Recovery takes a community
CRC helps students stay clean and sober on a path they share with others.
They say “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and the efforts of Houston native Sarah Nerad certainly support that theory.
At 25, she’s known nationally for helping college students recover from drug and alcohol addictions. She has two big titles: director of recovery for Ohio State’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery and program manager for the university’s Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC), which helps students as they work to stay clean and sober.
Nerad had big dreams and big plans when she arrived at Ohio State to start a CRC with Connie Boehm, director of the Student Wellness Center.
“I remember Connie saying, ‘Let’s start small,’ and I was like, ‘You’ve got the wrong girl because nothing I do is small or slow,’” Nerad said. “Ohio State is a huge school, and with the seriousness of the disease of addiction nationally, I don’t have time to go slow. A window of opportunity is open, and I’m going to go through it.”
She knows how critical the issue is. By the age of 17, she was an alcoholic and IV heroin drug user. After two stints in a treatment center, she got sober with the help of a recovery group for adolescents.
When it came time for college, she chose Texas Tech University because of its CRC. She credits its support for helping her remain sober.
Nerad ’15 MPA launched Ohio State’s CRC from a small desk in a shared office. Today, thanks to a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the generosity of hundreds of donors, she oversees a host of services for students in recovery, including a 24-hour lounge in Lincoln Tower, a housing unit for up to 28 students in recovery, weekly support meetings, social events and academic scholarships.
Ohio State’s CRC is one of 150 such programs in the nation, a tiny number considering there are more than 4,000 colleges and universities across the country.
The CRC has served more than 120 students since its inception, Nerad said. She estimates 950 students are in recovery at Ohio State, so there’s a lot of room for growth.
To join the CRC, students must commit to academic success and long-term recovery. If they are new to Ohio State, applicants should have abstained from drugs and alcohol for at least six months. “But if you’re already a student here, we’ll waive that requirement because the benefits we offer here will get you that six months,” Nerad said.
Members range in age from 18 to their early 40s.
Among them is Dylan O’Neil, 40, who got sober at 33 after battling drug and alcohol addiction since he was 15. He slowly put his life back together and in 2012 enrolled at Ohio State. An English major, he is scheduled to graduate this fall.
“Being able to associate with students who are like-minded, who have similar experiences and are moving in the same direction, you can’t put a price on it,” O’Neil said.
“Just because you decided that you need to stop drinking, you still want to have a rich college experience, and the CRC is all about that. It helps you abstain and lets you succeed in academics and recovery while at the same time offering you an alternative, full college experience that you will remember and look back fondly on.”
Alexa Eggelston of the Hilton Foundation said such programs can change the culture on America’s college campuses.
“There has been research showing that you can shift the broader culture by promoting collegiate recovery communities and supporting their work around sober events,” she said. “I think people realize they can have fun in college without needing to participate in such risky and unhealthy drinking behavior.”
Continuum of caringBased at Ohio State, this national center is leading the conversation on new approaches to the problem of alcohol and drug misuse.
Help with that first stepRaylin Smith ’14 arrived at Ohio State in January 2013 determined to start a new life. The film studies major dreamed of making movies. It all seemed within reach, except for one thing: She was having trouble getting control of her drinking.
To assistTo help ensure programs of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery can continue after 2017, when the Hilton Foundation grant is scheduled to end, visit give.osu.edu/HECAOD.
To support the Collegiate Recovery Community with scholarships and other needs, visit go.osu.edu/CRCfunding.