Recovery from substance abuse brings hope to SC college students

Recovery from substance abuse brings hope to SC college students

By Lauren Larsen | Apr 4, 2024, Carolina News & Reporter

USC senior Hunter Welch said dropping out of college to get treatment for substance abuse was extremely difficult. But looking back, he is grateful.

“That was, at the time, probably the most devastating moment in my life, because I felt like I was admitting that I could not do this,” Welch said. “And now I see it as the key to the life I have today.”

Gamecock Recovery hosted the state’s second annual collegiate recovery day event Tuesday to support students in recovery from substance abuse.

Students and staff from across South Carolina gathered at the Statehouse for the awareness event. 

After straying away from the recovery community, Welch said he did a lot of self-exploration but realized how much recovery was a part of his identity.

“I found so much home and acceptance in the recovery community,” Welch said. “I didn’t realize how important it was until I lost it.”

Raylyn Garner, a graduate assistant for Gamecock Recovery, stressed the importance of government officials to advocate and support recovery.

S.C. Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette read a proclamation signed by Gov. Henry McMaster declaring April 15, 2024, as Collegiate Recovery Day throughout the state.

“Collegiate Recovery Day provides an opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of substance use disorders and to show respect and support for those in recovery, as well as those who have helped them obtain recovery this day and throughout the year,” Evette said.

Garner said data shows that 5% of college students identify as being in recovery. That turns out to be a lot of students at a large school like USC.

“Today, we can ensure that the message of recovery is loud and clear, a message that says you’re not alone, you’re supported and your journey matters, ” Garner said.

Recovery communities and organizations on campuses enhance students’ overall physical and emotional well being, Evette said.

Ten colleges in the state were in attendance and had students in recovery speak. Representatives from S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), Lutheran Services Carolina and the Catawba Tribe also attended.

Since the recovery day celebration last year, S.C. State University and Columbia College have added Collegiate Recovery Programs.

Wood Marchant, director of the College of Charleston’s program, said that when he graduated college almost 30 years ago, he wouldn’t believe he was back on campus running a program for sober college students. But he finds the experience rewarding for both him and others.

“The journeys the students go on to get to graduation are incredibly inspirational,” Marchant said. “And I get a front-row seat to see people who have totally and completely changed their lives.”

Students from different universities also shared their stories.

Clemson senior Joe Ogg thought college was about partying, drugs and alcohol. But they began to consume his life, he said. For a while, it seemed like his peers were having the same experience, and it took him a while to accept they weren’t.

After rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and sober living, he was scared of going back to college and not having a place to fit in.

“Going into the (on-campus) meeting and looking around and seeing a room of college students that were having the same experience as me was monumental for me, sustaining my sobriety,” Ogg said.

Allen University senior Marvin Williams said being able to attend a university with the Collegiate Recovery Program has given him and his peers a place to express themselves without judgment or feeling alone. He said the program has given him a sense of belonging and support in his college community.

Gavrielle Jacobson, an intern for Gamecock Recovery and first-year graduate student, thanked faculty, staff and administrators who run these programs for helping students in their recovery journey.

“Their dedication to this cause not only transforms the lives of students but also contributes to the overall well- being and success of our campus communities,” Jacobson said.

Aimee Hourigan, director of substance abuse prevention and education at USC, said she wants people to know that recovery is fun and makes life better. And she said there are different ways to figure out what works for you.

Speakers at the event repeatedly expressed the resilience it takes to be in recovery and why it’s worth celebrating. 

“Collectively, we are building more resilient individuals, more resilient communities … and a more resilient and strong South Carolina,” said Sara Goldsby, Director of DAODAS. “It’s something to honor and something to celebrate as we shift culture in this state to recognize and celebrate the power of recovery.”

Lt. Gov. Evette joins DAODAS to launch new campaign seeks to educate SC parents on speaking to their children about dangers of drugs

Lt. Gov. Evette joins DAODAS to launch new campaign seeks to educate SC parents on speaking to their children about dangers of drugs

by Matthew Sockol – Originally Published by WCIV on November 30th 2023

SOUTH CAROLINA (WCIV) — The South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) launched a new campaign dedicated to educating parents on how to have open conversations with their children about alcohol abuse, smoking, vaping and the dangers of other drugs.

“This campaign features statements from real South Carolina children and teens about the challenges they are facing right now,” DAODAS Director Sara Goldsby said in a statement. “We want to use this as an opportunity to help parents tackle tough topics in a way that makes their kids listen.”

According to DAODAS, 23% of students in grades 9-12 in South Carolina admit they drank alcohol in the past month while 47% say have tried electronic vapor products. When it comes to talking about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, it’s best to have conversations early. Educating parents and young people about substance use and misuse before it takes place is key to preventing it from happening.

“This is an issue that impacts thousands of South Carolinians and it is not just those who abuse these drugs that suffer, but their families and loved ones who suffer with them,” Lt. Governor Pamela Evette said in a statement. “That is why it is so vital that we educate our young people about the dangers of drugs and work to ensure that they don’t use drugs in the first place.

“We can’t educate our children on these dangers if we can’t find an effective way to communicate with them,” she continued in her statement. “That’s exactly what this program will do.”

The campaign has a website and social media channels in which parents can go to learn more about having important conversations with their kids, according to DAODAS. The website provides a place where parents will find tips on how to start a conversation, how to keep conversations going, and learning how to better talk to their child.