Returning to College in Recovery

Graduation

One of the best things about seeking professional treatment for a substance abuse problem is that you have a second chance at life. This may include starting your dream job, raising your family or returning to school. Each path has unique challenges. By being honest with yourself, you can develop strategies for dealing with the hurdles you may face.

Some recovering addicts return to college a year or two after treatment. (It’s not recommended to make major changes in the first year of recovery.) A higher education can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But, it can also put a recovering addict at risk for relapse.

Let’s start by reviewing the potential dangers of returning to college in recovery and the best ways to enjoy a sober life in this environment.

Potential Concerns

College students spend a lot of time socializing with others. Some of this socialization is encouraged through drugs and alcohol. For example, binge drinking is a problem on many college campuses. If a student is working on their recovery and surrounded by their peers who are drinking, using drugs and attending parties, they could be tempted to do the same.

Another concern is the stress that college can create in a young person’s life. This is a time of independence. Young people are learning how to juggle a schedule, care for themselves and balance sports, leisure, work and academics. This stress could very easily tempt a person to use again.

Finally, there is the social aspect of college. When students fit in and have lots of friends, their college experience is more positive. However, not everyone is good at making friends and interacting with others. For someone who is going through recovery and then having trouble connecting with others, they may have the urge to drink alcohol to come out of their shell.

Tips for Attending College in Recovery

Even though there are legitimate concerns over returning to college newly sober, this does not mean that a person has to put their plans on hold. It’s all about the individual, where they are in their recovery and what they are comfortable pursuing. Fortunately, those who are committed to their recoveries and their education have a number of resources available.

  • Check the school to see if there are groups on campus for recovering addicts

  • Choose friends who don’t use alcohol or drugs

  • Attend on-campus activities where drugs/alcohol won’t be

  • Practice stress-relieving techniques daily such as meditation, journaling or mindfulness

  • Attend 12-step groups to stay connected to your network

  • Have a recovery sponsor for one-on-one support

  • Maintain positive relationships with friends and family back home

Remember, it’s not recommended to make major changes in the first year of recovery. After this time, you can decide (with your sponsor and counselor) if returning to college is right for you.