Courtney sits down with Andrew Caryl from Collegiate Recovery where he details the programs and services available at Serenity Place. They also discuss the definition of recovery and talk a little bit about how everyone can support folks who are in recovery.


All right. Hey, y'all. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays, your weekly podcast brought to you by the Office of Student Wellness. My name is Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at WellWVU, and I'm the host of this esteemed production with me today, not in the booth, because we are still practicing social distancing and social isolation guidelines provided by our public health professionals.

Uh, so joining me virtually is Andrew Caryl, and he works over at collegiate recovery. So how are you doing today, Andrew?

Oh, good. Thank you for having me.

All right, well, thank you for being here and working with us as we move through this new normal. So Andrew, you work in collegiate recovery, so could you describe your role here at the university?

Yeah, so I'm the program coordinator with the WVU collegiate recovery program, which means my, my role is to help support students in recovery at WVU, um, to us. You know what that means? We look at recovery pretty broadly. So that includes, um, students who are in recovery from a substance use disorder. It includes students in recovery from an eating disorders, students who identify as in recovery from a mental health condition, um, and also students that have been impacted by addiction in their family system.

Um, and also we, we like to offer, um, support to really any student who is looking to connect with a healthy, supportive, a sober community on campus. Um, and my role is to facilitate programming. Um, our, our physical drop in center, which we call Serenity Place. Um, whether that means just keeping the doors open, whether that means sitting down and providing one on one support for students, uh, facilitating programming, um, and just, you know, all around making myself available.

Um, to provide support for students who identify as a recovery on the WVU campus. Wow. That sounds awesome. So I love that you made the point of saying it's not just for folks who are in recovery from a substance use disorder. Cause I think that's often. The one of the assumptions that people make that it's only if you are recovering from certain things, but no, it's a very, it's a very broad definition.

And you mentioned Serenity Place, and now if we were at the da where we normally record Serenity Place is actually just around the corner from the da. Um, so on a regular operating schedule, what will folks and students and faculty and staff find at Serenity Place? Yeah. So what we have worked really hard to create at Serenity Place is a welcoming and supportive, peaceful atmosphere.

We really, you know, want strange place to be. A space where students can feel at home on campus. So it actually is one of the resident faculty leaders house, if you're familiar with that program. Um, so it is an actual house. There is. The living room, there's, you know, a sort of space for students to come in and hang out.

There's a kitchen, there's food, coffee available. Um, there's space upstairs for a quiet study room. There's a meditation yoga studio. Um, there's a little sort of game lounge in the basement where students can play ping pong. Um, so it really is a space that we hope students. Um, regardless of their background, regardless of what pathway to recovery they're on, whether they're recovery ally, um, we really want it to be a space where students can walk in the door and feel at home and feel comfortable and feel supported on campus.

That sounds awesome. And, uh, what are the types of programs that you all put on as collegiate recovery and at Serenity Place? Yes. So we do a lot of really cool programming, and I give a lot of that credit to our former director, Kathy Euro, who always did a great job of. Allowing the programming to be student, um, sort of driven.

So if students had an idea of what they wanted to do, um, they were given the support and the resources necessary to sorta make that program a reality. Um, and it includes everything from. Recovery meetings, which we try and offer a variety of pathways again, um, from traditional 12 step communities to a refuge recovery, which is a Buddhist based recovery group to smart recovery.

We also offer, um. Like adult children of alcoholics meeting, which is designed to support family members. Um, and then we also do a lot of just overall sorta health and wellness programming from, um, nutritional classes to meditation to yoga. We also, um, have started a really cool collaboration with the adventure West Virginia program.

Um, we, we've gone rafting, we've gone mountain biking, we go hiking. Um, and we, I mean, we really tried show people like, you can get out and live a healthy, fun. Lifestyle without the use of alcohol or substances. Um, and we, so we also offer, um, academic support through tutoring, um, through really just offering a quiet space for students, um, to come on campus and get work done.

Um, all of our staff, including our student staff are people who are either in recovery or they've been trained to provide peer support to other individuals in recovery. Um, so literally like a student can walk in, um, feel at home, make themselves comfortable, get some homework done if they're in need of peer support.

