JSU Collegiate Recovery Community Hosts Sober Tailgate on Sept. 19


By Heather Greene 

With football season in high gear, tailgating is something that can be expected on a college campus. One fairly new JSU organization, the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC), reminds us to remember those struggling with sobriety. It’s hosting the second annual Sober Tailgate this Saturday in honor of National Recovery Month.

Len McCauley, counselor for JSU Counseling Services and faculty advisor for the CRC, explained, “The primary focus is to give college students in recovery a safe place to go and allow them to experience a full college experience without thinking they have to use alcohol or other drugs.”

So, what can one expect at a sober tailgate? McCauley described it as a tailgate experience without alcohol, giving students in recovery an opportunity to engage in the football season festivities like any other student without feeling the pressure to drink. While there won’t be beer or other hard beverages, guests will enjoy food, door prizes, games, face-painting for the kids, and various other activities.

While sober tailgating will continue all semester long, the first tailgate is expected to be the largest for the organization. Last year’s first sober tailgate drew around 75 people. In addition to CRC members and their families, the gathering is open to the surrounding community and many recovery centers. 

How prevalent is alcohol abuse among today’s college students? McCauley said he recently read that 4 out of 5 college students drink, and of those four, over half of them engage in binge drinking, which constitutes five drinks in two hours for men and four in two hours for women. In addition to assisting students recovering from “alcohol and other drugs,” McCauley said the CRC is also open to those with “process addictions,” such as eating disorders.

Since giving back is a big part of recovery, the CRC actively volunteers in the community. Members are required to participate in the CRC’s sister organization, the JSU Students About Service (SAS) club. Recently they have been lending a hand at the Anniston Soup Kitchen and the Boys and Girls Club. The president of both organizations, Johnston, said “ I like that we can kind of break the stigma on how people feel about recovery and that’s really where my heart is – to work with people who are interested in a lifestyle change. The critical part of the movement is to help break the stigma of addiction.”

Johnston was a founding member of the CRC at JSU. Her hope for the sober tailgate is that visiting members from recovery homes will see that it is possible to further their educations, regardless of past mistakes. In regards to SAS, she is a strong believer that everyone should “get out of their self and do volunteer work.”

After struggling with addiction and alcoholism, JSU student Winston went to her first recovery center at age 20. While in a recovery home in Alabama, someone suggested she try JSU, having struggled with sobriety at four previously attended colleges. So far, the CRC is giving her the support and accountability she needs to balance school and recovery.

“For me, the CRC makes a whole world of difference,” Winston said. “Every other time I’ve been in school and tried to practice recovery, I felt isolated. It was like I had this secret that no one else really knew about or some struggle that no one else was really familiar with. This time around, the CRC offers somewhere I can go when I’m feeling that way. I have a whole group of other people who know what I’m going through and what it feels like.” 

The CRC has also had the opportunity to send students to CRC conferences, which allows them to network with others who share similar stories.

 “I think one thing that this program helps to do is to de-stigmatize recovery,” McCauley said. “A lot of the members we have want to protect their anonymity, but they don’t mind people knowing they are in recovery. There is a fine line there – a lot of people now are proud of their recovery and they should be, but we caution that when you get proud, don’t get a big head because that can lead you down a wrong path.”

For more information, contact Len McCauley at 256-782-5475 or lmccauleyjr@jsu.edu, or stop by the sober tailgate Saturday, Sept. 12, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., on JSU’s Dillon Field.