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Beatriz Sanabria starts program to help keep sufferers of addiction clean

NCC now offers a Collegiate Recovery Program, in which students that have a substance use disorder are encouraged to join. If so, the person should see either Beatriz Sanabria, a counselor at Bethlehem Campus.

Sanabria is a licensed social worker and has a master’s degree in social work who also teaches classes at Northampton. She started this program from the ground up, working with her intern, Eric Klein, to make the CRP program a reality for NCC.

NCC is the only community college with a CRP program in the country, along with about a hundred prestigious universities.

It is not defined as a club or rehab. Klein states that the CRP program is for students who are “actively in recovery, and are looking for a safe space.” The CRP is a place where anyone with any type of addiction are welcome and are looking for additional support. This includes everything from drug use or cigarettes to behavioral issues, such as gambling addictions.

“The only difference is a person is addicted to a behavior, not a substance, but the same things in the brain are triggered for the person addicted to gambling as for the person addicted to… cocaine or heroin. It’s the mechanism, the same lights go off in the brain,” said Sanabria.

It is completely voluntary, so members are not obligated to attend every meeting. The program is also confidential, and it is up to the individual to openly state that they are involved in the CRP or not.

The CRP program is for students at least six months sober from a substance abuse disorder. Sanabria mentions that the difference between sobriety and active recovery is how “sobriety is simply the absence of any substances, but recovery is the active lifestyle of being a person that does not want anything to do with using substances… So when someone is in recovery they’re doing something every day to stay clean and sober… As opposed to sobriety, that just means the person is not partaking in the substances.” Being in recovery includes more dedication and self-introspection, such as working on their lifestyle or analyzing possible psychological issues causing usage.

“Sometimes I compare it to being a student,” Sanabria said. You have two people and they’re both students here [who are] both in the same class, and one simply just sits there, doesn’t raise their hand, doesn’t make any comments, doesn’t hand any homework in, does not study, does not open their book; they simply take up a seat in class. Technically they’re a student, but then you have another person who’s sitting next to them that does all the assignments, reads everything, asks questions of the professor, participates in the group discussions, etc. That person is actively learning, they’re actively being a student. That would be the difference.”

If a student may have a substance abuse problem, the CRP may not be appropriate for them, because it is designed for students already in recovery. If a student is struggling with an addiction, Sanabria can assist such students with seeking help for their substance abuse problem at a facility outside of NCC, and will help assistant them on the road to recovery.

In meetings, Sanabria likes to take an organic approach as opposed to adhering to a set schedule.
The CRP uses open discussions to focus on the difficulty of being in recovery from a substance abuse and also being a college student.

“That puts those folks in recovery in a unique position, it differentiates them from other folks in recovery that are not dealing with all that comes with being a college student, and all the stresses that come with that… I think that being a college student in recovery presents a lot of challenges because college in general is not a recovery friendly place,” said Sanabria.

In order to join the CRP program, students should go to counselling and ask either Sanabria or Klein about the program, and then the student would be interviewed to see if they are applicable for the program. The CRP is open to any student on campus, along with alumni that have recently graduated.

The program wishes to become a part of their overseeing association, the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, and to be represented in the head institution for all CRP programs across the country. The ARHE is a committee that is made of representatives of CRP programs all over the United States. Sanabria and Klein hope to further grow the CRP program to reach Northampton Community College’s CRP program to be a part of the ARHE.

NCC has been supportive of the CRP program, approving not only the program itself but also the requested budget.

The CRP program has many aspirations and ambitions for its community and plans to grow in the years to come. Sanabria and Klein hope that the program will eventually become self-sustaining, in effect creating a community of students helping one another through recovery from substance use disorders.

They also have aspirations that the members of CRP can “ work on diminishing [the] stigma of people that suffer from substance use disorders and for… us to educate the rest of the community here at NCC about how prevalent addictions are, and that they can hit anybody, and that they are an illness. It’s not a failure of character, it’s not a failure of morals, but addiction is an illness that has many components and many layers.”

The CRP program has many plans for future activities, such as to taking members on field trips, doing volunteer work, having pizza and guest speakers at meetings, and showing movies. Sanabria also wants to try visual journaling, which is a nod to art therapy involving construction of diary entries with pictures. She also wants to have involve the college by having various professors at NCC speak to the students and have members work in the East 40. On March 19th the CRP plans to have a yoga class taught by Ann Freidenheim, who has as well as being a yoga instructor is also a licensed drug and alcohol counselor with a master’s degree.

“As long as the students are willing and able, we will pursue those, as long as it all reinforces their commitment to recovery,” said Sanabria. The budget for these activities comes from NCC, but will be supplemented in the future by fundraising.

The only thing the CRP seems to be lacking is a set room for meetings. “We can overcome that, we’ve been meeting in different places. That would be ultimately my dream, to be able to have once space, one room. And then we can decorate it, and the students can go and know that’s their place.”

For many students this is a safe haven, and it is a brilliant construction brought together by Beatriz Sanabria and Eric Klein to further support and conduct a healthy environment for anyone in active recovery from an addiction or substance abuse disorders.