Building community for recovering addicts

Tanner Moe enrolled at MSU as an undergraduate in sociology in Jan. 2011, and by taking above and beyond the normal course load he is set to graduate in May 2013.

However, the 32-year-old Moe was not always a successful student. He is a recovering alcoholic who was forced to make a drastic life change after being convicted of a felony DUI in 2009.

While incarcerated, he decided he wanted to do more with his life and participated in the Warm Springs Addiction Treatment and Change (WATCh) program. After 15 months of incarceration and education, he was released early for his good behavior and successful treatment.

Although technically still serving a 10-year sentence, Moe began pursuing a college education at MSU three months after his release. Upon arriving, he was disappointed to find there were limited resources and support groups for recovering addicts. The small Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting was not as big a support group as he thought a college campus should have, so he began developing plans for an organization called “Recovering Students @ MSU.”

“I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur, and I’ve always had a drive for success and to help others,” Moe said. Although the group was started last year, progress was difficult because of Moe’s busy schedule and his lack of connections within MSU. Then he met Rick Winking.

Director of MSU’s Insight program — the primary education program for MIPs and other alcohol-related offenses — Winking encountered Moe because of the important questions he was asking. After talking and comparing ideas, they discovered the concept of a “collegiate recovery community.” Successful at the University of Texas, “recovery communities” blend university resources and student involvement to create a sober support community for recovering students, as well as an avenue for students who may have problems to seek help.

“Recovery communities have existed in cities and states for decades, but one on a college campus has only become an idea in the past eight to 10 years,” Moe said.

Although Bozeman has a large AA community, the college is still lacking.

“Recognition of validity for this kind of group is hard for students and faculty,” he said. However, awareness at MSU is increasing, as many of Moe’s goals are about spreading the word and helping those in need.

“I am not a counselor,” he continued. “We talk about weekend fun and relationships and classes, not about alcoholism. We have that in common, but we just have a good time together.”

In addition to regular meetings, the Recovering Students @ MSU organization has planned and hosted “sober, fun events, on and off campus.” There are about 15 to 20 students who participate in the organization, but Moe is hopeful this number will increase.

In addition to helping students in their personal lives, Moe believes academics are vital.  Recovering students work hard, and “from what I have researched, recovering students have the capability to be better students,” he said.

After graduating this spring, Moe plans to pursue a graduate degree in mental health counseling and continue to push forward in establishing a successful recovery community at MSU.