Are you wondering how to go back to school as a recovering adult? When you’re a recovering addict, getting back into the swing of things can be tough. While drugs and alcohol can have a huge impact on your physical health, they can also be detrimental to your social well-being, and addiction has a way of throwing a wrench into the plans that you laid out earlier in life.
If you attended school before your addiction, finishing your education might be one of your top priorities as you enter the recovery process. Receiving a higher education degree is one of the best things that you can do to ensure your future success, and taking on the responsibility of being a student can serve as a moral antidote to the self-destructive choices you made as a drug user.
Before you decide to go for it and enroll in school, there are a number of factors that you should consider. You should only take the plunge and finish your degree as a recovering user after you’ve fully explored all of the unexpected variables that pursuing an education can bring into your life.
Determine Your Education Goals
As you ponder the possibility of continuing your education, you should take the time to fully elucidate the goals that you hope to achieve as a student. If you want to know how to go back to school as a recovering adult, the first step is to determine why you want to go back to school.
To ensure the success of your educational ambitions, you’ll need to make sure that your motives are pure. Are you trying to prove to others that you’ve recovered to the degree that you can now take on serious responsibilities? If so, you might want to wait a while and get your priorities in order. However, if you want to go back to school to better yourself and prove to yourself that you can overcome any obstacle, you’re probably ready to take the plunge.
You’ll also want to consider your current student status. If you’ve never attended college before, you’ll want to make sure that you have a high school diploma or a GED if you want to be accepted into an institute of higher education. If you attended college before your addiction, you should determine if you have any credits that can be transferred over to your new school.
Finding the answers to all of the following questions will help you better understand how you want to proceed in your quest for higher education.
- Do you have the time to attend classes full-time, or do you want to take on a reduced credit load?
- Would you prefer to go to class in an actual classroom, or are online classes preferable to you?
- Do you want to take classes during the day, or are night and weekend classes more conducive to your aims?
The most important question, of course, is what type of degree you want to get. There are hundreds of different types of specializations available to you, and they are each unique in terms of the amount of work that is required to achieve a degree. Some degrees also cost more than others to obtain, and one type of degree might take longer to complete than another. In addition, your existing skillset and interests might make you a better fit for one career over another, so you’ll also be better off if you thoroughly consider your own attributes before picking a degree goal.
Is Now the Right Time for Your Education?
If you’re considering continuing the process of recovering, one of the most important questions you’ll need to ask yourself is whether or not the time is right to continue your education. While your self-esteem may take a serious hit while you’re in the midst of addiction, your self-efficacy — which is your confidence in your ability to succeed in adverse circumstances — is one of the most powerful tools that you can use in the process of recovery. Developing self-efficacy naturally improves your self-esteem, but this post-addiction self-esteem boost can sometimes have disastrous consequences.
In most cases, institutions of higher education are potentially dangerous for people who are committed to sobriety. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about getting an education, but drug and alcohol culture are pervasive on college campuses, and it’s often hard for a sober person to get away from the influence of people who are under the influence.
If you decide to live on campus, you’ll need to be aware that most on-campus housing options are rife with drugs and alcohol, and your roommates may smoke, drink, or use drugs. In some cases, it’s possible to find sober housing on campuses, but these sorts of living situations are rare. As you are recovering from addiction, the people that you associate with make all the difference in terms of your potential for recovery, and you’ll want to stay as far away as possible from people who don’t share your commitment to sobriety.
Even if you don’t live on campus, it can be hard to have a social life in college if you don’t drink or use drugs. Most college social gatherings include drug or alcohol use, and abstaining from intoxicants can make you the odd one out at parties. Some sober people are able to be around people who are under the influence without any issue, but you’ll want to make sure that you have the resilience necessary to carry out this feat before you ever put yourself in a potentially compromising situation.
In going back to college, you may be more interested in preparing for a career than socializing. However, focusing entirely on studying can also pose relapse dangers. Drugs and alcohol are commonly used as tools for coping with stress, and studying for a degree is one of the most stressful things that you can do. There are plenty of safe tools that you can use to take the brunt off the stress of getting an education, but you’ll have to take extra care not to slip back into old stress reduction tools if you choose to take on the responsibility of going back to school.
