Northwest Missouri State University offers Clean Bearcats, a recovery support group, at its Wellness Services offices every first and third Monday. The group hosted sober tailgating throughout football season last semester for students wishing to avoid alcohol while enjoying the events.

With tailgating, social outings and the party culture that is present at many colleges and universities, drinking and perhaps even consuming other kinds of drugs may seem part of the experience, but one group at Northwest Missouri State University is offering a sober alternative to the college.

Clean Bearcats is one of eight recovery-focused collegiate groups in the state of Missouri, offering a social group for those in recovery, taking steps toward recovery and allies of sober living. B.K. Taylor, assistant director of Wellness Services at Northwest, said the group offers a safe space for those wanting to socialize while in recovery.

“The honest truth is, in college, it’s easy for having a drink at dinner or having a beer when you go bowling, it just comes so natural,” Taylor said. “But with this group and this community, the goal is for that to just not be on the table, and it’s not going to be a concern at all. As long as you’re hanging out with this group, you’re kind of safe from that.”

The group was started when Taylor and Rachel Mayfield, a counselor at the University’s Wellness Center, attended the Meeting of the Minds, a recovery-based meeting in Kansas City. It was here they heard about a program at the University of Missouri that offered a recovery community for students on its campus.

“We knew that we had students that were interested in or were supportive of a recovery community if we had it,” Mayfield said. “So we started looking at other schools; what were they doing? We mimicked (University of Missouri, Columbia), because they were some of the people we saw at Meeting of the Minds, and that really fostered it.”

After returning to Northwest, Mayfield applied for a grant through Transitional Youth in Recovery and was awarded $1,000. The group used the funding to get the word out about the community as well as hosting its first sober tailgate.

“I just had this vision of two parking spots that I wanted that was just like, ‘No alcohol. Please don’t have alcohol here,’” Mayfield said. “We have great friendships and collaborations with UPD, and Clarence Green (University Police Chief) said, ‘You want a whole parking lot?’ and I was like, ‘Sure!’ So, he gave us this lot out here, and we had about a hundred and something spots that were going to be completely alcohol-free.”

Mayfield said sobriety is something that many students deal with, whether having struggled with addiction prior to coming on campus or falling prey to substance abuse as they enter the collegiate realm.

Taylor added that the group is open to anyone on campus whether they be students, faculty or staff.

“We believe that everyone deserves a space,” Taylor said. “No matter where you are on this path, if you’re someone who chooses to be sober and consume nothing, or you’re a person who’s maybe in the process of reducing your consumption. We want everyone, no matter where they are on the path, to feel welcome in this space.”

Jessika Eidson can be reached

at jessika.eidson@newspressnow.com.