Experiences of Students in Recovery on a Rural College Campus: Social Identity and Stigma

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A growing number of college (postsecondary) students are in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. In this article, we discuss the experiences of students returning to a university campus after long-term addiction treatment. We also explore the role of a Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) in providing support, and in helping the students develop post-addiction identities that will sustain them. To do so, we draw on Goffman’s ideas related to stigma, as well as conceptualizations of identity reconstruction as a practiced, lived experience. Students interviewed faced a double bind; they sought to escape the stigmatized identity of “addict,” but could not identify as typical students because of their abstinence from alcohol and drugs. The CRP helped them manage the transition to student life, provided a safe haven on campus, and provided an alternate and positive identity: a student in recovery.


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