Once you’ve established a firm foundation in your recovery, higher education can be an attractive option towards bettering your life. What are some steps to take to keep your recovery safe when going to college sober?
Before Going To College Sober
Before making the final decision that you want to go back to school in sobriety, take a second to read our previous post on the subject. There are lots of things to consider when taking a large step like this! At the end of the day, everyone is different, but there are some common guideline to consider before jumping for the first time, or back into, the academic world. If you are at a place in your recovery where stability has been reached and you feel comfortable with taking this step, here are some tips to go about keeping your recovery first when going to college sober.
Balancing A New Schedule
For recovering addicts and alcoholics, balance is often difficult to achieve. It can be easy to jump into new things headfirst, which while not necessarily bad, can sometimes come at the expense of the important things in life. For those in recovery, keeping a balance is crucial. One of the first things to do after making a deciding that you will be going to college sober is come up with a healthy, balanced schedule that takes into account the different areas of your life that need to be maintained.
It is helpful to sit down and sketch out on paper what a new schedule will look like once college is introduced. Having the opportunity to visually digest where during the week each class will take place gives a much better idea of how days need to be laid out. Make space for the things that are important for recovery. Choosing a group of set 12 step meetings to be accountable to, taking place on the same day each week, is helpful when laying something like this out. This way, it is much easier to designate which hours will be dedicated to studying, which hours will be dedicated to attending meetings, and where other interests and responsibilities can fit in. For recovering alcoholics and addicts, in addition to meetings this should include time for service work (sponsees, volunteering and giving back to a recovery community), time for exercise, time for work (if employed), and time for fun and fellowship. Knowing ahead of time where sacrifices will have to be made and planning accordingly makes it much less likely that something important will get thrown out of balance, negatively affecting sobriety.
Running New Situations Through Mentors
In any new situation, it is important to have others that one can lean on for experience and support. Some of the challenges that come with college can be particularly troublesome for alcoholics and addicts in recovery – being in a new environment where sobriety is not a priority to many. Outside of regular 12 step meetings, having mentors that one can communicate with and get direction from is an effective way of working through these situations and that feelings that they can bring up. In Alcoholics Anonymous, we often talk about living transparently, and continuing to rely on mentors with more time sober that you can talk to when new struggles come up is one way to do this. Keeping open lines of communication with these individuals gives you a lifeline if things do get overwhelming and priorities get misplaced, as well as provides you with a great resource of experience that can be tapped into whenever you find yourself confronted with something that you have not yet experienced.
Remember What’s Important
While going to college sober is an important step for many in furthering their life goals, it is not the single most significant aspect of a recovering individual’s life. Remember, school would not even be a possibility if not for sobriety; therefore, recovery has to always come first. If you find yourself not making time for sponsees, your recovery community, and taking care of yourself spiritually, it is important to have the ability to take a step back and reappraise your priorities. A good way to do this is by staying in the practice of taking nightly inventory. A little time for reflection at the end of a long day of school, work and other responsibilities gives us the chance to pause and implement some checks and balances if we find ourselves spinning too far off balance or missing some of the key components that allow us to feel good without drugs and alcohol. Fortunately or unfortunately, a degree will not cure alcoholism. Staying current with a spiritual practice though, will grant a daily reprieve from the need to drink or use.
When going to college sober, it is also helpful to ease into the process. Choosing a good starting point allows us to gradually immerse ourselves into the academic world rather than setting ourselves up for failure. One way to do this is by starting slow. Rather than jumping right into a large university, moving away from your community, and taking on the challenges of an academic career while also needing to rebuild a recovery foundation, try starting off at a local school. Getting major prerequisites finished up at a local community college is much cheaper than starting at a university. This also provides the chance to work on implementing some of these strategies while easing into classes. As you gain the experience of succeeding in college while also keeping recovery your main priority, you can begin looking at the next step. This traditionally takes a couple of years – a perfect amount of time to make a smooth transition without leaving behind the foundation that has helped you get to a place where going to college sober is even an option.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you have given yourself the time to build a solid foundation in your sobriety, and you are willing to take some precautionary action setting a schedule, putting priorities in order and making yourself accountable to others, going to college sober can be an awesome experience. By setting yourself up for success, you can take this next step with confidence and the support necessary to make it through any bumps along the way. If you have any experience with going to college sober, have a loved one who is beginning this journey, or have any thoughts on the subject, we would love to hear your input! Take a moment to leave a comment and share this post with anyone that you think may find it useful.
Last Updated on May 24, 2022