Going to college can simultaneously be the most freeing and the most frightening experience of your life. Not only are you living away from your parents for the first time in your life, you’re doing it while also balancing self-care, new friendships, responsibilities, and the stresses of higher education.
And you’re presented with the ultimate Pandora’s box, to wit, the ability to go buck-wild partying, drinking, and doing drugs away from the watchful eyes of your guardians. Attending college is a huge milestone for anyone to achieve, so it’s normal to want to celebrate by cutting loose now and again. Unfortunately, the lack of parental oversight and personal restraint also means it’s easy to take things too far.
Even for teenagers who have never had problems with substance use or abuse, college provides an opportunity to indulge in every vice and, for the most part, get away with it. But for those who have previously struggled with addictions, college is one massive chance to relapse.
But it doesn’t have to be.
No rulebook says the college experience has to look like a scene from Animal House. We get it… when everyone else is doing it, saying ‘no’ can make you the odd one out. But abstaining from alcohol and drugs doesn’t mean you’re boring or uncool; it just means you have different priorities.
Tips to Help You Prepare for a Sober College Experience
It’s 100 percent possible to have a fun and fulfilling time in college without using substances as a social crutch. For anyone looking for a sober college experience, here are a few tips to help you prepare.
- Define Your Support System
Support systems are critical, both personal and institutional. Before you leave home, research where you’re going. Does the school offer mental health and addiction services? Are there sober clubs and activities on campus? Some schools even provide dedicated housing for sober students. Otherwise, seek out medical and addiction services locally or find a way to keep in touch with your therapists and counselors back at home. While you’re gone, remember to stay connected with your distant loved ones.
- Find Companionship
Many college kids use alcohol to help them become more sociable, but it’s not a prerequisite for fun. Find other social outlets that you can enjoy sober, like group sports, exploring the local area, going on hikes, movies, doing art, or cooking together. Finding friends who understand your sobriety is also important. Even on your best days, it’s good to have a listening ear and the open arms of a friend who truly gets it.
- Party Differently
Being sober doesn’t mean that you need to avoid parties altogether. Of course, being in a place where alcohol and drugs are so readily available can be triggering, and you might choose to avoid these scenarios altogether. But for others, it’s easy to cut loose without other partygoers being any the wiser.
Remember that college can be challenging and stressful, but you’re never alone. Know what you need to do to maintain your sobriety, and reach out when you need help—don’t wait until you’re in crisis. If you keep your wits about you, you will have an amazing—and sober college experience.
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol or substance use disorders, we can help. Reach out today to learn more.