Ashley Wheeler, a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, has been named Student of the Year by the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) for her initiative to create CSU’s first student recovery program.
Ram Recovery is a community of support primarily for students in recovery from substance use disorders, but also in recovery from behavioral addictions, eating disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. The program holds weekly meetings on the third floor of the Health and Medical Center on Mondays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The meetings are open to everyone in the CSU community and offer support for all forms of recovery through the CSU Health Network.
Wheeler completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Connecticut, where she began her own journey with recovery. Wheeler joined that university’s recovery program and quickly became involved in the collegiate recovery community locally and as part of the national association.
“It was hard to believe that there was a large community on a college campus that was dedicated to staying sober despite the social pressures to use substances,” said Wheeler. “This community showed me I could live my life on a college campus, and they inspired me to help others the same way I had been helped.”
‘Gave us the spark’
After turning down a full fellowship to Texas Tech, Wheeler funded her own trip to Atlanta to participate in the ARHE conference, where she found the tools to create a collegiate recovery community at CSU. Before beginning her first day at CSU, Wheeler contacted CSU Director of Specialty Counseling Services Lisa Miller.
“There has never been a dedicated recovery community at CSU,” said Miller. “It has been something that we have wanted to implement at the university, and Ashley gave us the spark we needed to gain enough momentum to support the creation of this group.”
Miller attributes the continued growth of Ram Recovery to Wheeler, because she continues to support the weekly meetings and is available to all members by phone daily.
“Ashley’s own recovery is very important to her, and other students see her as a leader, a mentor and a living example that recovery is possible,” said Miller. “We have students that seek help, and in some cases Ashley can respond in as quick as an hour, and students respond so well to that sense of a strong and caring community.”
Wheeler and other dedicated students were awarded a $10,000 grant from Transforming Youth Recovery to fund the Ram Recovery program. As the program is beginning its second year, Wheeler envisions obtaining a permanent space for the program that would be available to the group 24 hours a day, as well as hiring a full-time advisor to manage the program.
“We used to meet at Mugs Coffee Lounge before we had access to the health center once a week,” said Wheeler. “It still isn’t enough though; Ram Recovery needs a place for members to support each other any time of day.”
Wheeler will be graduating with her master’s degree in May 2019 and hopes to become a collegiate counselor to continue giving back to the recovery community.
“Without Ashley, there is no way Ram Recovery would be where it is today,” said Miller. “She has an incredible power to mobilize students on our own campus, and now she has the chance to bring her ideas to a national spotlight.”
Wheeler recently wrote an article about her recovery experience in Recovery Campus magazine.
Ram Recovery Information