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Students in Recovery: How Long Should You Wait Before Going Back to School?

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Students in Recovery: How Long Should You Wait Before Going Back to School?

Whether you went thstudents in recoveryrough recovery before or in the middle of school, it will be a hard transition back. You should be prepared with a support system and have access to meetings close to your school.

How do you decide when you’re ready to go back? Time in recovery and preparation are key for students in recovery.

It’s suggested not to make any big life changes the first year of sobriety. This may include the decision to return to school. Going back to school within your first year of sobriety can alter your lifestyle, friends and activities. You’re more inclined to relapse and rejoin the crowd you were part of before treatment. After a steady year of sobriety, it’s safe to consider school again and prepare for the transition. 

How to Prepare

One of the first steps is to research meetings around your college. You’ll want a few different options for AA and/or 12 step meetings. There will be a lot of triggers at school and you may not have the support system to manage it without meetings. It’s helpful to get the resources for meetings and understand triggers can happen. Especially in a college setting, where your peers are drinking and possibly doing drugs around you. 

Another reason why relapsing is possible is that you’ll be going through a lot of stress. College stress happens, and there’s no real way to get out of it. But when you do become stressed, understand that your past coping mechanisms won’t be available. You shouldn’t relapse because you’re stressed from school work. There are other ways to cope with stress, like: working out, meditating, yoga, watching tv, going shopping, hiking, and more.

Another way to prepare is to be honest. It’s not required to tell the admissions counselor at your school, but it can help. If you have past arrests, you could be questioned about them. Simply saying you are a recovering addict and you’re sober now will help the admissions understand the arrests more. A longer sobriety time is also better for when you discuss it with your counselors. If you’re going back to school within your first week, month or year of recovery, it could raise red flags. They might not take your sobriety seriously or might think you’ll relapse. But if you’ve been actively taking care of yourself, going to meetings and working on yourself the first year of recovery, it will look better. 

Create Education Goals

Education goals are important and you should have a set mind on what you want to achieve in school. Are you going for your Associate’s degree or your Bachelor’s degree? Or have you finished and want to start on your graduate degree? Once you have a decision on what you’re going for, it will be an easier transition. It’s also important to understand the programs that are offered in school. If you want to be a writer, or a fitness coach, or major in psychology, it wouldn’t hurt to research more on the program. You could also reach out to the professors at the school and talk with them about the programs and where you see yourself fitting with. 

Part-time or Full-time?

Another important decision is whether you are attending school as a full-time student or part-time student.

If you’re working or have other responsibilities going on, you can attend as a part-time student. That way, you have time for your family, your health and other things. 

If you have the time and money, you can attend as a full-time student. It will be more of an adjustment, but if you have the motivation and dedication, you can make it work. 

On Campus or Off Campus?

The last important decision to make about school is where you’ll be living. Do you plan on living on campus or will you stay at your place and drive to your classes? It’s given that living on campus will set off triggers and more stress… But if you have meetings set up, live in a substance free dorm and plan accordingly, you’ll be fine.

You can also stay home or live off campus. That way, you won’t have to deal with roommates or being triggered to join the drug crowd. You can manage your stress in the comfort of your home. This can also trigger yourself if it’s the same home you did drugs in in the past.

Students in Recovery

If you’ve planned all you could, you have goals and you know what to expect, then I wish you good luck with your education. Education is a very important part of life, and it’s so good to learn new things. If you stick with your meetings and meet other sober friends and have sober fun, you will do great.


If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Please call us at 855-737-7363 for a free and confidential assessment.


Posted in Addiction, Culture, Health and Wellness, Recovery