Back to School

Going Back To School In Sobriety

Addictions are all encompassing. When we are active in our addictions, many of us find it hard to manage other areas of our life. And for young people with addictions, that often translates to school.

Use of substances, especially alcohol, has come to be viewed as a “normal” part of the college experience. According to a 2012 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 80% of college students drink alcohol, with 40% reporting binge drinking. For students that are at a high risk for developing addiction or are already struggling with substance abuse issues, the regularity, availability and acceptance of drinking and illegal substances in the college culture can lead to a number of negative consequences.

One of these negative consequences is a poor academic performance. For many students struggling with addictions, school becomes secondary. They stop going to class, turning in coursework and participating in academic life. As a result, many end up failing or dropping out of school prematurely.

But then, a lot of those students end up getting sober. And a lot of them have the desire to go back and finish what they started.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are thinking about going back to school in sobriety:


Your Past Performance Is NOT An Indicator Of Future Performance


Fear of failure is a huge barrier for many people in sobriety when making the decision to return to school. Maybe you’re afraid that since you struggled during your addiction, you are destined to struggle again. But remember – your academic performance and experience while you were actively drinking or using is not an indicator to what your academic performance and experience will be now that you are sober. Not only do you no longer have the distraction of addiction, but many of the principles that you learn in sobriety (asking for help, following through, doing the next right thing) can help you to succeed in school.


Don’t Get Overwhelmed By The Process


Sometimes, just the PROCESS of returning to school can feel overwhelming. There are forms to fill out, transcripts to get a hold of, credits to be transferred. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done, tackle things one at time. Taking even one step in the right direction is much better than being so overwhelmed by the amount of steps to be taken that you never start.


Take Things At Your Own Pace


Going back to school in sobriety is not a race or a competition. It is important to take things at your own pace. You might want to start by taking one class and seeing how you handle the coursework. You want to make sure that you have the time and energy you need to balance your new school schedule with your existing life and commitments – including (and ESPECIALLY) those that relate to your sobriety.


Don’t Be Intimidated – Your School WANTS You To Succeed


If you’re feeling intimidated about going back to school (especially a school where you previously struggled), try to remember that your school WANTS you to succeed. Colleges are evaluated on their graduation rates, so it’s in the school’s best interest to do everything they can to help you graduate.

Going back to school in sobriety can be a rewarding, enlightening and exciting experience. If you’re considering going back to school, remember – in sobriety, there is NOTHING you can’t do.


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