College is often depicted as a place where people go to party. In movies and TV shows, we see college students joining fraternities and sororities, playing drinking games, and participating in risky behavior. We rarely see what college is like for an individual who decides against the party lifestyle, and with how the media portrays college, it can feel impossible for those who want to stay sober. However, staying sober during college is definitely achievable with the right tools and support.
1. Find Healthy Coping Skills
College can be very stressful with assignment deadlines, being away from home, and balancing a busy schedule. It is crucial to find a way to manage that stress before it becomes too much to handle. Having healthy coping skills in place will help you when you feel overwhelmed. Whether exercising, meditating, or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend, be sure to have a toolkit of healthy stress management strategies to keep calm and focused.
2. Stay Involved
Find ways to keep busy in ways that align with your values. Join support groups, clubs, or intramural sports teams. Do a Google search to see if there are sober living meetings for college students in your area. If there aren’t any, don’t hesitate to join a virtual group or even consider starting your own! This will allow you to connect with like-minded peers while staying on track with your goals. Staying busy and focused on your priorities can keep you occupied when wanting to stay sober.
3. Avoid Triggering Settings
If you know that going to a house party or a bar with friends will put you in a space you are not confident you can handle, do not go. Suggest alternate plans or say that you have a paper to finish. Try to find a group of friends who are like-minded and supportive of your sober journey. If you must go into an environment that could be triggering, have a plan in place. Even with the best of intentions, the temptation may be there. Know ahead of time how you will respond if someone offers you drugs or alcohol.
4. Get a Job
Many colleges have work-study programs that allow you to work on campus. Several jobs are laid-back positions that even offer you time to study while on the clock. Work is also an excellent excuse for not being able to attend events that might put you in a situation where you do not want to be.
For example, if you have difficulty saying no to going out, find a job looking for someone to work nights or weekends. This will keep you occupied in a positive way when others are out partying. There are many other benefits to working during college, too! Besides the obvious of making money, studies also show that students who work ten to twenty hours per week have higher grade point averages than their non-working peers.
5. Build a Support System
While it might seem like you are the only person in college who is sober, there will be more people than you think. Seek out groups of like-minded people, either through campus support groups, volunteer groups, or asking around. Be open with a family member you feel comfortable with and that you can call or check in with at times when you feel uneasy. Having people who support and understand your desire to stay sober will be a huge help when faced with challenges and temptations.
6. Seek Help
If you are struggling with maintaining your sobriety or are experiencing mental health struggles due to the pressure of college, seek help. Whether it is talking with a family member or close friend whom you trust, seeking counseling support, or considering a boys or girls residential rehab, support is there. Many campuses have resources available that can provide information and guidance for getting back on track. Ask for help is a sign of strength and will make a massive difference in your sobriety journey.
Living a sober life in college can be challenging, however it is possible with the right tools and support! Finding healthy coping skills, staying busy, and surrounding yourself with positive people and environments, will help maintain a healthy, sober college experience.