‘There’s something to be said about knowing you’re not alone’

Cougs for Recovery offers resources, scholarships, community for students in recovery

Junior+computer+science+major+Cora+Hernandez+%28left%29+and+junior+digital+technology+and+culture+major+Austin+Wetzel+create+watercolor+paintings+at+Cougs+for+Recovery%E2%80%99s+weekly+Art+Night%2C+Friday%2C+Jan.+28%2C+at+the+Fine+Arts+Center.+

FRANKIE BEER

Junior computer science major Cora Hernandez (left) and junior digital technology and culture major Austin Wetzel create watercolor paintings at Cougs for Recovery’s weekly Art Night, Friday, Jan. 28, at the Fine Arts Center.

FRANKIE BEER, Evergreen news editor

Jennifer Madison came to WSU with only a coffee cup, a blanket and an internet connection. 

She struggled with homelessness and addiction for a few years before applying to WSU. The day she applied, Madison decided it was time to begin her recovery journey – and found her new home with Cougs for Recovery.  

Madison, who now serves as president of Cougs for Recovery, said the organization aims to encourage acceptance and awareness around the topic of addiction and recovery. The organization has provided resources and support for students in recovery since 2017. 

Last spring, Madison came across an advertisement for WSU’s virtual student involvement fair and decided to attend. At the event, Madison spotted the word “recovery” in the list of clubs and never looked back. Now, 18 months into her recovery journey, Madison said she has found the strength to “wield” her voice in the Cougs for Recovery community.

“Cougs for Recovery accepted me into their fold, and that support proved to me that I wasn’t alone— that I didn’t have to fight alone,” Madison said.

Madison said she was surprised by the amount of support Cougs for Recovery has received from WSU. 

“They really are putting everything toward helping students be well. It doesn’t matter what point in time they are struggling with wellness; the university is behind them 100%,” Madison said. “It’s reducing the stigma and bringing awareness that [addiction] is no longer unsupported.”

WSU is providing a scholarship of $1,000 for Cougs for Recovery members who are full-time students and are at least six months into the recovery process. Students must submit their applications online by Monday. Interested parties can contact Patricia Maarhuis, senior health promotion specialist at Cougar Health Services, at maarhuis@wsu.edu if they have any questions. 

Cougs for Recovery holds weekly recovery meetings at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Compton Union Building, in room 208. 

During the meetings, Madison said members share their experiences with addiction as well as their hopes for themselves and others. The organization also welcomes anyone who is an ally or is recovering from experiences unrelated to substances. 

Cougs for Recovery also hosts weekly art nights at 5 p.m. on Fridays at the Fine Arts Center, in room 7062. 

Madison said art nights are a safe space for members to talk about recovery while building a community and having fun. However, conversations do not always center on addiction, and participants said they serve as a nice communal activity to help take their minds off things. The organization recently worked on binding sketchbooks and creating watercolor paintings during an art night on Jan. 29.

Austin Wetzel, junior digital technology and culture major, said he was surprised by the warm and welcoming atmosphere when he first joined the organization.

After experiencing the end of a long-term relationship, Wetzel found Cougs for Recovery in what he described as “kismet.” He said the consistency of attending meetings with people he could trust changed his life. 

“It is a safe space where folks can be themselves and have the opportunity to put themselves first,” Wetzel said.   

Over the summer, Wetzel and Madison underwent training to become recovery coaches through the charitable organization Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery. Wetzel said recovery coaches serve as “resource brokers” who listen to members without judgment and help them determine what they want their recovery path to look like. 

Recovery coaches also develop wellness plans for each member, in which they set an overall goal for recovery as well as smaller goals involving their community and health. 

Cougs for Recovery is looking to hire new recovery coaches for whom WSU will provide free training. Interested parties can contact Maarhuis for more details. 

Cora Hernandez, Cougs for Recovery vice president, said she is excited for incoming members to gain professional assistance and become a part of the community that encourages her to stay sober and in school. 

When Hernandez joined the organization three years ago, she said it was difficult to find, and it had only three members. She said Cougs for Recovery is now receiving proper recognition. 

In 2021, Cougs for Recovery transitioned from a Registered Student Organization to a collegiate recovery program under the Association of Recovery in Higher Education. Washington State Health Care Authority provided WSU with a seed grant of $60,000 to launch new recovery services, according to WSU Insider.

Cougs for Recovery’s new goal is to bring more awareness to the organization and its resources. Madison said it is hard to put into words the gratitude she has for the organization.

“There is something to be said about knowing you’re not alone and knowing that you have the ability to recover,” Madison said. “We do recover.”