These recovering addicts are using coffee and a bike to help others

As we all know, a lot can happen over a cup of coffee.

One university in Richmond, Virginia, is hoping a free cup of coffee will help conquer the stigma attached to recovering from substance abuse.

John Freyer, an interdisciplinary art professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, teamed up with Tom Bannard, who works with students in recovery, to create what’s become known as the “Free Hot Coffee” bike.

“So the ‘Free Hot Coffee’ bike is designed to create a space for people to have one-on-one, face-to-face conversations over coffee,” Freyer explained. “The bike is designed to be mobile, clearly, and students will be riding it around campus and sharing their experience as students who are in long-term recovery.”

Each of the students are part of Rams in Recovery, which is a support community for students recovering from alcohol use, drug addiction or other addictive behaviors.

Because the idea of this project is to create a space for meaningful conversations, the students will be serving up a specialty blend of pour-over coffee, which takes a few minutes to brew.

Lamplighter Roasting Company, which is also based in Richmond, created a specialty roast for the bike, rightfully dubbed the “Recovery Roast.”

The Rams in Recovery will also be using reusable mugs — which means no running off to class as soon as the coffee is poured.

“One of the things that people in recovery face is that there is a stigma attached to their recovery,” Freyer said. “So what the bike allows us to do, is it allows us to go out into the campus and into the community and sit down and have conversations.”

Freyer, who is in long-term recovery himself, said his first experience in recovery contributed to his idea for the “Free Hot Coffee” bike.

Trevor Reynolds: A Ram in Recovery

Trevor Reynolds is part of Rams in Recovery. Reynolds started abusing substances in his early teens after being prescribed painkillers for a back injury.

“The substance abuse went on with many substances and drinking daily until I was about 20 when I left James Madison University [and] got sober a couple weeks later,” Reynolds explained.

After taking a year off of school, he came back to VCU last semester and got involved with Rams in Recovery.

This year, he will be one of the students riding the “Free Hot Coffee” bike and sharing his story.

He said the bike will allow him and other students in recovery to show others that they are just normal people.

“I believe this cart will allow me to do some service work for the overall community, for the recovery community, which always positively impacts my recovery because the more I’m able to help others, the more I’m able to see the benefit that being sober has on my life,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he hopes people will walk away knowing that students in recovery are just like anyone else.

The bigger picture: Nationwide collegiate recovery programs

Bannard, who is the program coordinator for the VCU Wellness Resource Center’s Rams in Recovery, said the goal is to support students in recovery while also making the campus more “recovery ready.”

“What that means is that people first off believe that people do recover,” Bannard said. “When somebody is struggling with addiction, they can get better. They do get better. And we want to start that conversation.”

Although collegiate recovery programs aren’t new, Bannard said in the last five years a foundation called Transforming Youth in Recovery has given out seed grants to help expand such programs.

VCU is one of 100 schools that received a grant, which helped make the “Free Hot Coffee” bike a reality.

“Everybody likes coffee, and it’s something fun to kind of affirm people’s identity,” Bannard added. “People’s identity in recovery is really important.”

View the full story and video on Circa’s website

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