Um, there are people there available. Uh, Monday through Friday, if they want to participate in a meditation session or do some yoga or do a book study, they're welcome to do that. But they don't feel like they have to do that. Um, so it really is like, it's a really comfortable, supportive space with all different kinds of support resources that students can connect to, regardless of where they're coming from.

That's amazing. Uh, and with the changes that have happened, uh, not just here in West Virginia, but across the nation as we're, this COVID-19 pandemic is happening and we've had to move to more remote operations. How have you all adapted the operations at Serenity Place to accommodate that?

So, obviously we're, we're not, we weren't able to continue to provide the physical space for our students and our community to connect, but we have been able to create a sort of virtual Serenity Place through Zoom, um, where we keep people, we keep, uh, our support staff available. Um, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM students or just anybody really in the recovery community or anybody looking again for that sorta help support. Um, you can drop in. Um, talk to someone, sort of, you know, see someone face to face. Um, we also offer sorta daily check in meetings.

Um, we offer meditation sessions. We're working on trying to, um, offer more programming through this virtual platform. Um, it is, we also mean we do recovery meetings through it. Um, and again. 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday. There's someone there. If you need somebody to talk to, if you're feeling, I'm feeling some cabin fever or you're feeling too isolated, um, and you want to reach out and his, have someone who understands, um, where they're available, uh, even though we're not able to sort of connect physically, uh, during this time.

And relatively, it's that sense of connection that's, that's so important. So it's, it's great that y'all have sort of worked through this way to still provide that sense of community. Um, so let's talk a little bit more broadly about recovery. So what do you define recovery as? Like what's your operating definition?

You know, I think it's always important to say like, this is. A very individual question, and I think people have the right and the need to answer this themselves individually. You know, with that sort of disclaimer, I think SAMHSA's definition of recovery is not only do it resonate with me personally, but I think it's really.

Beautifully broad and sort of all encompassing. And it's the SAMHSA defines recovery as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential. And I think, I mean, you hear that definition and not only is that something that could really apply to anybody.

Um, but especially, I think college students, um, and really that critical period of development, um, and sorta, you know, developing their own healthy identity. Um, you know, it's a process of change and hopefully. You know, a program like collegiate recovery is a support resource for anybody, regardless of whether you know, the identify as in recovery from a substance use disorder or not.

Um, hopefully we can provide the kind of resources and community that facilitates that process of change where students are making healthy and well-informed choices. And SAMHSA for our listeners, is this substance abuse and mental health services administration. Um, and then they are out. They also have the four pillars.

Could you talk briefly about what the four pillars are. Yeah. So they do, I mean, there's a, and there's a pamphlet that they put out that is just, I mean, I think the really nailed the recovery process and the supports, um, that are important for it. And they define the, the four, um, pillars or dimensions that support the recovery process as health, um, purpose and community.

And health would be sort of, um, whether it's someone with a substance use disorder and it's, you know. Um, maintaining abstinence or even moderation, whatever that looks like for that individual. Um, or whether that's an individual with an eating disorder. Um, developing a healthier relationship with food.

Um, or just anybody who identifies as in recovery making, you know, more. Um, well-informed, um, health decisions. Um, and then home is, you know, having a safe, supportive space, um, to live is critical, um, for anybody really. But definitely for someone in the recovery process, um, purpose would be having, you know, Mmm, task or sorta, whether it's a job or whether it's education, um, or whether it's a leadership role. Um, something that really gives it individual meaning, um, and sorta helps to, you know, sort of develop that healthy recovery identity. Um, and then community is definitely, you know, having. That healthy supportive network of, uh, social relationships.

And I think you look at those four pillars, and that's really falls in, um, to what we're trying to do at collegiate recovery. And at, uh, uh. Space, like serine place. Um, you know, trying to promote healthy choices, trying to provide sort of that home, um, safe, supportive, um, space on campus, trying to give, you know, our students, whether it's our student employees or our volunteers.

