Last Updated on September 8, 2022 by Dr. Alberto Solà

After starting to live a clean and sober lifestyle, many people are inspired to go back to school.

Whether you wish to earn your GED, pursue a college education, or continue an educational program that you previously abandoned, continuing your formal education is a great idea. It will open many doors for you in the future, and the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you finish your program is well worth all of the effort it takes to get there.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, you may be feeling nervous and overwhelmed. Don’t be! You will find a great deal of support with your academics and plans for the future when you just dive in.

However, as someone who is in recovery, there are a number of things you should think about before you begin. You’ll want to be prepared to face any challenges that you may encounter along the way. If you’re thinking about going back to school, read on for some great tips.

Benefits of Going Back to School

There are many benefits of returning to school. You’ve likely already considered many of them yourself. You’ll increase your knowledge on a subject area of your choice. When you earn your degree, you’ll be eligible for jobs that you weren’t before, and you may even find a career that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. You’ll gain the respect of others, and you will respect yourself more than you ever have before.

If you’re someone who is recovering from an addiction, there are additional benefits to consider as well. Most schools at all levels offer free, individual counseling services to enrolled students, so you may find a new counselor that you really like. You can also participate in college groups such as on-campus AA or NA programs and, in doing so, you can make some new friends.

Most of all, attending school will give you a new focus and a new direction. It will help fill your days with a positive activity that will benefit you for years to come. You’ll see that as a clean and sober individual, you can do anything you put your mind to, and you can look forward to a new and exciting future in your recovery.

Before You Go

It may be tempting to jump right in and get started right away when it comes to pursuing your educational goals, but don’t get ahead of yourself. There are several things that you should consider first.

First of all, are you ready? School can be intense and stressful. If you are new to recovery, you may not yet be equipped to deal with all that comes with it. Further, schools at all levels are often saturated with social events that revolve around drug and alcohol use. Are you strong enough to decline when an opportunity to use arises?

If you do decide that you are mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with these challenges, then your next step is to determine your educational goals. What do you wish to study? What are your hopes for your life after you finish your program? School can be expensive, so don’t choose something that you aren’t fully interested in, or you may spend a lot of money learning that it’s not for you.

Once you’ve settled on a program, consider your finances, apply for loans and scholarships, and apply to schools and programs that are right for you. The day you get accepted into a program may be one of the most exciting and memorable days of your life.

Beware of Triggers

Getting accepted to a program is only the beginning, though.  At the very least, you’ll have many months of learning and studying ahead; some degrees take much longer. Along the way, you will face many obstacles that can become triggers that can threaten your sobriety. You’ll be much more successful in overcoming them if you know what may arise.

Stress is one of the most common triggers to breaking sobriety for students. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage stress and you likely have learned many of them in your recovery process already. Journaling, exercise, meditation, deep breathing, counseling, good sleep hygiene, and taking a break are all healthy ways to deal with stress.

Social anxiety is another common trigger, especially in new environments. Many people struggle with feelings of anxiousness when meeting new people. Although you may have used alcohol or drugs to overcome these feelings in the past, those options are no longer available to you. You can use many of the tools you’d use to combat stress to overcome social anxiety as well. It also helps to remind yourself that many others are feeling the same way, even if they don’t show it.

You may also struggle with triggers like location and availability. If going to school reminds you of the good ol’ days when your drug or alcohol use was still fun and not yet a problem, then you may fall into old and bad habits there if you’re not careful – especially since drugs and alcohol may be highly available in this new setting. Be vigilant and be aware of your feelings and cravings, remove yourself from uncomfortable situations, and meet with counselors and support groups as much as you can when you are feeling tempted.

Most of all, don’t become overconfident. Remember, everyone struggles with the above temptations and triggers. How you handle them and face them head-on is what really matters.

The Future Is Now

You can succeed in school and achieve your dreams. It won’t be easy, but you can do it. Now that you have overcome your dependency on alcohol or drugs, your future is bright. Going back to school is the right thing to do for so many reasons; once you earn your degree, you’ll be glad that you did for the rest of your life. Good luck!

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