Student Recovery Community expands programming during stressful holiday season

The Student Recovery Community (SRC) at UBC’s programming will continue over winter break, with December being a stressful time for people in recovery.

Over the break, the SRC will have virtual meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays between noon and 1 p.m., with a new session on Wednesdays between 5 and 6 p.m. One-on-one support with a peer is also available.

“The holidays can be a time when it just seems like the entire world is consuming substances without a care in the world. So our students can understandably feel very much on the outside of this, which furthers that difficult experience of isolation,” said Sara Fudjack, SRC program manager.

Fudjack spearheaded the foundation of the SRC, which is the first recovery community for students in Canada.

Spending time with family is one factor that can be a trigger over the holidays. Additionally, being back in an environment where a person’s addiction perhaps first began can be anxiety inducing as well or cause cravings.

“For some, it’s not safe for [students] to share their struggles with addiction, or the fact that maybe they’re in recovery with family and friends,” she explained.

Guy Felicella, a peer clinical advisor with the BC Centre on Substance Use, agreed with Fudjack that family dynamics can be triggering for people. Combined with the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he believes this year might be especially tough

The loss of in-person connection can be difficult to cope with and make people in recovery feel isolated.

“COVID’s made [things] extremely challenging with services that have been cut down and limited space, and then having to move online. So it’s been extremely challenging for people in recovery,” Felicella said.

Both Fudjack and Felicella underlined the importance of getting support and feeling connected when facing the heightened isolation brought up by the pandemic and the holiday season.

But if getting help isn’t an option, Felicella suggested people use at an overdose prevention site, carry naloxone with them and try to be safe. “If [reaching out]’s not going to be an option for you and you’re going to use, [we] just want people to not use alone,” Felicella said.

Moving forward, the SRC is working to create a culture of allyship at UBC and is rolling out recovery-ally training next term so people can reflect on their own biases toward people experiencing addiction.

“One thing that we’re really focusing on this year is looking at shifting the gaze … What happens a lot is there’s a spotlight that’s shone on people with this lived experience [of addiction] and maybe what they need to change,” Fudjack said.

“We’re really looking at the allyship that needs to happen at UBC.”

Any student who wants to reflect on their relationship with a substance or behaviour is welcome to join the SRC.

“If you have any sort of interest in exploring your relationship with substances or other behavioural processes that can potentially become addictive … perhaps gaming, pornography, gambling … then we have a space for you,” said Fudjack.