Tips on Maintaining Sobriety in College

Young female student sitting near a tree and studying.

Contributor: Marissa Hatcher, MSW, CADC, Timberline Knolls Addictions Program Coordinator

Whether you just discharged from addiction treatment or have been sober for some time, stepping back into the world of academia can seem rather daunting especially when maintaining sobriety on campus.

For someone in recovery, going to school may not seem to be an option due to the environment outside of the classroom. Yet, when bringing along some of the favored aspects of treatment back to school with you, the experience may be more conducive to your recovery.

In my line of work, when discussing a return to school with my clients, I often bring up three important areas of remaining sober on campus. The three aspects are structure, (sober) fun and accountability.

Building Structure in Addiction Recovery

College girl maintaining sobriety on campus

The first aspect of maintaining sobriety on campus is structure. Structure is important in maintaining sobriety, especially when returning to school.

The demands of daily tasks may become overwhelming and being able to visualize where each task fits into the weekly schedule can help to eliminate extra stress.

A helpful tool to provide structure is to write out a weekly schedule.

The schedule should be very detailed, and information may include the following:

  • Wake up and go to bed (being aware of how many hours of sleep)
  • Hygiene (morning/evening or both)
  • Classes (block out from beginning to end)
  • Study time (maintaining grades helps boost self-confidence)
  • Meetings (AA, NA, etc.)
  • Counseling/treatment/doctor appointments
  • Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)
  • Personal time (free time for fun/relaxation)

Finding the Fun in Sobriety

The second aspect is sober fun. Sober fun is important in remaining sober because it can be a way to relieve stress, find new interests and one’s sober self.

Certain activities may be more difficult than others, especially if the activity was during times of drug use.

Please note that activities may vary depending on the location of the school. Some ideas may include the following:

  • Bowling
  • Hiking
  • Volunteering
  • Campus clubs
  • Movies
  • The zoo
  • Explore the town
  • College athletics

Accountability for Relapse Prevention

The third aspect is accountability. Accountability is important in maintaining sobriety on campus; many times when someone relapses, it is due to the lack of extra support.

A helpful way to hold yourself accountable is by seeking continued services. Not only are you holding yourself accountable by making and keeping the appointments, but also relating those services to your recovery.

Some ideas include the following:

  • Find support meetings near campus
  • Find a counselor/therapist on or near campus
  • Keep in contact with a sponsor/work the steps
  • Maintain doctor appointments when sick
  • Connect with sober friends and family

Woman sitting watching the sunset Maintaining Sobriety On CampusSome final thoughts. College can be some of the most memorable years of your life. It would be a shame not to remember those precious moments.

While maintaining sobriety on campus, it is important to remember to take one day at a time, as it is a small piece to the big picture of your future.

And when that day comes that you put on your cap and gown and walk across the stage to receive your diploma, you will have proven to yourself that you can achieve any goal that you desire.

Thank you to Timberline Knolls for providing this article.

Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) is also available in nearby Orland Park, Ill., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 630-755-5173. We are also on Facebook – Timberline Knolls, LinkedIn – Timberline Knolls and Twitter – @TimberlineToday.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 1, 2017
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 11, 2021
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.