Recovering…In College

Recovering…In College

Recovering…In College


By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC

As summer marches on, it is getting close to the start of college- a time of anticipation for some students and temptation for others.  Much of the research and articles about college drinking and substance usage can paint a grim picture of the chances that college students will take alcohol problems seriously or that alcohol prevention programs can be effective.  A USA Today article “The Intoxicating Allure of Alcohol” by Sharon Jayson quotes college students making statements such as “I think everybody’s aim is to get drunk on the weekend”  This quote exemplifies the common belief system of college students who often surround themselves with peers who drink heavily.  However, there is a rising number of students who are seeking help in addressing their problem and even others who are in recovery.

An encouraging Wall Street Journal article “Campus Life 101: Staying Sober” by Kevin Helliker explores the growing population of college students who are in recovery.  This article reports that there is a growing trend of colleges who are providing support services and housing options for students in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction including: The University of Michigan, Rutgers University, Texas Tech University, Kennesaw State University in Georgia and Penn State University.  

Since many colleges do not provide housing options for students in recovery, it is important for them to explore alternatives when returning to school.  With the growing numbers of college students receiving treatment and returning to college with the intent to pursue a sober lifestyle, it is unfortunate that more colleges have not catered to this population.  

The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) Model of care is able to work with clients who are attending college and living either at home or even in a dorm or apartment.  These wrap-around services can accommodate the often inconsistent college student schedules and also allow clients to access both in person and remote services.  This client’s Care Team includes members such as Certified Recovery Advisors who may be more appealing for college- age students to interact with given their age, gender and lived experience match.  The IHAT Institute is currently training healthcare professionals to administer this rapidly growing model of care in over 7 states including CT, MA, NH, ME, RI, FL and IN.  

The following is a list of suggestion to support college students in maintaining recovery:

·       Research appropriate housing options:

o   Substance-free dorms

o   Renting an off-campus apartment with other sober or trusted peers

o   If having to live in a college dorm, being sure to have a sober roommate or roommate who respects sobriety

o   Local off-campus sober house, independent living  or transitional living program

o   Living with family and commuting to college (if that would be a safe environment)

·       Immediately connect to your campus Counseling Center in order to inquire about possible local and/or campus resources that may be helpful.  (ie, support groups, sober activities).  The IHAT Model can also collaborate with a therapist in a College Counseling Center. 

·       Locate and attend mutual-help groups on or near campus (ie, A.A., SMART Recovery).  Specifically, A.A. has “Young People’s” meetings that that are listed in meeting list books and online with a “YP” abbreviation

·       Make self-care a priority (ie, regular and healthy nutrition, sleep hygiene, exercise)

·       Find ways to manage stress in a healthy manner

·       Engage in spiritual practice if helpful for recovery (ie, meditation, prayer)

·       Get involved in extra-curricular activities that may allow for making connections with students who have interests beyond drinking

·       Find balance—be sure not to overbook academic, extra-curricular or social commitments

·       Consider attending an “Alternative Spring Break” service trip either offered through the college or another organizations 

·       Commit to community service activities through the college or in the local area, which may lead to meeting others living a healthy lifestyle

·       Explore new activities to engage in with friends who may not be sober (ie, got to coffee, grab lunch, go to the movies)

·       Be proactive and reach out to the office that handles student activity planning and start a club or programming for students in recovery



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