How do I avoid drinking alcohol at college?

Campus life is a binge-drinking culture. Here's three ways to help you enjoy college and stay sober.

Guest post by Micah Robbins. 

Over 90 percent of alcohol consumed by people under the age of 21 is through “binge drinking” (the equivalent of four to five drinks in one two-hour period)*.

Not surprisingly, college campuses are where much of that underage drinking occurs. In fact, half of all college students who consume alcohol (four out of every five) binge drink*.

Despite its status as the biggest gateway drug and a steppingstone to alcoholism and other more serious addictions, alcohol is not the only substance abuse threat on university campuses. It is common knowledge that the college years are also a time when young people are generally more inclined to experiment with other drugs of abuse, from marijuana and “smart drugs” like Adderall to illicit drugs like cocaine and LSD.

Such realities pose a challenge to those who have compelling reasons to stay sober (such as a commitment to Christ or a personal or family history of addiction, for example). So, how can you enjoy college without drinking? Here's some tips for doing just that:

1. Join a Christian group and get help if you need it

Depending on where you're at, you might want to be part of a local 12-step group, local church and/or Christian college group. If you are in recovery for a past addiction, getting connected with a local support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) should be a first priority. Often student health services departments or campus life centers provide listings for various 12-step meetings in the area. Start there with the goal of developing a weekly attendance routine.

Christian associations like IFESCru, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which cater specifically to college students and have active, on-campus chapters all around the country, can also be fun and meaningful social outlets that don’t challenge your sobriety. Most universities, even very small private colleges, should have at least one of these groups operating on campus.

Getting involved in a Chrisitan group, local church, or young adult group hosted by your local church is a great way to build a support network, and enjoy activities that don't include alcohol (hikes, retreats, game nights etc).

2. Form friendships the revolve around 'healthy' activities

Be intentional about forming friendships that revolve around an activity other than alcohol. As intimidating as they are, the above statistics about college binge drinking don’t tell the whole story. The encouraging flip side is that one out of five college students don’t drink and another half of those who do drink, don’t binge drink.

In other words, there are still many college students whose social life does not revolve around drinking. Be intentional about forming friendships with this group of college peers. That may be as simple as getting involved in activities that you enjoy, whether it’s ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing or water polo, or taking part in a regular service project like building houses with Habitat for Humanity or tutoring low-income kids. 

3. Decide to live off-campus

Most binge drinking occurs on campus. The same probably holds true for recreational drug use. Living in an off-campus apartment, whether on your own or with one or two roommates who also don’t drink limits exposure to high-risk drinking situations and the pressure to drink or do drugs. Chances are that the amenities will also be better than what public dorm showers and cafeteria lines have to offer. 


Micah Robbins is a community substance use prevention leader and recovery and treatment advocate and proud part of the Beach House Center for Recovery team. His 23 years of experience in the field has seen him help several projects and organizations from Maine to South Florida. You will see him in the community with the Palm Beach Country Substance Awareness Coalition facilitating teen leadership development and advocating for the recovery community with the Recovery Awareness Partnership.

References:

1. Fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

2. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and other credible sources.

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