Sober Dorms

Many colleges and universities have specific rules regarding the use and abuse of substances among students. In most cases, according to research published in the Journal of American College Health, the rules stress adherence to local laws. Often, this means students younger than 21 years are told not to drink at all, while students of any age are told not to use illicit substances.

Rules like this are designed to keep students safe while they’re in school, so they can finish their educations in a timely manner without losing their lives in the process. However, there are times when young people simply don’t follow the rules they’re given. For example, the University of Kentucky provides students with a “dry” campus, meaning that no alcohol should be allowed at all, but a student survey found that 75 percent of underage students at this school drank regularly. Sometimes, providing more sets of rules, and asking students to participate in the enforcement of those rules, can help to ensure that the actions of the few don’t disturb the sobriety levels of the majority. Sober dorms are one way to accomplish this goal.

What They Are, and Are Not

sober dormsSober dorms provide a living space in which no alcohol or drugs are allowed. In some dorms, proctors conduct periodic searches for contraband, and those students who are found with banned substances are asked to move to different facilities. In other dorms, peer supervisors and residents are asked to monitor peer behavior, and speak out if they see something illicit taking place. Getting caught in a dorm like this could lead to disaster, as some schools will expel students for drinking or taking drugs, but getting caught could also allow students to really examine their behavior regarding substances of abuse, and they might get help instead of avoiding the issue.

Students who participate in a sober dorm might find the experience helpful, but it shouldn’t be considered the right kind of environment for all students. In fact, students in the recovery process from an addiction might not obtain enough help through living in a sober dorm.

In a profile article discussing addiction on college campuses, published in the New York Times, authors suggest that students in recovery can sometimes enroll in recovery dorms, in which they’re provided with:

  • Substance-free recreational activities
  • House meetings

This is an intensive form of therapy for people in recovery, and it’s slightly different than the environment provided in a sober dorm. While people in a recovery college have access to help for their addictions, people in sober dorms are just provided with an environment in which addictive substances aren’t allowed. For some, this could be enough help, as they won’t be subject to the pressure to use and abuse. For others, more intense help is really needed in order to prevent a relapse.

the benefitsBenefits of Sober Dorms

As mentioned, sober dorms can provide students with living spaces that are free of alcohol and drugs. This could be a boon to students who are in recovery and who don’t want to step over cans of beer or stubbed out marijuana cigarettes when they walk into their rooms, but it can also be beneficial to those who have addictions running in their families, and who don’t want to develop an addiction of their own. As students profiled in the Los Angeles Times suggested, living in a standard dorm as a sober person often means helping drunk roommates into the building or fanning cigarette smoke away from the windows, as well as constantly rejecting offers of drugs and alcohol. It can be tiresome for serious students, or those who just don’t want to experiment at this stage in their lives, and sober dorms can provide an escape.

Living in a dorm like this can also help students to feel less awkward and out of place due to their sobriety, as they’ll have a group of peers who also choose to stay sober. This could be vital, as a study in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography suggests that sober students are often stigmatized for their choices.

These students may go through all sorts of devious steps in order to fit in, including:

  • Buying drinking props
  • Lying about their drinking
  • Concealing the fact that they don’t drink
  • Surrendering to drinking

These sorts of steps may not be required of students who live in sober dorms. They may not have to lie about their drinking or drug use, as other students likely support their choices. They won’t need to bring cups of fake booze to parties, as they won’t go to these parties in the first place. They can live their lives in the open, and focus on their studies, instead of succumbing to peer pressure.

Making a Choice

People in recovery from an addiction need a clean and sober place to live when they’re in school, so they can focus and learn instead of fighting their compulsions 24 hours per day. For some, a sober dorm provides that opportunity, and they augment their stay by visiting their addiction counselor and attending support group meetings. Sober dorms can also be excellent options for students who don’t have addictions now, but who think they might develop them in the future. The protected environment may keep them safe from casual experimentation, and the friends they make here may help them to realize the value of staying sober and having fun while keeping a clear head. Those with advanced cases of addiction, however, may need more than a simple sober living space. These students might be wise to look for recovery colleges or dorms, which provide a little more addiction treatment support and guidance, as they may feel the need to relapse in a sober dorm.

Parsing all of the sober living options available isn’t easy, and it’s common for families of addicted people to feel confused and unsure about what program might be right for the person they love. If you’d like to know more about your sober options, and find out more about how to make the right choice, please call us. We have operators who would be happy to answer all of your addiction-recovery questions.