Outside of Port City Java, Scott Luetgenau and Chris Campau, the co-founders of the Collegiate Recovery Community here at NC State, sit, their voices muffled by the rumble of a nearby train and the generalized gray noise of students enduring a rainy day on campus. According to Luetgenau and Campau, many of these students who seem as though getting to class is their only problem fighting deeper, unseen battles—an estimated 500 students at NC State that are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
Luetgenau and Campau, both seniors majoring in social work and both recovering from drug or alcohol addictions explained proudly that the year-old chapter had just been selected for a $10,000 grant from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation, as seed money to get Collegiate Recovery Community started at NC State.
Campau spoke of his struggle to be accepted into NC State because of poor performance at Western Carolina University and a spotty legal history due to his past addictions.
“After they denied my initial application, I began researching collegiate recovery and ended up with a bunch of opportunities and scholarships from major universities around the country,” Campau said. “I came back to NC State and realized that this was something that we needed to be doing at the largest university in the state. I just want students with a past like mine to have a second chance.”
Campau further explained his time spent at Western Carolina, where his addiction really took off. He faced many legal and academic consequences because of his addiction.
“My peer group entirely changed,” Campau said. “My friends grew up and made the decision to stop partying and graduate. I began hanging out with freshmen and sophomores who were still interested in partying all the time like I was.”
Luetgenau got involved in the Collegiate Recovery Community at NC State when he began dealing with personal realizations regarding his addictions.
“For me, it was realizing that I needed to use every single day, and that was the thing I looked forward to the most,” Luetgenau said. “So as a college student, if you feel like you can’t function or deal with stress without getting high or drinking and feeling like you can’t have a good time or go out without drinking or using, those are some pretty big red flags when you should probably begin doing some self-evaluation.”
Luetgenau said he had to realize that he could still have a life without drugs and alcohol.
“When I stopped, it was like ‘what am I going to do?’” Luetgenau said. “It was everything that I did, especially in a college culture. It is important for people to realize that they can still live their lives while making that choice to disengage from drugs and alcohol.”
It is important for college students to understand the warning signs of drug and alcohol addictions. Warning signs are often overlooked in a college environment because overuse of drugs and alcohol is so culturally normalized.
Campau explained that it is important to evaluate behaviors such as, “Do I drink to get drunk?” in order to determine whether or not a student needs to seek help.
Luetgenau and Campau agreed that it is a personal decision to get clean. The Collegiate Recovery Community focuses on the recovery part of addiction, and professional organizations on campus such as AlcoholEdu and the Counseling Center are great with helping students dealing with initial acknowledgment of drug or alcohol problems.
Luetgenau and Campau explained that focusing on recovery is of the utmost importance because there are organizations and help available for people who are making the decision to confront their addictions, but there is not a community for people who have actually made that decision and are in recovery.
“There are certain things that happen on campus to me that only people in recovery would understand,” Luetgenau said.
Luetgenau explained that the same thing can be said about mental health because college is an atmosphere with lots of different stressors.
Luetgenau said one of the goals of the Collegiate Recovery Community is to provide activities for students, such as retreats and tailgates. They also want to get a logo designed and gain a professional web presence. Most importantly, they want to build a recovery community and grow closer to other collegiate recovery communities.
The Collegiate Recovery Community caters to people recovering from any sort of drug or alcohol addiction and is also open to people with eating disorders and self-harm. All of these issues can be isolating, and no one really wants to talk about them. The Collegiate Recovery Community wants to create a community so nobody has to feel alone on a campus with more than 34,000 undergraduate students.
“If a student is looking and asking for help, we want to get them help immediately,” Campau said. “That moment of realization that they have a problem and the desire to reach out might be very fleeting. For example, it might be on a Sunday morning hung-over.”
The Collegiate Recovery Community offers “All Paths to Recovery” meetings every Tuesday evening from 5–6 p.m. in room 126 in the 1911 building. Luetgenau and Campau explained that there are no rigid standards. They are not working a program, but just hanging out and sharing experiences.
“We lean on each other when things get a little bit stressful,” Luetgenau said.
Additionally, there are meetings on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. that work toward creating a recovery community at NC State.
Luetgenau and Campau illustrated what it means to have support during recovery. Last weekend, while attending the tailgate before the Boston College football game, they experienced solidarity when facing people who still engaged heavily in substance abuse.
Luetgenau began, “It’s not that we are scared of walking into a tailgate where …” Campau interrupted, “… everyone is getting wasted.” They laughed warmly as Campau continued, “I mean where binge drinking is so socially accepted. It’s just nice to have someone there that understands.”
Campau advocated for a better connection between the Collegiate Recovery Community and the admissions board.
“If someone who looks like me on paper shows up at the admission board, I would like for them to not have the same headache that I had,” Campau said. “I want the administration to have more information about recovering students.”
The first step in initiating a better world for people in recovery is talk about it. They spoke of the suicide prevention vigil that occurred recently on campus, and agreed that they hope to bring awareness similarly to addiction. The Collegiate Recovery Community wants to normalize the conversation around addiction.
“Everyone knows someone dealing with addiction or in recovery,” Luetgenau said. “We are battling stigmas. We turn on the TV and see people like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, and we never get to see people like [Campau] and me who got a second chance at life.”
Campau said he wants recovery success stories to be appealing to the public.
“We want to make the recovery success story just as sexy as the train-wreck addiction story,” Campau said.
Luetgenau said he wants people to know that people do not choose to be alcoholics.
“When you normalize recovery, it makes people realize that it is a neuroscience and medical issue, not a moral failing,” Luetgenau said.
Campau explained that discrimination against people battling addiction and living in recovery is a civil rights issue.
“When I re-entered society, there were a lot of barriers because of how I looked on paper, and this is very destructive,” Campau said. “We are not who we are on paper. We are just people living a life where drinking and drugs is no longer an option.”
Campau and Luetgenau encouraged students to come out tonight, Oct. 15, to watch the screening of the powerful documentary, Anonymous People, which shows the science behind addiction and gives a face to addiction. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Erahl-Cloyd Auditorium in D.H. Hill Library.