How To Do Greek Life If You’re Sober
It’s not just a stereotype that men and women in fraternities drink more than their non-Greek counterparts.
Half of all men who participate in Greek life develop the signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) by age 35. Nearly all of them have binge drinking behaviors that continue through midlife.
Depending on your school, Greek life could be synonymous with binge drinking. Yet the social and employment benefits of Greek life are undeniable.
How do you balance those benefits with the social pressure to drink?
It sounds like fraternities and sororities are a challenging place to be in recovery, and that’s true. If you’re living a sober life, you may feel like you can’t possibly fit in with your Greek brothers and sisters.
It will take more work to make Greek life work for you, and ultimately, some people in recovery decide that a fraternity isn’t right for them. But many people in recovery do find a way to make Greek life work for them, especially if they’re on a dry campus that’s accepting of an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Learn the Low-Down on Each Fraternity or Sorority
The average college houses a lot of different fraternities, so it can be hard to find one that’s recovery-friendly.
However, more fraternities are enforcing alcohol-free housing, including:
- Beta Theta Pi
- Phi Delta Theta
- Sigma Phi Epsilon
- Delta Upsilon
In particular, Phi Delta Theta has an 18-year alcohol-free housing history. PDT was one of the first organizations to recognize that alcohol was having a severe impact on Greek students, and also one of the first to take action to stop that impact.
Today, Phi Delta Theta is still known as one of the most recovery-friendly Greek organizations on American campuses.
Learn more about the fraternities on your campus that offer alcohol-free housing. Simply knowing that alcohol isn’t an accepted part of your living quarters can ease your mind and aid your recovery.
Talk to Greek Peers to Hear What it’s Really Like
If you haven’t pledged yet, you’re probably an underclassman, which means that come pledge week; you’ll be a hot commodity.
Take advantage of that by asking Greek upper-level students about their experiences. They’ll be excited to tell you about their organizations and what to expect.
Be prepared to ask questions such as:
- What are parties like?
- Is hazing part of pledging?
- Do you drink in your frat house?
- Are off-campus parties common?
- Is there anyone in recovery in this house?
You should also ask logistical questions, such as:
- What happens if my grades (or recovery) slip and I need to step back from Greek responsibilities?
- Are off-campus parties and events mandatory? (If so, are they dry?)
The answers to these questions can give you a sense of how good the fit may be. If you sense that drinking is a normal and accepted part of life here, then it may not be the right fit for you.
Talk to Non-Greek Peers for an Unbiased Perspective
At the same time, don’t get all of your information from Greek students. Talk to your peers who didn’t pledge to get a full picture.
Sometimes Greek participants may avoid giving you the full picture in the spirit of recruitment. If they want you badly enough, they might give you the answers you want to hear just to get you on board.
You can avoid any misinformation by asking your upper-class peers what they’ve noticed about Greek communities on campus.
Ask which Greek houses are the most notorious for drinking, and which ones are the most sober-friendly. You can also ask about the social scene. Hearing what parties are like will give you a picture of whether it’s a good fit.
Focus on Networking, Leadership, and Service
Once you’ve chosen a Greek community and pledged, it’s time for the hard work to begin. Even the most sober-friendly Greek houses will have the occasional temptation, so you must focus on networking, leadership, and service to keep you grounded in Greek life.
This focus will keep you reminded why you’re a part of Greek life to begin with. There’s a reason that you wanted to pledge even though you knew it would be hard in recovery. Remind yourself of that reason and throw yourself into the activities that remind you.
That means participating in important Greek events like:
- Alumni career networking
- Leadership seminars
- Community service trips
In addition to serving as a reminder, these activities also give you structure and self-development. Both of these are important in recovery, especially in a place like college that can be full of triggers.
Put Your Recovery Before Greek Life
Did you know that a single university costs the local emergency room over $500,000 a year in alcohol-related emergency treatment?
That’s not all. Every year, undergrad college students are involved in:
- 600,000 accidental injuries related to alcohol
- 700,000 sexual assaults by another student who was drinking
- 97,000 sexual assaults by someone else who wasn’t drinking (but the victim was)
- 1,500 alcohol-related deaths, including alcohol poisoning and multi-drug overdoses involving alcohol
Alcohol costs colleges and Greek organizations a lot of lives. Recovery is serious, and college isn’t an easy place to deal with it.
Many students in recovery are able to handle Greek life, but there’s no shame in realizing that you can’t (or that you chose the wrong organization).
While it’s important to continue your education, make sure to know your boundaries and put your recovery before your Greek experience.
- Greek life membership associated with binge drinking and marijuana use in later life
- Differences in College Greek Members’ Binge Drinking Behaviors: A Dry/Wet House Comparison
- Study explores the relationship between drinking and fraternities
- Alcohol Use in the Greek System, 1999–2009: A Decade of Progress
- Heavy Drinking in College Students: Who Is at Risk and What Is Being Done About It?
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