Adam Smith wants to challenge negative stereotypes of drug addicts.
“It’s not the guy in the alley drinking out of a brown paper bag, but the college student taking Adderall every day or drinking too much,” Smith said. “It’s a student getting a 4.0 but dying inside.”
The fourth-year sociology student started Bruins for Recovery, or B4R, a club which seeks to form friendships among students who have become sober and offer a support group on campus.
Smith came to UCLA to play volleyball but was cut from the team, he said. At the time, he said he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and he was failing classes. After two years in and out of treatment centers, he became sober in 2012 and was admitted back to UCLA in 2013.
Smith said he started B4R with help from UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services counselors last year because he didn’t know about any established recovery group on campus. He said he felt there needed to be a safe and sober environment for students looking to achieve or maintain sobriety.
Colby Moss, a clinical social worker at CAPS who helped Smith in creating the club, said she also thought UCLA needed a student group dedicated to recovery. She said she helped found B4R with Smith after learning about grants for starting collegiate recovery communities.
Transforming Youth Recovery, a national organization that seeks to accelerate the growth of the collegiate recovery movement, awarded the group a $10,000 grant to start a recovery program last year.
Some students said they joined the club looking for a support group.
Gabriella Mourad, a third-year communications studies student, said she struggled with heroin addiction for three to four years before becoming sober in 2012. She missed high school classes because she was having withdrawals and eventually dropped out after being kicked out of multiple schools.
Mourad said she went to a treatment center during high school to address the addiction.
“I just got really tired of the way I was living, the way my life was falling apart,” she said.
After getting sober, Mourad said she enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College and applied to UCLA even though a guidance counselor at the school said she thought it was impossible to get into UCLA’s communications studies program.
“Thinking back to where I had been a few years before, I never thought I would have the chance to go to UCLA or finish school,” Mourad said. “My recovery is my number one priority because without that I won’t have anything else.”
B4R holds social events and organizes meetings where members can start the 12 steps, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous program, Smith said. The 12 steps are a program of principles that aim to help people recover from addiction.
The group also puts on sober tailgates at football games and holds barbecues, said Garrett Forsyth, a third-year psychology student. About 20 people regularly attend B4R events, Moss said.
“We do the same thing any other college students do but without drinking,” Forsyth said.
Mourad said those tailgates gave her an opportunity to relax and socialize without pushing her toward alcohol or drugs.
“If nothing else, I know that it’s a safe place to go where you can find people you can relate to that have been through it and understand,” Mourad said.