Staying Sober as a Pennsylvania College Student: How to Escape Relapse Risks

Being in recovery is hard. But being a college student who has been struggling with addiction in the past can be excruciating. Many studies show that nearly half of all college students meet the criteria for at least one substance use disorder, which tells that drug and alcohol use is quite common among young adults. Thus, staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student is going to be difficult – but not impossible. If you are careful and serious about staying on the right path, you can escape all relapse risks and remain sober for years to come. Besides, college can be fun even without experimenting with drugs and alcohol. And we here at Little Creek Recovery will show you how to keep your sobriety – without giving up on fun in the process.

Why is college a great risk for teens and young adults in recovery?

Let’s face it – when talking about college, one of the very first things you think about are college parties and sororities/fraternities. While that kind of lifestyle is great for enjoying your youth, it presents a huge challenge for one particular group of people – those in recovery. Such parties are filled with alcoholic beverages and, sometimes, drugs. Make no mistake – we are in no way making a generalized statement, as there can be parties where none of the substances will be present. But the truth is that teens and young adults in recovery can’t take that risk.

People having a party in an outdoor setting.
A big part of college life is all the fun that is to be had. Just make sure it’s sober fun.

Secondly, college life is characterized by a lot of sleepless nights, sometimes bad nutrition, and stress about upcoming exams. While you should always dedicate your time to studying as it’s going to shape your future, you shouldn’t let the stress of such life overpower you. It’s a known fact that stress is one of the leading causes of many diseases. It just so happens that it also has a huge influence on addiction. Many people (especially young adults) resort to substances once they lose control over their stress levels. So what can be done to make college a safe process for those in recovery? The good news is that there are plenty of actions one can take to make it easier for themselves to go through these complex yet beautiful years.

Staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student 101

Many US teens can’t wait to start preparing for college. The years one spends enrolled in a university of their choice should be among the best experiences in one’s life. However, when it comes to recovering addicts, the time spent in college can be a time of great challenges. With relapse risks being all around you, you will have to be wise and act carefully. Not to worry – you don’t have to give in to your drug or alcohol addiction in PA once again. Here are some straightforward actions you can take to avoid relapsing.

Start by finding sober friends

We won’t say that the people who surround you will be directly responsible for your success or eventual relapse – but they will definitely have a very important role in your journey. If you are constantly surrounded by people who like to drink and do drugs on a frequent basis, then you will find it very hard to resist temptation. It’s very likely that your heroin addiction in PA will kick in once again, and you will be left standing to deal with the consequences. Thus, we suggest you start by finding a good group of friends who will be supportive.

A black and white picture of people at a party.
With sober and supportive friends, you might even be able to get away with some parties without giving in to temptation.

Now here comes the hard part – there’s not one definitive place where you can meet people who fit this description. We don’t believe in the stereotype that such people can be met in places such as the library or a bookstore. Now, it would be perfect if you could befriend another college student who is in recovery and who has just finished Outpatient rehab in PA. But if that’s not possible, search for those people who support your recovery and wish to see you well. That probably doesn’t include going out every night and peer pressuring you into drinking or doing drugs.

Be mindful of your living arrangements

Have you just gotten out of a Men’s residential program in Pennsylvania? Then you are used to living around people who are going through the same thing as you are. They had the need and desire for the same things as you did, so it was easy to avoid any potential mishaps. However, once you transition from a rehab facility into a dorm room, things are bound to get a little tricky. Apart from your social group, your roommate is the person who will have a lot of influence on your life. That’s why staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student is next to impossible when you are living with someone who isn’t supportive of your journey.

Truth be told, if your roommate wants to throw parties or smoke in your living area, you are going to find it difficult to stay sober and keep yourself far away from any substances. It’s important to mention that some colleges have sober living dorms, so it would be the best idea if you could get one of those. If you can’t, then see whether you can live at home or with a supportive family member that is living close to campus. Keep in mind that you could also look into sober housing options in your area, with our Shane’s House in PA being a suitable choice. This will be the perfect stop on your way to transitioning from rehab into society.

A hallway in a dorm.
College dorms can be the place where you will create the best memories – but they can also be risky for those in recovery.

