SoBEAR conference speaker

Speaker Chad Sabora talks to the audience in his breakout session: Harm-Reduction.

A one-day conference summit was held in the Plaster Student Union addressing addiction, substance abuse and recovery.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., anyone who wanted to attend paid $10 to learn about addiction at one of the 12 breakout sessions.

Justin Johns, mental health clinician and substance use assessment specialist at the Missouri State Counseling Center, said he hopes the conference becomes an annual tradition.

“The hope is to grow this every year,” Johns said. “To make it into something that can provide more educational opportunities.”

121 people registered for the conference prior to registration closing on Aug. 22, but more registered the day of the event. Those who registered also got five continuing education hours for attending.

Johns said the goal of the conference was for people to learn about addiction and apply that knowledge to their communities.

“That community can be their place of work, it could be their family, it could be their social group,” Johns said. “It could be anything.”

Years before the addiction summit took place, the Counseling Center received a grant to start a collegiate recovery program. That program turned into SoBEAR.

SoBEAR still exists as a student organization where students can get involved in the community and have leadership roles.

However, about three years ago the Counseling Center branched off to form the Collegiate Recovery Program to brand themselves as a national program.

Collegiate recovery programs exist all across the country, according to Johns.

The Collegiate Recovery Program offers weekly support group meetings at Monroe Apartments in the gathering room on the first floor, every Friday at 4 p.m.

“It’s not therapy, it’s not led by a counselor, it’s peer-led support,” Johns said.

The Collegiate Recovery Program also offers sober events throughout the semester.

During Family Weekend they hold a tailgate in Bear Chapel’s parking lot with a DJ and food for individuals who want to tailgate but don’t want to be a part of the scene at Bearfest Village.

In past years, they have done community service work and partnered with community organizations to go to elementary schools and revitalize the playground equipment.

“We try to give people the opportunity to give back and do things that help our community but also help their recovery,” Johns said.

Johns said it can be challenging to get students to realize they have a substance abuse problem because of the ‘I’m too young to have a problem,’ or ‘Everyone else does it,’ mindset.

“It’s socially acceptable to go to college and experiment,” Johns said. “At the same time, there are individuals who go that path and it ends up creating significant problems in their life.”

Johns said students can often feel as if they are alone in sobriety, but the reality is, it’s just harder to connect with those people.

“If you’re someone with a vibrant social life centered around substance use, you know how to connect with people,” Johns said. “There are lots of events that surround drinking and things like that. But if you’re sober, it’s kind of hard to find those things.”

For students who are not sure whether or not they have a substance abuse problem, Johns said that type of uncertainty is normal.

Johns said a lot of times, students will have an internal battle between “‘I’m not really OK with what’s going on but at the same time I don’t know if it’s something I need to change.’”

Meetings and events are anonymous and not mandatory, so students can try out the program to see if they like it, but if they don’t they do not have to come back.

“We’re a place where you don’t have to feel like you’re alone,” Johns said.