Rethinking Recovery: UCSB Hosts Conference to Support Students Recovering from Addictive Behaviors


Dhiraj Nallapaneni
Staff Writer

In recent years, collegiate recovery programs have expanded greatly with hundreds of programs aimed towards providing much-needed support for college students and reducing the stigma towards students in recovery from addictions. One of these programs is the University of California, Santa Barbara’s very own Gauchos for Recovery, which for the past three years has helped community members overcome addictive behaviors through a series of different programs and events.

This year, the program will be playing host to an event with a much larger scope than usual, one expected to draw participants throughout the nation. The fourth annual California Unified Collegiate Recovery Conference, hosted by Gauchos for Recovery and the UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program, features speakers and participants from all over the United States discussing strategies and techniques aimed at facilitating recovery.

The conference, taking place on Nov. 7 and 8, aims to aid recovery efforts through several different angles. First, it will aim to make recovery programs available for more college students. Participants from different colleges will engage in roundtable discussions meant to help identify development strategies.

Angie Bryan, recovery specialist for the Alcohol & Drug Program, stresses the importance of recovery program expansion. “Traditionally in movies, people go to rehab for thirty days and they go back to their lives and everything’s fine,” Bryan said. “What we know after years of research is that doesn’t really work that well. The longer someone is in some kind of treatment or support for their recovery, the more successful they are.”

In addition, the conference will make efforts to support those in recovery. Participants will find several different workshops available at the conference to help them find support and balance, as well as networking opportunities with other students in similar situations. The themes of the workshops include relapse prevention and speaking about recovery experience in job interviews.

This doesn’t mean that the conference is limited to people dealing with recovery personally. Emily Bills, Gauchos for Recovery Peer Intern and fourth year global studies major, specifies that anybody could benefit from attending the conference. “Everyone probably does know somebody in recovery from addiction,” Bills said. “Partially, it’s to help destigmatize it. You don’t even need to know somebody to be a part of that cause.”

Indeed, the conference offers workshops to “allies,” or people who provide support to those in recovery to the friends or family members around them.

The conference will feature a range of speakers sharing their perspectives on different aspects of recovery. The main keynote speaker is Noah Levine, a Buddhist meditation teacher who has authored several books and recently opened a treatment center. Another keynote speaker is Justin Luke Riley, CEO of Young People in Recovery. Riley focuses mainly on recovery advocacy, or being able to talk about recovery experiences in a positive fashion.

Of course, recovery efforts here in Santa Barbara don’t end with the conference. It’s important to note several services are available throughout the year. A 12-Step program called Students for Recovery is open to all and meets at Embarcadero Hall 1106 every Wed. at 8 PM. A recovery lounge is also available at Embarcadero Hall as a safe place for students to socialize and study. In addition, Gauchos for Recovery hosts numerous sober events in order to provide support for recovering students.

Registration for the conference is $20 for UCSB and Santa Barbara City College students, and is available online. The event is free for those willing to volunteer in shifts lasting two to three hours. If interested, contact Angie Bryan at