Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Helping college students cope with addictions
I love stories of second chances. While producing our weeklong series on alcoholism, I met many people whose lives were destroyed by alcohol, yet through humility and tenacity, they turned things around.

Samantha Wiegand is one of those people. The first thing you notice about Sam is her contagious smile. But there was a time when that smile was hard to come by.

Sam started drinking when she was in her early teens. She says she did it to fit in and that she wasn't able to function unless drunk or high. Her mom intervened and Sam went off to rehab. She's been sober since 16. But Sam was concerned out about how she would deal with her alcohol problem when she left home for college, where drinking is a major social activity for a lot of students.

Sam found out about an unusual program at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, called StepUp. This program supports college students dealing with drug and alcohol problems. They live in community with others in recovery and meet with counselors once a week. The program boasts an 83 percent success rate.

There are a handful of similar programs at other college campuses in the United States. But the experts we spoke with say more of these programs are desperately needed as more people go into recovery at an earlier age.

Roughly 430,000 teenagers enter rehab each year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Also, a 2002 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that 6 percent of college students meet criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, aka alcoholism, and 31 percent meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, or drinking too much.

As for Samantha, she is studying psychology and dreams of opening her own recovery center for teens.
Posted By Jennifer Pifer, CNN Senior Producer: 12:57 PM ET
  8 Comments
Best wishes to everyone struggling to overcome an addiction! And Good Luck to Samantha!!
Posted By Anonymous Kerri Quebodeaux, Orange, Texas : 3:21 PM ET
Anyone who recovers from alcoholism or drug addiction is extremely brave, and it must take a lot of strength for a teenager to admit they have a problem and get help. Both diseases run in my family and I watched several loved ones try and fail to beat them again and again. It is not any easy thing to overcome. We could certainly use more programs like StepUp around the country. I wish Samantha good luck and continued courage.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Baltimore, MD : 3:26 PM ET
Sympathies abound...but the root of addictive behaviors needs to be cut off if we are to cure the problem. There is excess in America: excess alcohol consumption, rampant immorality, pervasive drug use, etc. When we as a nation decide to fight these social ills and attack them where they begin, then we won't have to deal with the many "addictions" that plague our society. It is a sad day when we start becoming overly sympathetic towards people who willingly brought themselves into these situations. While we as a society are not to judge people for their behaviors, it seems that many want society to be responsible for helping people get out of the mess they put themselves in. This is totally unacceptable.
Posted By Anonymous JJ, Las Cruces,NM : 3:29 PM ET
It is great to hear that there are universities sponsoring such programs. I respect people who recognize the mistakes they made and earnestly seek the help and rehab they need. Such a program would help many students in this small college I live in.
Kudos to Samantha for staying on track.
Posted By Anonymous JP, Las Cruces, New Mexico : 3:30 PM ET
Alcoholics Anonymous and it's companion program, Al-Anon, treat the complete disease. Drinking is only part of this disease. An alcoholic can stop drinking, but the same demons are always there to return and destroy the alcoholic and everyone who loves him or her.

Working the 12 steps, with a sponsor, helps the alcoholic face the deepseated fears and inadequacies that alcohol seems to remedy. Individuals are given a new way to see and live their lives. The homes become more peaceful because the non-alcoholics are also given tools to manage their anger and frustrations. Both programs use the 12 steps and sponsorship to teach people how to live with and beyond this disease.

I am a grateful member of Al-Anon and have seen changes in our home that I never would have anticipated. I know that AA and Al-Anon are safe places for broken families and individuals ravaged by the disease of alcoholism.

I couldn't afford an expensive rehab for my child. I thought it was hopeless. When she became willing to go to AA, which I know is by the grace of God, it was free. She can call her sponsor at any hour for comfort or guidance. She has a group of people who have welcomed and loved her unconditionally. I have seen her grow into a person who cares about her life and others. Alcohol had almost destroyed her. At the time she was 23.

All my prayers and best wishes to Sam. She sounds like an extraordinary young lady. I am happy that there are ways to live beyond this hateful disease and there is hope for alcoholics and those that love them so much.
Posted By Anonymous ann, okc, ok : 4:05 PM ET
What a great resource StepUp is for young adults coping with alcoholism and addiction in college. Its hard for a young person to get and stay sober in the midst of social pressures such as drinking in college. I know, I am a recovering alcoholic, sober 9 years now, and I was 26 when I got sober. I, like Samantha, was 12 when I started drinking and using and went to my first AA meeting when I was 16. It took me a while to get finally get sober and a lot of it had to do with being so young (in my early 20's) while all of my so called "normal" friends frequented parties and clubs where there was an enormous amount of drinking (and other things) going on. After all, isnt that what young kids do?
I am so glad to hear that there is a resource such as StepUp along with other resources for recovering alcoholics and addicts and those struggling to get clean and sober.
AA has meetings that are specifically focused on young people. They are called "young people's" meetings.
I hope that any person in college who is struggling with drinking or using knows that there is help out there. I also hope that if there is a person reading this who is struggling with their drinking, whether young or old, there is help out there for you. You are NEVER too young or too old to get sober and live a life beyond your wildest dreams.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Los Angeles, CA : 5:15 PM ET
This would be a great program for alcohol producers/retailers to pay for. A small slice of cash from their college promotional budgets would easily cover it!
Posted By Anonymous Steve Wilson, Columbus, Ohio : 9:54 AM ET
We should also consider addictions to other behavior such as the need to hurt, the need to shoplift, the unability to get out of the sex selling market. All these things I'm sure people don't want to do but just unable to stop.
Posted By Anonymous John, Chapel Hill, North Carolina : 10:30 PM ET
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