictions.  

“The students [who are in recovery] often feel invisible,” Thomas Fontana of Living Well said. “This month is an attempt to create that visibility.”

Because approximately 21 percent of the population between 18 and 21 meets criteria for substance abuse disorders, colleges are a good place to support students who are in recovery as well as impacting the stigma associated with addiction, according to collegiaterecovery.org.

“Recovery generally gives people a newly sung life,” Boyd Austin said.

“If you’re working in an active program of recovery, it offers you tools and techniques on how to live life on life’s terms without using substances as a coping mechanism or a way out or an escape,” she said.

Because alcohol and other drugs can be a center point for socialization in college, it’s important for there to be a community that embraces substance-free living, Boyd Austin said.

“They don’t make that choice [to be an addict], but choosing a recovering lifestyle is a choice that takes hard work and commitment every day,” she said.recoverymonth

The purpose of Living Well is to promote the general idea of wellness, which helps students in recovery, Fontana said.

“Mindfulness and mediation allow more of a connection to yourself,” he said, “the students in recovery actually are generally far more advanced in their own sense of self and story than other students.”

According to Fontana, students recovering from addiction have done a lot of self examination and thus have arrived at a place where they’re making purposeful choices.

“Prior to recovery programs, the recovering students were either afraid to come to college at all, or only did online courses, or limited themselves to a community college where you just go to your classes and go home,” Boyd Austin said.

Students are often confronted with the stigma surrounding addiction, Boyd Austin said.

“I’ve had students talk to me a lot about things that get said in the classroom that can be triggering [and] kind of upsetting… just really terrible things about addicts and that recovery doesn’t exist and that the culture of substance use gets a bit perpetuated in the classroom as well,” she said.

A collegiate recovery program allows students to engage in the full college experience, making them more well-rounded people, Boyd Austin said

Burlington held its first annual recovery walk in 2013, according to recoverywalkvt.com.

Part of the importance of the walk has much to do with breaking down stigma as well as offering hope to people who are still suffering from addiction, Boyd Austin said.

“When you see people walking down the street in bright purple saying ‘recovery works and we are all proof of that,’ it’s like ‘oh if you can do that, maybe I can do that too,’” she said.

“I think it’s awareness raising, hope inspiring—it’s sharing the story of what recovery is and how it impacts not just that person but their families, children, work environments [and] neighbors,” Boyd Austin said.

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LivingWell helps to celebrate recovery month