College During Recovery: Staying Strong When It Counts

College is an important time in any young person’s life. In college, we broaden our horizons, become exposed to new ideas and philosophies, and forge friendships and College During Recoveryrelationships that can last a lifetime. It’s a time for self-discovery, for challenging one’s ideas about the world, and for learning to balance fun and responsibility before being jettisoned into the “real world” with all its expectations and pressures. For those of us privileged enough to attend college or university, it can truly be a magical time.

Unfortunately, the culture of experimentation and youthful exuberance surrounding college campuses tends to go hand in hand with substance abuse. It’s a common trope in our media: The image of the frat party inundated with red cups and kegs has become all but an expectation for anyone heading off to school.

While there’s nothing wrong with a good party, the fact of the matter remains that drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are growing problems for college students in the United States; this can make recovery while attending college seem daunting, at best, and impossible, at worst, for anyone attempting to stay sober at school.

The good news is that attending college during recovery is not only possible but perfectly manageable with the right support system. If you’re in recovery and heading off to school, it’s important to arm yourself with the right facts, resources, and mindset to stick to your goals and remain sober while also having the time of your life.

Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers understands this and has provided a succinct and useful guide to surviving college during early recovery to help you stay strong when it counts and set yourself up for success at school and in your life afterward.

Substance Abuse on Campus: The Ugly Truth

According to a 2007 report by Columbia University, nearly half of all college students aged eighteen to twenty-two engaged in binge drinking or abused prescription and/or illegal drugs, and it noted that students today are much more likely to binge drink and drink specifically with the goal of becoming drunk rather than for the social enjoyment of the drinks themselves. The same report found that, between 1993 and 2005, student abuse of prescription drugs increased by:

  • 343% for painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin
  • 93% for stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin
  • 450% for tranquilizers like Valium and Xanax
  • 225% for sedatives like Seconal.

These troubling statistics are in line with the ever-growing prescription drug abuse and overdose epidemic in the United States, which claims thousands of lives each year and is only now beginning to gain recognition in the mainstream media and medical circles. Drug addiction which begins on college campuses is a huge problem, and one which ought to be addressed more directly in our public parlance.

These factors, as well as the pressure of a full course load, make maintaining sobriety during college a risky undertaking for those in early addiction recovery. That said, there are many strategies and resources available to college students who wish to gain the benefits of a degree without sacrificing their sobriety in the process.

Strategize for Success

While peer pressure is a huge motivating factor in the creation of problematic behaviors leading to habitual substance abuse, there are several steps sober students can take to Maintain a Support Networkhelp avoid the temptation toward risky environments and situations. Vigilance is important but, ultimately, preparation and fostering positive habits will be the most helpful in maintaining a sober lifestyle during college. Students in early recovery should:

  • Consider living off campus – While some “dry campuses” prohibit alcohol consumption whole cloth, it’s still best for sober students to live away from places where parties and substance abuse are likely to take place. Students in recovery should consider offsite housing, with peers who are also sober, or living with supportive family members, where possible. Surrounding yourself with peers who respect and support your sobriety will help mitigate the risk of triggering a relapse.
  • Meet regularly with a substance abuse counselor – Accountability is important in all aspects of recovery. A regularly scheduled meeting with a counselor can help students stay strong and develop ongoing strategies for dealing with emergent temptations and situations. Ongoing outpatient rehab programs tailored to the rigors of a collegiate schedule can go a long way toward helping sober students navigate their education.
  • Maintain a support network – Wherever possible, plug yourself into recovery networks like Alcoholics Anonymous or secular, science-based recovery programs that include peers within your age range. Having other people in recovery to talk to and vent about the specific difficulties and temptations of campus life will go a long way toward helping sober college students feel less isolated and more in touch with their own recovery process.
  • Be wary of overloading your schedule – While taking on a massive course load may seem appealing, in the sense that you’ll finish school faster, it’s important to be realistic and set a reasonable, balanced regimen. Students in early recovery need to give themselves time for school work, rehab, support group meetings, and self-care, including sleep and leisure activities. Staying occupied is important but balance is necessary for success.

Prioritize Sobriety and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Addiction never happens in a vacuum; it directly affects the individual addict but, also, sends shockwaves through families, friend groups, and support systems. Anyone who has ever loved an addict will tell you that addiction is a family disease and, as such, requires acknowledgment and participation of family members and close friends in order to be fully defeated.

This is doubly important for college students, who often rely on some degree of family support to attend school anyway; the pressures inherent with college attendance and the expectation of success from supportive family members can easily begin to feel like a crushing weight rather than a buoying force in their lives.

If you’re a student struggling with addiction or an addict in recovery considering enrollment or re-enrollment in college, it’s important to do so with the understanding that asking for help is not an indicator of failure.  College will always be there when you’re ready; if taking a medical leave of absence to receive alcohol or drug addiction treatment is what you need, then you should exercise that option while you’re in the proper state of mind to do so.

The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem and, ultimately, prioritizing your own health and well-being is the most important factor in a successful life whether you earn a college degree or not.

Participation in support programs such as the University Partnership Program at Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers is a great way to set yourself up for success in school while creating an honest and sobriety-focused environment in which to attend college and thrive.

Such programs equip college personnel, as well as students in recovery, with the tools and resources they need to stay in school and earn a degree, with the primary goal of assisting college students in meeting their educational goals while balancing their workload with the ongoing efforts of sobriety.

Drug and alcohol addiction are ever-present problems on campus, and in life after school, but that shouldn’t disqualify students in early recovery from seeking an education and bettering their lives. If you’re a prospective student and want to prioritize sobriety while attending school, the resources and support are available.

The professional rehab specialists at Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers can help walk you through the process of structuring a collegiate lifestyle that supports your sobriety and gives you the best possible shot at completing your degree.