My academic pursuits were one of the things that I had to abandon (or at least put on hold) when I reached my rock bottom of addictive behavior and decided to go to treatment for help. In my active addiction and alcoholism, I was unable to function, much less keep up with course work or regularly attend class. Once I finished treatment and moved on to being sober in “the real world” it was time to consider what I wanted to do with my life. Now that I had a chance to live, I had goals and dreams. One of those goals was going back to college and getting my degree. However, in sobriety, this process came with some unique challenges. My experience of re-enrolling in college taught me some good tips and coping mechanisms for preparing for any major life change in recovery.
Confronting Fear About Going Back to College
One of the biggest challenges associated with going back to college in sobriety came from internal fear. During active addiction and alcoholism, isolation, manipulation, and secrecy are commonly used as survival mechanisms. But when I got sober, what this meant was that I was not used to being honest and having authentic relationships. Going back to college scared me- I wasn’t sure that I was disciplined enough to do it. I was also worried that no school would accept me after I failed a few classes due to my addiction and inability to be a good student. Finally, I was worried that years of drug and alcohol use had damaged my brain too much- that I wasn’t capable of doing the academic work.
Combined with the fact that I wasn’t used to having open, honest relationships in which I could be vulnerable, it was hard to talk about my fears regarding going back to college. I ended up waiting for a full year longer than I planned to because I let fear hold me back and I didn’t talk to anyone about it.
Returning to School
I eventually overcame my fear of going back to college after rehab by swallowing my pride and talking to some sober supports. I learned that a lot of people in my support network, including my sponsor, had gone back to school in sobriety. Through talking with them and learning from their mistakes and successes, I got a lot of great advice about going back to college. Through my own experience, I learned what works for me and my recovery- everything from good study methods to how to avoid temptation from fellow classmates.
Tips for Sober Success
The process of going back to school after rehab, living in a halfway house, and fighting to get sober was long and difficult, but ultimately it was worth it. Today I am happily working toward my degree in a field that I enjoy. Some of the important things I learned about going back to school in sobriety include:
- It’s best to take it slow. Starting with one or two classes, rather than a full-time courseload, allowed me to adjust to being a student again and still maintain my recovery program. It helped me to learn balance and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
- Ease up on the pressure! I felt that I was lagging behind my peers, and oftentimes I was hard on myself about how long it was taking me to finish school. But reminding myself that I took a different path and that it landed me right where I needed to be helped me to ease up on the comparisons.
- Get involved on campus! There are so many parts of college life that I missed out on in my active addiction. One of the gifts of sobriety and going back to college is the opportunity to explore new interests. Many campuses even have student groups for people in recovery from addiction. This is a great way to make new friends and to have a source of sober support on campus.
One of the hard parts of going back to college was letting go of my idea of “the college experience”- no more frat parties for me. But what I found is that my experience of being a student in sobriety is that I get better grades, actually enjoy my classes and that I have more fun participating in campus life than I ever did by blacking out every night. Going back to college was hard, but it was also one of the greatest gifts that sobriety gave me.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
Many young people, especially of college-age, end up getting caught in addictive behavior. Binge drinking and casual drug use can turn into destructive habits. In order to break free of addiction and alcoholism, many young people end up needing treatment. For information on addiction treatment in San Jose, call Wellness Retreat Recovery today at 888-821-0238.