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College and Recovery: The Importance of Finding a Sober Peer Community

College and Recovery: The Importance of Finding a Sober Peer Community

If you or a loved one is struggling to stay sober, it helps to develop a strong, recovery-minded network

Destructive living environments can derail recovery for even highly motivated individuals. For young adults who are trying to stay sober while immersed in the college party scene, the environment can be especially challenging. Research reveals a raft of factors that lower their judgment, exposing them to the destructive effects of drug and alcohol use—even relapse. Peer pressure tops the list. At this age, needs for affirmation run high. Many people fear being ridiculed, marginalized or rejected if they abstain. If you or a loved one in San Diego is struggling to stay sober, it helps to develop a strong, recovery-minded network. To learn more, read on.

Addiction, Recovery and College: Current Findings

A recent Wall Street Journal article exploring the growing population of college students who are in recovery reported several findings. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there has been a 141.3 percent increase between 1999-2009 of college students ages 18-24 checking into addiction recovery programs in the U.S. Additionally, research shows a growing trend of colleges providing support services and housing options for students in recovery. Harvard University, for example, has addressed drug and alcohol problems on campus head-on with a designated Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services. Harvard has also instituted preventative programming on campus and peer support services. Other colleges and universities that are providing special substance-abuse services include the University of Michigan, Texas Tech University, Kennesaw State University, and Boston College.

Freshmen: Heightened Risks

Entering college as a freshman brings massive life changes. Although increased independence is one perk that many young adults celebrate, leaving the familiar terrain of family and friends also creates challenges. Meeting higher academic standards, battling homesickness and managing new time pressures are among the many tests freshmen must pass along the way.

Many college newbies mishandle freedom, get swept up in the excitement of the party scene and kick academics to the curb with seeming impunity. Others crumble under the pressure. Research on this demographic explains one key variable that separates the two groups: Faith. While environment alone cannot trigger an addiction, a shaky spiritual foundation can lay the groundwork. Specifically, substance-abuse experts say that young adults who leave home at this crucial developmental stage are more likely to cope in unhealthy ways if they are also experiencing a significant and personally troubling crisis of belief.

Some degree of self-examination is healthy and normal, especially for people living away from home for the first time. Problems arise when teens and young adults grapple with issues that negatively impact their ability to find meaning and identity. Feelings of insecurity can make them more vulnerable to addictive behaviors from gambling to recreational drug use.

Sober Living Houses and Alternative Strategies

Since many colleges do not provide housing options for students in recovery, it is often up to the individual to explore his or her own alternatives. For some, sober living houses represent a wise, recovery-friendly choice. Some addicted college students cannot simply go through a rehab program and emerge with a realistic expectation of staying sober. They need a transitional phase chock full of continued support, counseling, education and other services to help them get to a strong, stable place in their sobriety.

Sober living programs provide a lower level of care and structure than transitional care. They may be located near colleges but are open to residents in all phases of life. While living there, residents typically receive a services ranging from ongoing professional guidance and education to career counseling and job-hunting help. Counseling and group therapy is also incorporated into most sober-living house structures.

Additional options to consider include the following:

  • Living in substance-free dorms
  • Renting an off-campus apartment with other sober peers
  • If required to live in a college dorm, requesting a sober roommate or roommate who respects sobriety
  • Living with family and commuting to college

If you are unsure of which step to take, use a recovery tool you already have: reach out for help. Connect with your campus counseling center about local and/or campus resources. You can also attend 12-Step support groups that cater specifically to young adults, or seek out professional help from an addiction therapist.

Help for Addiction

Recovering from addiction is difficult but you don’t have to do it alone. If you or a loved one in San Diego is struggling to overcome addiction, we are here to help. Admissions coordinators are available at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to guide you and your family to wellness. Please call today and take the first step.