5 Tips for Creating a Sober Lifestyle in College

If you are a college student questioning your relationship with drugs or alcohol, you may be wondering how sobriety is possible for young adults and students in an environment that seems overrun with drugs and alcohol.  Studies have shown that roughly 20% of college students drink at a level that qualifies as alcohol use disorder. Approximately 47% of students engage in binge drinking and roughly 41% report the use of illicit drugs. The partying culture of college life that often encourages binge drinking and drug use can be an especially stressful environment for a student in addiction recovery.  Returning to college after seeking treatment or deciding to continue to take classes while in a recovery program is risky and requires a great deal of discipline and accountability. Changing your environment is often one of the most necessary steps in beating addition, and for many college students that option isn’t always available. While there is no denying that college life is not the most conducive to recovery, there are some strategies available for individuals who wish to pursue their higher education while also maintaining their sobriety.

Create a Routine

Establishing a daily routine and sticking to it is helpful to anyone in recovery, but it can be particularly important for college students to fall into regular habits so that their life remains structured and balanced.  For example, you may want to plan to hit the gym every morning, study at the same time and place every afternoon, and relax in front of the television for an hour every evening. If you stick to your routine and stay busy, you will not only create effective time management skills, but you will never find yourself feeling impulsive due to boredom or restlessness.  Waking up early and having a healthy morning routine will also give you the added advantage of being alert and motivated in class, while some other students may be hungover and sleep deprived. It can help to write your daily schedule down in a planner a week in advance, and commit to sticking to the schedule no matter what. If you want to spend time with friends, you can schedule it in, but this way you won’t be available if someone you know offer a spontaneous drinking session.  

Make Sober Friends

The easiest way to find other people committed to sobriety is to attend support group meetings in your area.  While that can be a great way to find friends, it can feel limiting when you are in college and wanting to socialize with your peers.  You don’t necessarily have to find others in addiction recovery, however, to make friends that enjoy sober activities. Most people who live active lives or participate in sports tend to stay away from drugs and alcohol.  By taking up a new hobby like cycling or hiking, you are likely to meet other people who want to have fun without the substances. This way, you can establish a friendship without the pressure to use, and then tell them about your recovery whenever you feel comfortable.  

Stay Committed to the Process

Whether you are continuing school while participating in a recovery program, or returning to school after completing one, it is important to remember that your recovery journey has only just begun.  Reintegration into everyday life can be challenging for anyone in recovery after completing a program, but it is especially tricky when you are returning to an environment full of triggers and party culture.  Now is the time to double down on your commitment to the 12 steps and hold yourself accountable for your success. Continue to attend meetings, check in with your sponsor, and care for your mental health with therapy and medication, if needed.  

Find a Program that Caters to College Students

If you have not yet entered a recovery program, consider finding one that is specifically tailored to college students struggling with addiction.  These programs often partner with universities to find the best way to help students in recovery, and provide a home base of support and resources so that students have the best chance possible at beating addiction while also succeeding academically.  These programs may also help you to work with your school so that you can take a medical leave of absence or adjust your schedule in a way that supports your recovery.  

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself with Schoolwork

While it is important to stay busy and studious while going to college in recovery, it is also important to refrain from overloading your schedule and workload to your breaking point.  It is a tricky balance to find, but staying busy and motivated while also avoiding excess stress is the ideal middle ground that will best support your recovery. Recovery alone requires a lot of mental and emotional hard work, and becoming overwhelmed with schoolwork on top of managing your sobriety will only increase your likelihood of relapse. 


If you are struggling with addiction, now is the time to ask for help.  At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults build a life of sobriety while continuing the pursuit of educational goals.  Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lifelong recovery and wellness. For more information on how we can help, call us now at 972-962-7374.