As a new Nebraska Law student, Tim Anderson was looking to find community in Lincoln. He found it in the Collegiate Recovery Community.
When Anderson inquired about CRC in 2019, the group was still in its early stages and needed a student leader. Instead of shying away from the task, he saw it as a great opportunity for someone in recovery. He serves as the graduate assistant for the community.
“I moved away from everyone I knew and came to Lincoln, and you know, that’s often the case for students,” Anderson said. “They’re coming here, they’re alone and they don’t know anyone. It’s important to really take the initiative to get into a supportive community as quickly as possible, because you can get isolated and lonely, and those are really bad for people in recovery as it leads to relapse.”
Anderson has been in recovery since 2016. While working 80- to 100-hour weeks in the hectic Los Angeles restaurant world, he had turned to alcohol and opioids to manage his stress and soon lost control.
“I was heavily addicted to opioids and lost several friends to drug overdose,” he said. “I continued to work in the restaurant industry and worked my way up to executive chef, but at the same time was dealing with a constant, everyday addiction. Eventually, I just came to a point where I needed to take a different path.”
He then entered rehab. After completing his program, he enrolled in a junior college and then transferred to a larger university. With the experience of losing friends to addiction in his mind, he knew he wanted to pursue a path that would allow him to help others, which eventually led him to the College of Law.
Anderson takes that same passion and empathy to his meetings with CRC. The community meets each Friday, allowing members to have a place away from the party atmosphere. Each semester, they hold campus community events, too — such as sober tailgates, speakers and booths on the green space.
College life while in sobriety isn’t always easy. Whether a campus is wet or dry, the social atmosphere can often include alcohol use. Anderson said many students may not even realize that the behaviors they’re participating in are particularly risky.
“It’s almost like the fish in water that doesn’t even notice the water anymore,” Anderson said.
For students in recovery, seeing these behaviors in their friends and classmates can be overwhelming. It’s not just Friday and Saturday nights — it’s the culture of drinking.
Connie Boehm, director of student resilience, looks to students in recovery to help assist with the development of university well-being plans.
“Students in recovery can tell you what practices and procedures impact the alcohol culture,” Boehm said. “It helps campus community members learn to think about faculty, staff and students in recovery and consider their experiences on our campuses. It raises the awareness of how ingrained alcohol can be in a campus culture.”
Some students might even realize that they themselves have issues with substance use. Jack Hinsberger, a sophomore civil engineering major, was one.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in the party and drinking lifestyle and then feel lost when you realize that you have a problem,” he said. “The CRC is a great place to find others like you. I know for me, the realization that I had a problem was scary, and it was super helpful to have other students who had been through it before around me to relate to and get advice from.”
Hinsberger joined CRC when he became sober. For him, the group provided a place of understanding and support from fellow students. He’s now a member of the advisory board and runs the group’s social media accounts.
“I’m passionate about the CRC because it was there for me at my lowest, and now I believe that it is my duty to provide the same service for someone else who is at their lowest,” Hinsberger said.
Students in recovery can lean on the university for support, according to Boehm. Along with joining CRC, they can seek out community through Big Red Resilience and Well-being, as well as professional help from Counseling and Psychological Services. Most importantly, they can learn that they are not alone.
It’s not always easy to share to share one’s experience with addiction. But for Anderson and his fellow members of CRC, it’s necessary.
“It’s not something that we can afford to not talk about.” Anderson said.
Students can join Husker Recovery Meetings every Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in Room 127 in the University Health Center. Please enter the doors off of the parking lot. Masks and physical distancing are required. For more information, see the Collegiate Recovery Community website.