It’s that time of year again: school is back in session and college students are heading back to campus to reunite with friends once more and embark on another year of academic success. However, for many students, studying is likely to take a backseat to excessive partying and substance abuse. In America, drugs and alcohol are routinely accepted as a normal part of college culture. According to 2016 data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
- 40.8 percent of college students reported being drunk sometime within the past month.1
- 32.4 percent of college students reported binge drinking sometime within the past two weeks.1
- 7.8 percent of college-age young adults use marijuana daily (the highest it’s been among this age group since the early 1980s).2
- 9.9 percent of college students reported misusing Adderall sometime in the past year.2
- 2.4 percent of college students reported misusing Ritalin in the past year.2
If you’re a sober student heading back to college for the first time, it’s essential that you set yourself up for success with habits that will protect your sobriety. Being immersed in a culture where students’ goals are to get hammered every weekend can be rough, especially for students in recovery. However, having the tools to stay sober will make all the difference.
Despite the statistics, it is entirely possible to get through college sober. Here are a few 10 habits of highly successful college students you may want to consider implementing in your own life.
- They surround themselves with other successful, sober students.
One of the best ways to maintain your sobriety (whether you’re a college student or not) is to surround yourself with other sober people who are actively working to maintain their own sobriety and keep others accountable too. If you’re a student in recovery, you should consider connecting with a group of sober students on campus via collegiate recovery programs, off-campus transitional housing programs, or sober Greek life. Not all college campuses have recovery-oriented services for students, but getting connected with a campus counselor is a good way to find out if your college offers any sobriety support services.
- They anticipate relapse and prepare for it.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that college students in recovery face higher risks of relapse.3 College can be a stressful time, not to mention doing it sober. As a student in recovery, it would be wise to anticipate the challenges that come with the college lifestyle and come up with a plan for how you will address them. Being aware of triggers and stressors and having a plan in place to address those things will help you avoid relapse, even in the face of temptation. Maintaining regular contact with your sponsor, sober mentor, or sober living house manager will also help you stay accountable to your sobriety goals throughout the course of the semester.
- They keep their sobriety in perspective.
Successful sober students focus on what’s really important: getting good grades, gaining important life skills and knowledge, and enjoying all the freedom and fun that college life has to offer. None of these things require drugs or alcohol. By avoiding the party scene, challenging yourself to reach your full potential, and reminding yourself that your sobriety is the key to a healthy and satisfying life, you’ll be more likely to keep your sobriety in perspective and be less tempted by the various opportunities to use drugs and alcohol on campus.
- They avoid high-risk situations.
Steering clear of high-risk situations like parties involving social groups that are notorious for drug and alcohol abuse, tailgating, or Greek events is a surefire way to stay sober. These types of activities are risky for people in recovery because alcohol and drugs are typically more accessible.
- They find creative and healthy ways to manage stress.
Regular yoga practice, daily meditation, journaling, and prioritizing a hobby that you enjoy are all activities that will help you de-stress and relax when the rigors of student life set in. Even with the anxiety and stress that accompanies finals week, a big project, or a particularly challenging course load, implementing healthy coping strategies will help you manage stress and anxiety without turning to drugs or alcohol.
- They prioritize a clean, safe, and sober living environment for themselves.
Successful students in recovery make it a priority to safeguard their living environment by enrolling in a sober living program, living in a sober dorm, or living at home instead of on campus (if the home environment is a sober one). Staying sober in college will be much easier with a clean, and safe, substance-free living environment. Many students in recovery choose to live in a sober living house while they are enrolled in college to maintain some distance from an alcohol-saturated college campus environment and reap the benefits of a sober community.
- They maintain a sense of balance in everyday life.
Staying busy (but not too busy) is key to maintaining a balanced sober lifestyle in college. It’s easy to overdo the studying and school work or neglect it completely, so it’s important to follow a schedule or daily routine that prioritizes both work and play. Consider creating a daily schedule for yourself that allows time for self-care, studying, hobbies, and rest. Keeping things balanced will help prevent stress and anxiety.
- They take advantage of recovery support resources for sober students.
Although not all college campuses provide recovery support services for sober students, may do. If you are new to sobriety and you’re thinking about heading back to college to complete a degree program, consider choosing a college that offers resources like sober residence halls, collegiate recovery programs, sober fraternities and/or sororities, and substance-free events.
- They plan for an alternative spring break.
Nothing kills sobriety more than an unplanned spring break. College students are notorious for packing their bags and heading to Cancun, South Padre, or Puerto Vallarta for a full week of binge drinking and partying. As a sober student, this might leave you feeling isolated or bored while everyone else is away on vacation. Instead of sitting around with nothing to do, plan your own spring break trip with sober friends. Spend your spring break hiking through a national park, floating down a nearby river, or embarking on a road trip down the famous Route 66. Not only will sober activities like these keep your mind off of alcohol and drugs, but you’ll also probably find that sober vacations are much more fulfilling and memorable when they’re not filled with awful hangovers.
- They get involved with the local community.
Volunteering regularly or joining a community organization will help you feel more connected and keep you from feeling isolated as a sober college student. Studies show that volunteering provides several benefits for people in addiction recovery, such as improving mental and physical health, fostering a sense of community and purpose, and combating boredom.
If you’re looking for more sobriety tips for college students, check out our detailed guide for sober students in 2018. It’s packed with more helpful information and tips on how to stay sober in college.