On the outside, my life looked perfect — but for more than 25 years I had been living a lie. I almost lost everything due to an addiction that I hid from everyone, including myself. I was driving all the people that loved me out of my life.

With the help of my faith and a solid support group of family and friends, I was able to slowly put the pieces back together. I have been working my program of recovery and sobriety ever since.

My name is Chris Burns and I am a recovering addict — and a UCF student, and a husband and a dad.

I’m currently in the master’s social work program and intern with UCF Student Health Services. Through my experience at Student Health Services, I have learned that nationally almost half (42 percent) of full-time college students age 18-22 attending colleges and universities binge drink or abuse prescription/illegal drugs in any given month. Of those students, 22.9 percent meet the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse.

Shocking, right? Some estimates show that one in 66 students in college is either actively in recovery or looking for recovery resources. At UCF, that would mean that roughly 700-800 students have had no place to identify as being in recovery — until now.

My passion is in helping people that struggle with addiction — specifically students in recovery. Why students? Well, the short answer is because I am a student in recovery myself and I personally know just how hard being sober on a college campus can be. College is where independence and experimentation intersect and it can be near impossible to live a sober life in an environment like that. The stigma of recovery is also so high that many students will never admit that they need help.

Over the past two semesters I have poured my heart into solidifying and growing the UCF Collegiate Recovery Community. We now have Al-Anon meetings on Monday nights, Alcoholics Anonymous on Tuesday nights, Narcotics Anonymous on Wednesday nights — and this is just the beginning. This is a safe, authentic community that supports students in their recovery. It helps to ensure that no students struggling with an addiction feel like they are alone on this campus.

To this end, UCF Student Health Services is collaborating with UCF Housing and Residence Life to offer students in recovery the option of rooming with other students in recovery.

If this group speaks to you, please join us at our first general interest meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 25. I invite you to become part of the founding members of UCF’s CRC. The stigma of recovery is so huge. The reality is that addicts are on every college campus in America. Investing in them only makes sense and the research shows this to be true.

When I think about how a CRC could have helped me when I was working on my undergrad degree — it could have change the entire trajectory of my life. It matters that much. Please join us at our interest meeting, which is open to anyone and everyone that is interested in being a part of the CRC at UCF. You do not need to be in recovery to attend. If you are a UCF student struggling with addiction or currently in recovery, just know that you are not alone. The CRC is here for you.

For more information about the CRC go to https://shs.sdes.ucf.edu/crc or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CRCatUCF/.