The Collegiate Recovery Community: A space for those struggling with addiction

Students, recovered addicts open up about their experiences and provide on-campus support for those struggling with alcoholism and addiction.


Matthew Patterson (left) and Samuel Parker (right). Photos courtesy of Patterson and Parker.

Gillian Manning, Editor-in-Chief

Heavy drinking can sometimes be written off as part of the “college experience,” but alcohol abuse and addiction is a real issue on college campuses. The Collegiate Recovery Community is an on-campus club that aims to provide support to students struggling with drug abuse and addiction.

What’s the difference between substance abuse and addiction?

According to the Addiction Center, drug abuse can be defined as the use of a drug outside of its intended use or prescription. Alcohol abuse can be defined as drinking to the point where it affects an individual’s social or professional life or health. It can also impact a student’s capacity to meet academic, professional, or social responsibilities. The Addiction Center states that continued experimentation with drugs or alcohol can lead to addiction

Matthew Patterson, treasurer and co-founder of the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC), is a recovered addict and a senior studying social work. He has been sober for two and a half years.

“A big thing about addiction is isolation and thinking ‘I’m the only one,’” Patterson said. 

What is the Collegiate Recovery Community?

The CRC is a student recovery network that aims to connect students with resources, provide a space for individuals who are in the process of recovering, and reduce stigma regarding addiction. 

Michelle Papania, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion and faculty advisor for the CRC, explained that her passion for recovery was inspired by her mother who has been sober for over 40 years. 

“It is my hope that FAU students in recovery will join with us to spread the word and along the way gain support, positivity, and fellowship to help them succeed and flourish academically, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually,” Papania said. 

Samuel Parker explained that unlike Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the CRC is not a 12-step program, but it is a community for students to turn to.

This semester the CRC hosted a bingo event, they also have a survey on their OwlCentral page where students can submit other ideas for activities that they’re interested in.

Parker is the vice president and co-founder of the CRC and is a senior studying neuroscience at the university. He is also a recovered addict who has been sober for four years.

“We just joined the Association of Recovery in Higher Education. So we’re connected to other schools to try and push the recovery movement forward, to fight stigma, and to let people know that addicts aren’t monsters,” Patterson said. 

This fall, the campus will open up and the football stadium will provide full capacity seating. The CRC plans to have a tent available for “sober tailgating” outside of football games. 

“[We want to] provide a fun, healthy, and safe environment for people that are in recovery or just want to be sober,” Parker said.

The CRC is also in the process of setting up training sessions for the use of Narcan, a drug that is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

“This is a real disease, people are dying,” Patterson said.

The pair highlighted the importance of understanding medical amnesty. While alcohol and drugs are against the Student Code of Conduct at FAU, medical amnesty means that in an alcohol or drug-related emergency, students will not be academically or financially disciplined for calling 911 and getting help.

Parker and Patterson hope to use their experiences as addicts to help others.

“My whole sobriety is about being of service to people and trying to help other people get sober,” Parker said. “That’s what fuels my passion for the CRC.”

Journey Through Recovery

Before getting sober and becoming a student at FAU, Patterson was in and out of jail, struggled with homelessness, and was a survival sex worker

“I was tired of doing the whole go to treatment, get a fast-food job, get fired from the fast-food job, then go back out [to using drugs] thing. I wanted to try something new,” Patterson said. 

After some time, Patterson decided to go back to school. He graduated with his Associate degree from Broward College and then transferred to FAU for his Bachelor’s.

Patterson hesitated to finish his application for FAU after he was faced with a question regarding his criminal history. He wanted to give up but with some encouragement from his sponsor, he applied anyway. His application was flagged and he had to be interviewed by school staff as a result.

“I had my interview and FAU, to my surprise, they were very supportive. They were going to give me a chance,” Patterson said. 

Matthew Patterson. Photo courtesy of Patterson.

It was because his profile was flagged that a dean mentioned the Collegiate Recovery Community to him, which had existed in years past but had dissolved due to a lack of members. He was introduced to Parker, who is involved in a local AA group. Together with their president, Stacey Middlebrooks, and university staff, they revived the CRC. 

“I know if I relapsed, I’d be homeless again,” Patterson said. “I’m not special because I overcame my circumstances. What happened was I fell into the right organizations and systems that allowed me to do such.”

Parker reflected on how it felt during his addiction and stressed the importance of sharing his story with others. 

“If you’re an active alcoholic and drug addict, the world is a very lonely place, and it’s a very painful and scary place. I felt really hopeless my whole life, but sobriety sort of unlocked a world for me that I never knew existed,” he said. 

Anyone interested in getting involved can visit the CRC’s page on OwlCentral and Instagram.

There is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hosted in the hybrid format on Zoom and in-person at the Athletic Field House (11A) in room 128 every Wednesday at 6 p.m. The meeting is open, so individuals do not have to identify as an alcoholic to attend. 

“In my experience, you can’t make someone want sobriety, you can’t force someone to get sober. It just doesn’t work. But, for me, someday there’s going to be a kid that needs help and I just want to be there for when they are ready,” Parker said. 


Gillian Manning is the Editor-in-Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @gillianmanning_ or email [email protected].