At Kennesaw State University, the Center for Young Adult Addiction Recovery helps students navigate college life while recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
Kyra, Gabriel, Morgan, James and Harrison share their struggles and successes with sobriety in college. We are not revealing their last names because several asked to use first names only, so we made the choice to do that for all of the students we interviewed.
I've been sober for a little over three years.
In the beginning, when I first got to college, I thought that it was going to be totally different. I thought there was going to be a lot more peer pressure of using and drinking because that's the normal culture, right? Everybody goes to college and they just leave their parents and it's like, ‘I'm finally out!’
People don't really care. The majority of people in college are not even doing the things that we think they're doing.
I go into freshman seminars and go teach freshman about drugs and alcohol. We do this research and this survey of ‘How much do you actually drink?’ and ‘How much do you think your peers are drinking?’ And it's a significant difference. Most college students drink maybe one drink a week—if—and that's just one drink.
I have been sober for a little over three years.
Being sober and in college, for the most part, has been great. It's not what I expected.
When I first came back to school, I felt like a fish out of water. I felt so different. Like, ‘Oh, god, I'm not going to fit in. I'm not going to make friends. Everyone probably drinks.’ That's the idea I had in my head. And that's kind of been smashed.
For the most part, people don't care. It's not something that comes up in conversation. And when it finally does, it's just not an issue.
When I first got sober, I was six months from graduating high school. So, when I came to college, I came with my ‘using’ friends from high school. They weren't really convinced that I was going to stay sober. And so we ended up coming to Kennesaw together, and that was probably the most difficult for me, because they held me to an expectation of who I used to be. That was really the only group of people that I felt ‘shunned’ from.
But, outside of that, I never really felt like somebody was judging me for not drinking or not using. I didn't have somebody try and peer pressure me into drinking when I said, ‘No I'm not drinking.’ It was primarily just that group.
I've been sober for a little over a year and a half.
It's become a lot more available to meet people that are sober that are going to college. You really become aware of how abnormal your drinking is when you start to meet people in college who don't drink or use like that. I've met several people at this university that never drank, they never used, they're completely abstinent—and they're completely happy—which was a shock to me.
I thought that my lifestyle and the lifestyle of the other people around was the only normal one. It was the only thing that made any sense. I saw other people that were going to school and were completely sober—I saw it as just absolutely bizarre to me.
I got sober in May of 2016.
I went to my first concert sober before all the people that I was around knew that I was trying to clean myself up. A guy that I used to be really good friends with said, ‘Oh, why don't you just moderate?’ I was like, ‘Man, you don't think that I thought that?’
There's not really ever any pushback. Most of the time it is a three second long conversation. Most of the time it's some guy trying to pour wine in a glass at dinner when I'm out with my girlfriend and I say, No, thank you.’ And that's it.
Life gets so much better and you can end up being so much happier than you've ever had any experience with if you just do it honestly.