Healthy Buffs: Supporting a friend

Making connections with others is an important part of the university experience. Drinking alcohol or using other drugs are sometimes seen as a vehicle for socializing*. It’s helpful to consider how these might impact the relationships we want to have.

Alcohol and other drugs modify our moods and our behavior. They can cause some people to feel less inhibited or to respond differently to social cues and situations. If we choose to use them, we’re going to feel different than we do when we are not under the influence, and we may do things we otherwise wouldn’t do. Whether it’s not thinking clearly or acting in ways that may be harmful to ourselves or others, there are sometimes adverse outcomes from substance use.

A student shares: Substance use and relationships

Sara**, a junior here at CU, knows firsthand how substances took a toll on her friendship and how that same friendship helped her to make a change in her life. When she was using alcohol and other drugs, she says, “I was really mean there for a couple months . . . My brain wasn’t functioning well, I wasn’t eating well, I wasn’t drinking water, I would snap at others and push them away . . . It wasn’t me.”

While she was using substances, she was erratic and not being the person she knew herself to be.

Checking in with a friend

Sara’s friend noticed these behaviors and recognized there might be a bigger problem.

Having her friend reach out helped Sara feel supported in making a change. She now feels healthier and more connected on a path of recovery. “It’s strengthened our relationship to have her there and supporting me the whole way,” she said.

Reflecting on how substance use impacts us and our relationships is a good way to explore whether there’s a problem. It can be helpful to think about actions in terms of values—do our friends’ actions align with the person we know they are? Does how we act align with who we want to be? How do we feel after an experience involving alcohol or other drugs? If the answers to these questions suggest that someone is living outside of their values, it might be a sign something needs to be addressed.

It’s also good to consider how often people may be using substances or if they have difficulty stopping. If someone’s plans seem to always revolve around using or getting alcohol or other drugs it might be time to explore the free support resources and opportunities for CU students.

Free resources and social options for students

For social opportunities that can help someone to make connections or explore interests that don’t involve substance use, check out the student organizations with the Center for Student Involvement, the Rec Center’s Outdoor Program or the CU SoberBuffs.

If you’d like to talk to someone about helping a friend or yourself with substance use, there are peer mentors, free support meetings and recovery coaches available through the CU Collegiate Recovery Center, located in UMC 102. Counselors are also available through Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) in multiple locations for guidance and support.

The Healthy Buffs series is brought to you by Wardenburg Health Services. Visit us online at www.colorado.edu/health.

*It is illegal to consume alcohol or marijuana under the age of 21, to use prescription drugs if you are not the prescription-holder, or to use other illegal substances.

**Name changed to protect privacy.