Avoiding your triggers is key to staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student

Whether you have been suffering from alcohol or cocaine addiction in PA, you are going to have certain triggers which, when present, might trick you into going back to your old ways. Keep in mind that every person has their own triggers and they can be anything. For some people, what triggers them the most is being in an environment that isn’t suitable for sober fun. In other words, there’s a lot of alcohol and/or drugs around. For other people, it’s stress that seems to be the biggest trigger of them all. The first thing you need to do is identify what it is that triggers you – and then do your best to stay away from it.

Now, we have to admit that this might be hard and, at times, impossible. After all, it’s not very likely that you will never again be in the presence of alcohol or prescription drugs. That’s why it’s equally important to learn some healthy coping mechanisms that will allow you to stay strong and act right once the challenges present themselves. Now, when it comes to developing healthy coping mechanisms, it might be best to work with a professional in order to achieve it. If you have stayed inside a rehab facility during your recovery, then chances are good that you have already acquired some of these skills. Most rehab facilities rely on activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and similar techniques to help clear your mind and prepare you for the challenges that are to come.

Occupy yourself to help you stay sober

As much as having plenty of free time sounds good, it actually isn’t such a great thing when in recovery. Having plenty of free time will provide you with more opportunities to think about your addiction and all the temptation associated with it. On the other hand, being constantly busy will give you more things to do and less time to think about your marijuana addiction in PA. We don’t want you to think of this as finding distractions, because that’s not what we suggest you do. What we are suggesting is that you find some healthy things to do that will occupy your time and mind.

A man playing an instrument as a way of staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student.
Learning how to play an instrument is one of those activities that will be useful in more ways than one.

Think of this as a great investment in yourself. These activities can be very useful, and you can learn many new skills, such as cooking, playing an instrument, or speaking a new language. Besides, since you are a college student in Pennsylvania, you will already have to dedicate plenty of time to your studies. But it would be prudent if you could find an additional hobby or class that you can take.

Make no mistake – you are certainly allowed to have fun and freedom. Recovery doesn’t just entail spending time in therapy and talking about your addiction. It also includes having fun – as long as it’s sober fun. With the right company and the right mindset, you can definitely have as much fun as you want without hindering your progress in the process.

Working on stress management is essential for staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student

Stress is one of the leading culprits why many people fall into addiction. Not everyone knows how to deal with stressful situations in the right way. Some people will completely lose touch with reality and resort to drugs and alcohol. Now, unfortunately, stress is a mandatory part of life. It can be particularly present when a person is attending college and/or school. This entails exams, finals, and late-night study sessions, all of which will bring plenty of stressful moments. To avoid relapsing and putting an end to your sobriety, it would be good to work on stress management.

Make no mistake – it’s almost a fact that you will have to experience some stress but how you respond to it is what matters. If you have attended a partial hospitalization program in PA before going off to college, then you have most likely acquired some healthy coping mechanisms. If you haven’t, now is the perfect time to dedicate yourself to it. The best way to manage your stress levels is by immersing yourself in activities that help you relax and unwind. What those activities will be is something that depends on you. For some people, that’s meditation. For others, it’s a session at the gym. Find what it is that soothes you and give all of your time and energy to it.

A girl biting a pen in front of a laptop.
As a college student, you have to study – but you don’t have to stress out about it.

Work on your grades

We can only assume that the number one reason why you have decided to go to college in the first place is to get good grades and get ahead in life. After all, that’s the right way to approach your college days, as these years should be more than mindless partying. That’s why we support everyone who decides to dedicate their time and energy to studying and getting good grades. Achieving success in college is going to do wonders for your mental health and well-being. But studying is going to do one more thing – keep you busy.

If you spend most of your time studying, you are not going to have the time to engage in some activities that will be detrimental to your recovery. You will also have less time, in general, to think about your addiction and your substance of choice. If your mind is preoccupied with thoughts about academic success, there will be less room for thinking about how much you might be missing drugs and alcohol. In our book, that constitutes a win-win situation.

