Housing initiative for recovering addicts to begin next fall

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Division of Housing and Food Service and the Center for Students in Recovery are initiating a new project called Healthy Lifestyles Living Learning Community to support students who have started their journey to permanent sobriety. 

DHFS has allocated 12 spots at the Moore-Hill residence hall for the first iteration of this project, which will assign sober roommates to incoming freshmen with at least six months of sobriety under their belt, beginning fall 2017. 

Public health junior Garrett Hendrickson said he is soon to be nine months sober after drug problems that pulled him away from his academics for eight years.

“I think [the program] is an extremely important initiative due to the fact that so many college students heavily abuse drugs and alcohol,” Hendrickson said. “Having a community of students that are specifically trying not to do drugs and alcohol could really benefit some students.”

Hendrickson’s personal experiences over the years with law enforcement, heroin dependency and finally with sobriety play a tremendous part in his message. He said meeting other students that made it out of situations much like his own continues to play a very real role in his ongoing sobriety.

“I honestly think the sooner you can nip the problem in the butt, the better,” Hendrickson said. “I had to go through … almost 10 years of some really tough times. I had tried things my way long enough, and it wasn’t working. I was ready for some direction, so I came into the [CSR office] and for the first time in all my life I feel like a productive member of society.” 

The CSR offers many other opportunities for students to find like-minded individuals, including the Sober Tailgate, which provides a alcohol-free environment for students and families before football games.

“The [Sober Tailgate] is a highly attended event,” CSR program coordinator John Harris said. “Alcohol is so pervasive on college campuses … but this is an opportunity for families to come out and enjoy [themselves].” 

CSR director Sierra Castedo said the main goal of all of the center’s programs is to help normalize the process of recovery. 

“Addiction is this chronic disease, but the amazing thing is that … a whole lot of people get better from it,” Castedo said. “In this town, we have a humongous population of people in recovery and of young people in recovery. Recovery is a normal part of life experience that many people are touched by. The experience of it feels really miraculous, but it’s a miracle that a lot of people have experienced.”

This story has been updated since its initial publication. Sierra Castedo is the director, not assistant director of the Center for Students in Recovery. The sober dorm project is being initiated by the Division of Housing and Food Services, not the University.