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Recovery and College: 4 Tips to Help Teens Stay Sober

April 16, 2015

Recovery & College | Teen Treatment Center

Springtime is an exciting time for many high school seniors and their parents. Graduation is right around the corner, and many teenagers are anxiously making trips to the mailbox in hopes that their dream college has sent them an acceptance letter. 

However, the thought of sending your child to college may cause you to fret, especially if the teenager had a drug or alcohol problem in the past. It’s no secret that many young adults binge drink or experiment with illicit drugs during college. Even though there are temptations left and right in college, it is possible for teenagers to maintain their sobriety on campus. Here are four tips that can help your teen stay sober while they work on their degree.

1. Choose a College with a Recovery Program. 

Across the country, colleges and universities are recognizing the need to have services for students in recovery. Some of these colleges have developed recovery programs that provide students with invaluable support as they navigate through early recovery and adulthood. To find a college or university with a recovery community or program, check out the list of institutions that belong to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education

Another option for your teen is to attend a college that has a dry campus policy, such as Brigham Young University. At dry campuses, students are not allowed to consume beer or other alcoholic beverages on campus, even if they are of drinking age. 

Every year, The Princeton Review compiles a list of the “Top 20 Stone-Cold Sober Colleges”.  This list may be a good starting point for your teen is looking for a dry campus or one that doesn’t have an active party scene.

2. Choose a Substance-free Dorm. 

Due to distance, finances or other factors, it may not be possible for your teen to enroll in a college that has a  recovery program or a dry campus policy. Living in a substance-free dorm is also an option for your teenager. In these dorms, students are prohibited from having tobacco, alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia. These dormitories provide an extra level of support for students who wish to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Substance-free dorms, sometimes referred to as wellness dorms, can be found at campuses throughout the country, from Ivy League schools to large public universities all the way down to liberal arts colleges. 

Not every college student in a substance-free dorm is necessarily in recovery. Some of the students choose these dorms for religious reasons, while others may be looking for a quieter setting. Regardless of why the other students are living in a substance-free dorm, it gives your teenager the opportunity to be around like-minded people. 

3. Emphasize Health and Wellness

It’s easy to burn the candle at both ends in college. Between studying for classes, working and attending social events, your child can become run down. It is imperative that your teen stays healthy, both physically and mentally. 

Most colleges have a free on-campus gym, and your child should take advantage of this amenity. They can also stay in shape and meet other students by participating in intramural sports teams or taking physical education or dance classes. 

As for the mental health aspect, colleges typically have licensed mental health counselors available on campus. Your teenager should not be afraid to see a counselor if he/she is struggling with cravings, relationship issues, anxiety or feeling depressed. 

4. Encourage Volunteerism. 

Substance use disorders can cause individuals to act selfishly; even after treatment teenagers may feel guilty or shameful about their past actions. Recovery gives teens the opportunity to give back to the community, but it can also build their self-esteem and self-worth. 

Encourage your teenager to volunteer for charities or causes that are close to their heart; it doesn’t have to necessarily have to be recovery-related. They can build homes for Habitat for Humanity, pick up litter at the beach or hand out food at homeless shelters.

Volunteering also gives your loved one the opportunity to build a positive social network.  

Recovery and College Can Go Hand in Hand 

You may be apprehensive to send your teen away to college, but it is possible for teens with former substance abuse issues to thrive in college. A new school and a new town may help your teenager develop a fresh outlook on life. Recovery and college can go hand in hand. By following these suggestions, it can help your teen avoid triggers and stay on the right path. 

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