Stay active

Being physically active is, undoubtedly, important for every person. The effects of regular physical activity have been greatly studied, and it has been shown that they can positively impact both your physical and mental health. How you choose to go about it isn’t what matters. Whether you want to lift heavy weights or do pilates, we believe that the best form of activity is the one that feels the best for you. That’s why we encourage you to find some form of exercise that excites you and feels pleasant. However, we would say that if you want to stay sober as a Pennsylvania college student, it is of utmost importance to stay active and in shape.

A girl running, trying to stay sober as a Pennsylvania college student.
You don’t have to overexert yourself just to reap the benefits that come with regular physical activity.

Physical activity produces endorphins. When you are happy, you are much less likely to give in to the temptation to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Endorphins will do just that – they will help you feel good. Now, don’t get us wrong – we’re not saying that people who are happy are immune to addiction. But it’s a fact that you have better chances for long-term sobriety when you are in a good state of mind.

Besides, we get to the benefit called the lack of time once again. By spending your time on physical activity, you are going to be less likely to spend your time on things that can be detrimental to your health. And yes, we are referring to drugs and alcohol here. The key to staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student is to constantly keep yourself busy – but with good activities.

Understand the importance of saying NO

Unfortunately, many teens and young people will start struggling with addiction due to peer pressure. After all, if everyone around you is experimenting with substances and you want to feel a part of the crowd, then what else are you supposed to do but join them? We understand that human beings have that need to belong somewhere. However, you need to learn how to draw the line and simply learn how to say NO. Some things are more important than that sense of belonging – your health being one of them.

Now, saying that you should learn the importance of the word NO is easier said than done. That’s why it would be a good idea to bring a sober friend every time that you know you will be in a critical situation. If you know that you have to go to an event where alcohol will be present, then make sure your friend doesn’t leave your side. They can be your shield against peer pressure, at least for the time being.

Two friends hugging.
Having a supportive friend is going to be imperative for staying sober as a college student in Pennsylvania.

Of course, you will also have to be by yourself in certain situations. That’s why you can’t rely solely on others to get you out of messy situations. Instead, take a look at how far you have come. Do you really want to hinder your recovery because of someone else pressuring you? Then try to put the entire situation in perspective before giving in to pressure.

Be proactive about your recovery

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that recovery takes constant work. The main mistake people make is thinking that their efforts can officially be over once they leave a treatment facility. In reality, addiction requires non-stop work and attention, because all it takes is one small slip-up to ruin your entire progress. That’s why we suggest that you make sobriety your number one priority.

What have you been doing thus far to aid your recovery? Did it involve weekly therapy sessions, either individually or in groups? Did you attend AA meetings or frequent Narcotics Anonymous? Or did you find solace in frequent talks with a good friend or a trusted family member? Whatever it is that has been helping you up until now is something that you should keep on doing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that recovery should be your excuse not to dedicate sufficient time to your academic achievements. But it does mean that you should find the perfect balance between the two. And let’s be honest – you will also have to include some pleasant (but sober) activities into the mix. Hey, life can’t be all work and no fun.

Sober fun is the secret to staying sober as a student

Finding a way to dedicate your time to your studies while still having a rich social life is imperative. Humans are social beings, and we thrive best when surrounded by a community that appreciates and supports us. Besides, most hobbies and outings are going to need other participants, so it would be good to find like-minded people during your university years. However, you should keep in mind that not every person will be conducive to your recovery. While it’s important for normal people to pick their friends wisely, this is even more imperative for people with addiction. Such people need to find individuals who will not have a bad influence on them and who will support their sobriety. Insert sober fun here.

A group of friends.
Having friends who will keep you company and participate with you in healthy activities is priceless.

Sober fun is going to be your way to unwind and spend time in a social setting. That’s going to keep you mentally healthy and help you avoid all the risks of addiction that come with a bad state of mind. Thus, we suggest that you make finding sober friends and activities one of your main goals during your years in university. And, please, never lose sight of the fact that staying sober as a Pennsylvania college student is absolutely possible and doable. You just have to be strong enough to give in to peer pressure, which you can do with some healthy coping skills and mechanisms. If you’ve gone into rehab, you already possess them. If you haven’t, you can learn them. Or you can always contact us. We’ll be more than happy to help.

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