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How to Survive College Life Sober

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Worried about sober college life? You are not alone. Movie after movie depicts college life as a time full of boozing up and drug experimentation for the newly independent adult. However, not everyone’s story has to go like that. You can still get the most of your college experience and stay sober doing so! Many colleges are offering on-campus recovery programs for students dealing with substance use. They offer a safe haven for recovering addicts looking to get their degree.

In 1988, Rutgers University in New Jersey offered its Recovery Housing program. It was introduced to help those In recovery escape the rites of booze-fueled college life. Since then, colleges across the nation have followed suit. In light of the opioid epidemic, programs like these are more crucial than ever.

At Rutgers, they offer resources like counseling, psychiatric and medical service, and campus 12-step meetings. Students in recovery housing are encouraged to participate in social activities specific to the program. Examples of fun sober activities are hikes, bike trips, and sporting events. Each student is expected to have a sponsor and attend two 12-step meetings a week. All incoming students are required to have at least 90 days of sobriety before entering recovery housing.

Lisa Laitman, who established the sober dorms at Rutgers, told PBS that students really flourish in this environment:

“It really is a social experiment where you can put people who are in recovery on a college campus. As long as you can provide them with friends and a place that’s safe and a certain amount of activity, they do really well.”

More colleges in the US are following these footsteps. Last year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christ passed a law mandating state colleges and university to provide a sober housing option if at least a quarter of the student body lived on campus.

Dr. Robert DuPont is a psychiatrist who served as the second U.S. Drug Czar in the ‘70s. He believes that these sober college programs really “get to the heart of the beast.” He mentioned in the PBS special that normal college life glorifies addictive behaviors like binge drinking and drug experimentation.  Programs like this provide the ideal amount of monitoring and support.

For students like “Ryan,” finding a program like the one at Rutgers really made the different between success and failure:

“It was a safe space with people who were trying to do what I was trying to do,” Ryan told PBS. “No one was talking about going out and getting drunk. It was the antithesis of my previous dorm experiences, where the shackles are off and people go crazy.”

Other universities are embracing this concept. Recent examples include the University of Vermont, which established sober housing in 2010; Texas Tech University, which did the same in 2011; and Oregon State University, which will begin offering sober housing in the fall.

Still, if you are already in college and struggling with your sobriety, there are options available to keep your committed to your program. Here are some great tips:

  • Seek Like-Minded People: Not everyone is obsessed with the party scene in college. Maintaining sobriety is a goal of quite a few college students. Notice the students who do not participate in the partying and all-night beer pong. Find them and try to befriend them. Do not be afraid to ask direct questions and soon you will find the group you are looking for.
  • Live Off-Campus: It may be a bummer at first, but if your college does not have a solid recovery program, try living off campus instead. That way, you can attend 12-step meetings and develop a network of friends in recovery away from college. Often, you will find people attending the same school as you overcoming the same obstacles. Dorm life may not be worth the risk.
  • Find the right activities: Find activities that you can enjoy sober. Seek out outdoor adventures, exercise, clubs and sober fun that is occurring on campus. Write a list of activities you enjoy and search around your community to see if you can be actively involved with others who enjoy doing similar things.
  • Try Partying Sober: Lastly, if not partying is becoming a huge bummer, try going and enjoying the college party scene sober. Invite a few like-minded friends and attend the next party or concert. Some towns even offer sober parties for those in recovery. If you do attend a college party, leave early before all the craziness ensues.

Remember the most important thing is to remain sober. Make sure to stick to your program and commitments and get professional help if the challenges are becoming overwhelming. You are not alone in this journey. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

Author: Shernide Delva

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