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Substance abuse outreach on campus

Jaymin Proulx | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 17th, 2011



Substance abuse among students at college is an important issue at Fanshawe College. Dealing with addiction while you are occupied with school and building friendships is not uncommon and it's an issue that this school doesn't take lightly.

"We deal with people with addictions all the time, and we refer them to Addictions Services of Thames Valley. We also have a peer referral system and there is a group on campus called Campus Recovery that is available for students needing to reach out," said Candice Lawrence, a counselor at Fanshawe.

She added that there is often a familial history of coping with drugs that passes on from generation to generation, and there often is a link between mental illness and addiction.

Lawrence commented that drugs are often chosen by people to mask emotional pain or as a way to escape. "It can be attractive to be able to numb it out," Lawrence stated. "People look for ways to cope and they have a 'drug of choice,' such as alcohol, drugs or over-the-counter medication."

"Come to one of us. We aren't addiction counselors per se, but we direct students to the Thames Valley Addiction Services. We can help a student with an addiction assessment."

One student has taken recovery to new levels at Fanshawe, busying himself with helping others and being clean for over two years. David (last name withheld for privacy) started a group called Campus Recovery with a friend. The group gives assistance and non-judgmental help for those coping with substance addiction.

"We wanted to make sure we had a group available on campus. We wanted to be a visual presence, promoting an alternative lifestyle and providing treatment options in the city," said David.

Campus Recovery is about meeting with each other and hanging out in a safe environment with friendship, networking and advice on recovery.

"There's a lot of shame involved with addiction. (Addicts) are often not happy with their life and feel alone and think that no one understands. You don't have to be ashamed with us."

David rationalized: "The basis of all addiction is feelings. Every one of us is struggling to change the way we feel inside. As an addict, we would look for any reason to use, like 'I feel good, I'm going to celebrate,' or 'I feel bad, so I want to feel better.' It's all about learning to cope with the feelings you have inside and coming to terms with not having to change them — being okay in the moment and living life on life's terms."

David provided a colourful picture of the life he leads now and the life he once lived. "My recovery has taken to places I never would have expected, like getting straight As or going back to get my university degree. I never would have pictured my life to be like it is now — having the quality of relationships that I have today, to having the peace that I have today without the use."

"There are a lot of recreational users. They don't realize that even when you are using drugs recreationally, you are robbing yourself of the ability to enjoy life naturally."

He triumphantly smiled and added: "I love life today."

For more information about addiction, visit F2010 on campus or check out Campus Recovery — information can be found in F2010. Visit the Thames Valley Addictions Services website at adstv.on.ca.

An annual seminar on substance abuse in the workplace will take place on November 17 at the Lamplighter Inn on 591 Wellington Rd. Tickets are $100. Contact 519-964-5900 (x 6912) or 519-425-3134 (x 2252) for more information.
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