Mackenzie Maxwell, Reagan Rogers
Sewanee Students for Sensible Drug Usage (SSSDU) hosted an event titled Sewanee Stories on the evening of Thursday, August 31. The organization is focused on harm reduction and education surrounding drug and alcohol usage. Sewanee Stories allowed for a panel of alumni to anonymously and truthfully share their stories regarding drug and alcohol abuse both during their time at Sewanee and after.
The purpose of this event, as described by the panelists and their moderator, was not to scare students or to influence their opinions on drugs and alcohol, but instead to educate students on the potential consequences of partaking in activities involving these substances. SSSDU aims to be a resource for students choosing to partake in substance use. Throughout the event, resources (both preventative and emergency) were displayed and promoted, so students attending the event could know who to turn to for issues concerning these topics. Each panelist made a point to emphasize that this was a safe, judgment free zone and expressed great gratitude that the event had an audience. With over 50 people in attendance, the first SSSDU event of the semester was a success.
Panelists each discussed their personal and vulnerable stories before entering the Q&A. During the event, the panelists addressed several issues that make it more difficult for us to discuss topics around drug and alcohol abuse. The fear of “not seeming cool” for requesting to be sober and the nonlinear path to recovery from drug and alcohol abuse were tackled head-on. Hope Murphy (C ‘24) , a leader of SSSDU said, “We hope that students gained a sense of it’s ok to say no to going out, which is a really hard thing to do at Sewanee. It’s also ok to admit that you’re not ok.” The word addiction was clearly and concisely described, allowing contemplation for the audience about the real life problem. These discussions, the panelists believed, would destigmatize asking for help, and would hopefully prevent future Sewanee students from experiencing drug and alcohol abuse.
Murphy said, “None of our panelists finished the full four years at Sewanee because of drug and alcohol abuse. That’s never something we want for people on any campus.” Murphy became involved in SSSDU because she saw her friends suffer from drug and alcohol usage and wanted there to be more recovery resources on campus. She described how Sewanee’s party culture can dominate the scene and part of SSSDU’s goal is to support students who choose to partake and also demonstrate that “there are more options besides just drinking.”
After the event, we discussed the impact of the event on its audience. “I liked that we could hear from real people who had really gone through this,” one attendee said. “It never felt judgmental. It felt honest and from-the-heart.”
“I didn’t leave feeling afraid,” said another attendee. “Just more knowledgeable.”
According to its attendees, the Sewanee Stories event achieved exactly what it had intended: to inform students about addiction by promoting empathy and understanding, and it created a nonjudgmental space with real connections to help students seek help and advice when in need.
Sewanee Students for Sensible Drug Usage held Narcan training this past week and had over 60 attendees be certified to administer the opioid overdose treatment. Murphy said that the organization is already planning more events and that resources are always available to students. Many can be found on the SSSDU Instagram page’s Linktree with their handle @sewaneessdu.
Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Cole contributed to this article.