Furthermore, many people find it difficult to stick with a set of routines when they are recovering from addiction. If you already have daily or weekly routines in place, such as attending recovery meetings, you’ve taken the first step in handling the rigorous schedule that is required to get a college education. However, you’ll need to continue to include 12-step or other recovery meetings in your schedule as you start attending classes, and if that type of schedule sounds too overwhelming, you might not be quite ready to go back to school.
Find and Apply to the Right School
If you decide that the time has come to attend college as a recovering addict, the next step is to determine which school is right for you. There are a lot of factors to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of different educational institutions, and these variables include acceptance rates, tuition costs, and location. It pays to do your research on a variety of different schools before you make a choice, and in the process, you’ll learn a lot about each college or university you’re considering.
It’s also important to remember that some colleges are specifically set up to be safe havens for recovering addicts. These so-called “sober schools” have strict policies against drug and alcohol use, and many of the people who attend these special schools are recovering addicts. While these types of schools were relatively unheard of a few decades ago, there are now a number of different sober schools spread out across the United States.
If you want the benefits of having a degree but you’re not sure about the social aspects of going back to school, you might want to try studying online. In many cases, you can get a degree that’s just as good as any degree from a brick-and-mortar institution by studying online, and you’ll also be able to save on commuting costs by taking college classes on your computer.
Once you’ve found a school that’s right for you, you’ll need to submit an application. Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, you should apply to at least three different schools, and you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with each college or university’s application requirements, which vary from school to school.
Most higher education institutions will require transcripts from other schools that you have attended such as your high school or previous college. In some cases, you’ll also need to provide your SAT scores, and many schools require essays explaining your interest in pursuing a higher education and letters of recommendation from mentors.
Higher education applications are usually accompanied by a small fee, and it may take a few weeks to hear back from a school you’re interested in attending. If you end up being accepted, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your education goals.
Transfer Your Credits
If you’ve attended another college in the past, you’ll need to transfer over any existing credits before you begin your education at your new school. Transferred credits can count toward your degree, and they may help fulfill the basic credit requirements for graduation. Depending on which school you end up attending, some of your credits may be non-transferrable, but most credits earned from other accredited schools can be used to provide a boost on your journey toward a college degree.
Find Funding Methods
Perhaps the most important step to take before you start classes is ensuring that you have the funding necessary to complete your degree. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the average cost to attend a year of college was estimated to be between $16,757 and $43,065. That’s a lot of money to come up with, but there are quite a few sources of college funding that you might be able to use to realize your dreams.
For instance, you may be able to secure a scholarship at your new school. Many public and private institutions also offer educational grants, and federal student loans are usually available through FAFSA. In addition, many established financial institutions offer private loans for your college education.
Share Your Experience in Your Career
According to NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, there are almost 100,000 individuals in the addiction workforce in the United States. To be an addiction professional, you need to have an intimate knowledge of the mechanics of addiction and its effects on yourself and others, and some addiction professionals have firsthand experience in the field of addiction; in many cases, they are recovering addicts themselves.
As you pursue a college education while recovering, you should consider becoming an addiction professional. Working to help others overcome their addiction issues can be one of the best ways to protect your community from the same problems you once faced, and as long as there are addictive drugs, the world will forever be in need of people who are willing to step up to the plate and provide whole-hearted support.
Even if you decide not to become an addiction professional, there will be plenty of opportunities in your professional life to share your experiences with others. People from all walks of life are presented with the temptation of addictive drugs, and you’ll be able to find people in any professional setting who are dealing with the problems with which you’re so familiar.
After you’ve followed the hard path and completed your education as a recovering addict, remember that one of the most rewarding aspects of your new career will be the ability to share your triumphs with others. Not everyone goes through the trials that a recovering addict faces, but those who face these tests and succeed serve as beacons of hope to others who are still stuck in the darkness.