OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — “A lot of students are hesitant to reach out. There is still stigma in Omaha and around the country around addiction,” said Sarah Kole, coordinator of the University of Nebraska-Omaha's (UNO) Collegiate Recovery Community.
Binge drinking and drug use have been parts of university culture for decades. But what’s often seen as casual fun can open doors to addiction and subsequent problems with academics and health.
The recovery community is helping students combat that.
“I think the big thing is just helping students succeed, whatever that looks like for them,” said Kole.
The community provides a safe space to study while building relationships with others in similar situations.
Kole said it’s important for students to not sacrifice their recovery while working towards a degree.
“The highlight is seeing students graduate and to move on to their careers and to see where they end up," said Kole.
“I started out my recovery in academic probation. My degree was in jeopardy, to put it lightly," said Matt Cantu, a member of the recovery community.
About four years ago, Cantu was referred to the organization and is now nearly done with his master's degree at UNO.
“It provides a beacon of hope for people that don’t understand where their place is at their university or even if they want to be at the university at all,” said Cantu.
The path to sobriety can be a lonely one, but through the group, Cantu built bonds with people who have changed his life.
“The friends I’ve made in recovery, and in the recovery community, are the friends I’ve had that have stuck around and that have been positive influences in my life more than anything else,” added Cantu.
For students who are struggling with substance abuse, Cantu said they shouldn’t be ashamed to reach out for help.
“You’ll always miss out on the opportunities you don’t take. So if your recovery is struggling or if you’re looking for some kind of recovery, it doesn’t hurt to try," Cantu said.
Students from all area colleges are welcome to join the recovery community and they are able to access the space at any time.
Members can attend meetings, conferences and other special events, strengthening their support systems and providing them with more tools to help their sobriety.
Additionally, those who are interested in becoming recovery allies can join.