Stone-cold sober on game day? It really happens

Ariel Britt, left, and Hannah Miller are active in Students for Recovery at the University of Michigan. The group coordinates sober social functions on days when heavy drinking tempts students, such as football game days, St. Patrick's Day and Halloween. (Bridge photo by Nancy Derringer)

When the subject of campus drinking comes up, university officials at schools all over Michigan make sure to point out that thousands of students on their campuses don’t drink at all.

The teetotalers can be overlooked in the raucous party scene that can overtake the campus, particularly during football season. But they are out there. Their reasons for abstaining range from religious to personal preference to recovery. And in a season of high-profile on-campus partying, some University of Michigan students flew the sobriety flag from a plum tailgating spot just outside Michigan Stadium – the personal parking space of U-M Regent Mark Bernstein.

“They can use it,” Bernstein said. “I can walk.”

Students for Recovery isn’t interested in discouraging people from drinking, but offering alternatives, said Ariel Britt, the group’s social media chair. The group offers students counter-programs during times of heavy drinking like St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, such as “sober skating” at Yost Ice Arena and other informal hangouts.

While it’s not common for college-age students to have problems with addiction, it’s far from unheard-of, said Hannah Miller, a group member.

“Young people are using a lot earlier,” Miller said. “Then they realize they have a problem earlier than before. They go off to college, and consequences start to happen earlier.”

Michigan State’s first sober tailgate was this Saturday before the Central Michigan University football game. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and root beer were served outside the Olin Health Center, bordering Grand River Avenue.

There will be similar sober tailgates sponsored by the university at other home football games this fall, but the schedule is not set.

MSU’s Collegiate Recovery Program is small but growing, said program coordinator Emily Young. The first meeting of the new school year drew 15 students.

“Holidays and game days typically can be hard for students in recovery,” Young said. “Last year we had a Halloween party and a party on St. Patrick’s Day in the Student Union.”

For more information on the Michigan State Collegiate Recovery program, call 517-353-5564. Students for Recovery at the University of Michigan can be contacted through its Facebook page.

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