For many people’s lives, college can be an important time. It provides opportunities for new found levels of independence, exposure to new ideas and people, and the chance to reflect on what kind of a person you want to become. However, it can also be a time when many people take advantage of this freedom and uncertainty by engaging in substance abuse or consuming alcohol recklessly.
According to a 2013 report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, college students were twice as likely to smoke marijuana on a daily basis, significantly more likely to binge drink in a two-week period, and be more likely to take adderall or ritalin without a prescription than non-college attending peers. The atmosphere of some college events may seem to normalize high levels of drunkenness or substance abuse, and holding on to your choice to remain sober can sometime feel like a challenge, or a decision that leaves you feeling isolated from the “fun.” Here are some ways you can protect your mind and body, and have a truly enjoyable and life-changing experience.
Know your self:
In any environment, your level of success often depends on how you enter it with a level of awareness of both your strengths and vulnerabilities. Knowing what you want to do, what you can do well, and the areas that need growth or help from others is a really important part of doing well in anything you set out to do. The central purpose of college should be to shape your mind and gain skills, knowledge, and experience that will allow you to live a life in tune with your true passions.
Taking challenging classes, reading books, and discussing ideas are all important ways to build your future. Keeping your focus on what’s really important about your time there will help you to see that maybe the wild drug and alcohol fueled parties aren’t really the most exciting element of the college experience.
Try new activities:
Colleges are filled with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and opportunities to connect over a wide variety of activities and passions. There will be extracurricular groups doing work in the arts, advocacy, sports, or any number of other passions and interests. These groups enable you to connect with a group of people and have fun or commit to doing an activity together.
With a truly supportive group of people doing something life-giving for you, it can be a way of connecting with people far more powerful, meaningful, and lasting than a random connection in a drug or alcohol-fueled haze. Be especially open to groups welcoming to beginners, and take advantage of the opportunity to try something new. You may find a whole new passion to define part of your life.
Sometimes, college students in recovery may feel alone. You may at first find it difficult to find anyone who understands you, or is joining you in working towards recovery as well. Finding a trusted friend to tell your story to might surprise you, and may give you encouragement in your journey. Many colleges offer sober housing or allow recovery support groups to meet on campus. Ask around and speak people in charge of student health or student services. In such a large group of diverse people, you may be less alone than you think.
Take care of yourself:
College can often be a really stressful time, and you may find your life getting too busy. Many people may stay up all hours of the night, or not put a lot of care into the nutrition of their food, because they are so focused on other things. To maintain a commitment to recovery, and have the best physical and mental health possible, it is important to try to stay balanced. Extracurricular activities, academics, and supportive socialization are all important parts of your life, and try to not let commitments from one compromise the other. It is is also important to engage in regular practices of self-care, including regular sleep, exercise, planned and healthy meals, and times for meditation and reflection.
Although it may sometimes feel like an overwhelming challenge, it is possible to remain committed to sobriety in college. By staying true to yourself and what you really want, connecting with like minded people, and finding other ways to have fun, you can have a really successful time in college that will change your life for the better.