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Going to College Sober: Tips & Advice to Avoid Relapse

Drinking and drug use in college in the United States is a major problem. One report found that nearly half of the students in the study met the criteria for a least one substance use disorder between their freshman and junior year of school.1 This regular substance use is also associated with missed classes, lower grades, not graduating, and post-graduation unemployment.1

Although wild parties and experimenting with drugs may seem like the norm, there is a lot more to the college experience than getting drunk or high. Especially if you are going to college sober after rehab, these stereotypical forms of college fun are not an option.

Tips on How to Stay Sober in College

Whether you recently completed an adolescent drug treatment program or have been sober for a few years, going to college in recovery can be intimidating and the fear or relapse can be high. Fortunately, these tips on staying sober in college may be able to help.

Avoid Triggers

Unfortunately for the college student in recovery, school can be filled with triggers. While not every situation may be avoidable, there are ways to try to steer clear of some big triggers. Especially if you are new to recovery, it is probably best to avoid parties, wild tailgates, or going out to bars where temptation can be high. You may also want to avoid joining a traditional fraternity or sorority where parties are a central focal point.

Stay Occupied

Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to stay busy in recovery. Fortunately, most colleges have an extensive list of clubs or organizations that you can join. You could also try a club sport or get a job. Both can also provide you with a great excuse as to why you aren’t drinking the night before.

Because the weekends can mean more free time on your hands, it can also be helpful to try to make plans in advance whether it is doing something with friends or going for a solo adventure.

Pick Your Friends Wisely

An important part of staying sober in college is spending your time with the right people. Especially in early recovery, it is vital that you have a good support system in place. Avoid the people who want to go out every night or anyone who tries to peer pressure you into drinking. Befriending other students in recovery or those who are also not drinking in college can be beneficial.

Be Mindful of Housing

If you are going back to college after rehab, you also want to ensure that you put yourself in a good living situation. Rooming with someone who wants to throw parties or is constantly smoking at the apartment can be triggering and overwhelming. Try to find sober roommates or those who don’t drink. Some colleges will also have sober living dorms, or you could look into sober housing options near you. If you have a supportive family that lives near the school, living at home may also be beneficial.

Manage Stress

Stress can be a big trigger for relapse and college can be incredibly stressful if you let it. Do your best to create a consistent study and homework schedule to keep your schoolwork from piling up. If you are going to college after rehab, it may be wise to start by taking fewer credits to ease into it. While joining clubs or getting a job can help keep you busy, be sure you do not overcommit.

Even if you follow all these tips, stress can be unavoidable to some degree, so be sure you have some healthy outlets. Make time to exercise, mediate, read, talk to a trusted friend, or do something else you enjoy when you start to feel overwhelmed.

Continue Working on Your Recovery

Although you may be focused on getting your degree, make sure recovery is still your priority. Try to maintain a healthy routine. Regularly attend recovery meetings in the area.  Continue with an outpatient treatment program while you are in school.

If you do go to college sober and relapse, it is okay. For many people, relapse can be a part of their recovery journey. Just be sure that you seek help as soon as possible, so you can get back on track and don’t spiral back to active addiction. For help finding treatment in your area, use our rehab directory or contact us and talk with one of our admissions specialists. Recovery is a long journey, but you do not need to go it alone.