Mark Leffingwell / Colorado Daily
Mark Leffingwell / Colorado Daily
CU’s Collegiate Recovery Center
A year and a half ago, University of Colorado student Alyssa Countway got sober.
Since then, she’s found a new community and place on campus to surround herself with other clean and sober students.
Countway is one of 50 students who regularly study and hang out at CU’s new Collegiate Recovery Center, which opened inside the University Memorial Center last August.
“I was definitely looking for something like this on campus because I felt really alienated when I first became sober,” said Countway, who’s studying ecology and evolutionary biology. “It seems like everybody drinks, everybody parties. This is somewhere I could come.”
The center opened as a place for people in recovery from substance use and other addictive behaviors to hang out, find a community and participate in sober activities. The only requirement for spending time at the center is 24 hours of sobriety, said director Danny Conroy.
Though CU already had Oasis, a network of sober students that met once a week, the Collegiate Recovery Center provides a physical space for sober students to spend time throughout the week. At the center, sobriety comes up naturally in conversation from time to time, but it’s not the primary focus of discussion, many students said.
The recovery center, which is housed on the ground floor of the UMC, has a funky, calming vibe. The ceiling is covered in gray, noise-absorbing panels, and curtains flank the industrial glass door to the one-roomed center.
Comfy couches and chairs in cool grays and blues are placed near modern coffee tables covered with books and knick-knacks.
Relaxing instrumental music plays in the background. The fluorescent lights covering the ceiling are turned off. Instead, the center has various floor and desk lamps that emit warm, soft light.
“I love it,” Countway said. “It’s like a little hideaway from everything. You’re away from the fluorescent lighting. You have comfy couches. It’s something special, and it’s really cozy.”
The room is divided into small nooks and conversation areas where students can study or have private discussions.
Students arrive at the center because of a common piece of their identity, their sobriety, but end up treating it like a library or coffee shop where they can read, be with friends and chat.
“In Boulder, where it seems to be a heavy party atmosphere, this is a shining light for people who chose not to live that way,” Countway said.
The design of the space helped draw students almost immediately, even though the university didn’t advertise the new center, Conroy said.
“We thought two, three, four, five students this first semester would actually come here,” Conroy said. “Within three weeks we had 50 students coming here on a regular basis. All day long, every day we have a string of people coming through, hanging out, utilizing the space, connecting, and it’s 100 percent organic. We didn’t force any of this; we just created the space, and word spread amongst the recovering community.”
Conroy and his wife founded Boulder’s AIM House 14 years ago as a transitional living facility for young adults. Many aren’t necessarily at AIM House by choice, Conroy said, so the number of CU students who show up consistently because they want to is “amazing.”
“It’s not treatment,” he said. “Everybody who comes here comes here willingly.”
The center isn’t trying combat the university’s party-school image or shame students into not drinking or doing drugs, Conroy said.
It’s a place for people who are already sober or in recovery to form a community and connect, he said.
“There’s not a whole lot of ways for people at CU to connect, and you just don’t hear about (a sober community),” he said. “The assumption is that it doesn’t exist and everybody drinks, everybody goes out and it’s actually not true.”
The center is open Mondays through Fridays during the regular academic year for most of the day. On the weekends and in the evenings, the center hosts yoga, bowling, game nights and other activities.
For those who want to attend, the center hosts Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.