Center for Recovering Students film screening

The Center for Recovering Students (CRS) reached out to the MSU community through a showing of the documentary “The Anonymous People” on Monday, Nov. 6. The CRS is a community of students in sobriety, their allies and anyone looking to gain or maintain recovery from addictive disorders. By promoting wellness through sober events, fellowship, wellness monitoring and more, the CRS provides critical resources on campus.

Over 23 million Americans currently live with alcohol or drug addictions, but only about 11 percent are able to receive treatment. Collegiate organizations for recovering students are present in less than half of U.S. states, and are particularly underrepresented in the West. In fact, the CRS is the only center of its kind in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho. With its unique status, the center is using many methods of outreach and raising awareness.

The showing of “The Anonymous People” shed some light on the value of recovery, and depicts the unique challenges for individuals and organizations addressing addiction in the United States. The film demonstrated how the methods of overly simplistic “just say no” programs and policies promoting criminalization have encouraged stigmas that are still pervasive today. Rather than discussing addiction as a disease that deserves treatment, myths and misunderstanding stand as societal barriers in obtaining adequate treatment.

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Despite these detrimental approaches, there has also been a long history of supportive communities and grassroots efforts. Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” originally published in 1939, many programs have sprouted as ways for those to both obtain sobriety and support others working to do the same. A groundbreaking moment came in 1976 with a press conference known as “Operation Understanding;” Dick Van Dyke, Buzz Aldrin and other influential individuals came forward and stood shoulder to shoulder to share their own trials with addiction, and to encourage Americans to end stigmas around a public health issue that they had struggled with themselves.

The film broke down the image of an “addict.” From actresses like Kristen Johnston to successful politicians, it made clear that anyone can be affected by addiction and go on to support others. As one volunteer for the CRS said, “Most people have been touched by addiction at some point in their lives, whether it be family members, friends, or themselves. I’m hoping that if someone sees this film, it might bring them towards change.”

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The CRS has been working on the MSU campus since 2012 and is officially affiliated with the university. The center has a space where students can spend time and work on homework. A licensed addiction counselor is available, as well as staff who can provide further resources. Pizza and movie nights are often hosted as well as involvement in Service Saturdays and other events. For the past five years, two students have been sent annually to a national conference through the center.

The CRS is looking to the future, too. The center is currently shifting to a new location on 6th Ave. near the Office of Human Development and Greek Row. Future priorities include obtaining a dedicated staff member, adding recovery housing and securing funds. Grace Anderson, an intern with the Office of Human Development, full time architecture student and active member of the CRS, has been working for two years to gain greater administrative support.

Anderson encourages anyone interested to reach out by stopping by the center at 1215 Gopher Court, sending an email to crs@montana.edu, or making a call to (406) 994-5937.

“There is help if you need it, and getting sober doesn’t mean losing all of the fun in your life,” Anderson said. “If we can get more of the campus to understand that, I think we’re all more likely to ask for the help we need no matter what that is, whether it’s getting off drugs, or counseling and psychological services, or tutoring after class. I think we’re a stronger and tighter knit community if we’re willing to ask for help.”