Um, give them meaningful roles where they're able to find purpose. Being a leader in our recovery community. And also just, you know, the community itself, it's an entire network of support. Um, and it's not just, you know, staff and students. It's also alumni. It's parents, it's faculties, community partners, um, really coming together to provide that sense of community for our students.

Great. So what's, what's one thing that you would want the WVU community to know about recovery? I think, you know, one of the, I think one of the big struggles just in general, um, sort of centering around recovery, but I think, you know, especially for college students is that recovery, you can have fun in recovery.

You know, I think especially for sort of the college age individual. There's sometimes it is preconception that if you're not using substances or you're not engaged in, you know, whatever else, um, unhealthy behaviors is you're not having fun. It's boring. Um, but I would, I would love, you know, the WVU community to know and to really see like how much fun.

We have at Serenity Place. Um, how much we laugh, you know, we have, we have celebrations, we have, you know, Halloween parties. Um, we go out, we go on trips and we really have fun together. And you know, I would, I would love for the WVU community and the students to really see, like, you can have fun in recovery.

And the reality is you have a lot more. And a lot of more meaningful experiences. I'm in recovery, living that sort of healthy, um, meaningful, self-directed kind of life. Right. And so I know, Andrew, that, uh, your collegiate recovery have been sort of conducting recovery ally trainings across campus. So in about a minute, how can you sum up how someone can be a recovery ally.

So, I mean, for me, and this is bigger than just being a recovery alley ally for me, like being willing to listen to a person is one of the most therapeutic, um, healthy, supportive things anybody could do. So if you know someone, um, whether it's a student, a friend, a classmate, whoever, who is either in recovery or seeking recovery.

Just being willing to listen to their story, um, and allowing them the space to sort of share what their experience is and where they're coming from. To me is best thing you could do if you're looking to be an ally to someone in recovery. Alright. So listen, that's, that's good advice. Um, alright, well that brings me to the end of our questions, but for our pop culture moments, I was hoping that we could just chat for a few seconds about the pharmacist on Netflix.

Uh, so the pharmacist is a docu-series that Netflix. Put out a couple of weeks ago at this point. But you are actually the one who originally recommended that we watch it. So what are your thoughts on the pharmacist in general? And I guess I should do a little bit of a description first. So the pharmacist is about a pharmacist named Dan Schneider who worked in St Bernard Parish, which is outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. And he was a family man, married with two children, um, and his son was actually murdered, uh, in a drug purchasing incident. Um, and that's how it starts. And then it sort of, as he investigates his son's death, uh, trying to figure out what happened to him, um, he then sort of.

Learns more information about the opioid crisis. And it's a really interesting documentary and the fact that it's sort of a slice of the opioid crisis that has been, we've been experiencing across the country. Um, but this was just one man's experience with it. So it was an interesting view to take. But what were your thoughts on it, Andrew?

Yeah, I mean, first of all, it was interesting. He's a very interesting character. But I, I think you, you articulated pretty well. It's, it's a little, you know, look into, you know, a nationwide crisis SIS in one particular community, and you've got to see not only the impact on the community. Um, the human, like the really human costs.

But you also got to see sorta the different, um, sorta factors that came together to produce this crisis. Whether it was sorta the state of a community and the lack of resources available, or whether it was the greed. Of the pharmaceutical industry and certain actors involved with that, or whether it was just like, I found the sort of testimony from the pharmaceutical sales rep, um, some of the most interesting sorta.

Um, details about this, how he was sorta somewhat aware that something wasn't right. At the same time, he was motivated, um, for, you know, performance incentives and all that, all these different namings that were going on. Um. But how it got to a point where he was just, it was so absurd what they were doing that he was willing to sort of draw the line and to, um, say something about it.

And it really, I mean, really look at the level of greed on that side of things. Um, and like the damage that it did and it really is, I mean, it's a disturbing look at some of the dynamics that contribute to the severity of the problem. For sure. Well, we really recommend that folks watch it. Uh, it's really engaging.

Um, and it's, it's really thought provoking. So thank you, Andrew, for joining us today. Really appreciate you taking the time out on your Friday afternoon to have a chat. Uh, and for everyone else, we'll catch you on the flip side, uh, of Wellbeing Wednesdays.