One of the great things about recovering from addiction is that you are given a second chance at life. If you are smart, and focus your time and energy on improving your life, you can stay on that path. There will be losses to account for from the past, but perhaps much of it can be reclaimed. As long as you stay healthy and strong, you will be able to accomplish whatever you put your mind to. For some, returning to college while in recovery is a way to accomplish unmet goals. Being able to reclaim things that were taken away because of addiction offers them a sense of satisfaction and hope for the future. But there are caveats to going back to college that you should be aware of. Relapse prevention should be the first thing to consider and a plan of prevention must be devised and implemented if need be.
Dangers Posed by College Life
College can present situations and people who may try to test a recovering addict’s sobriety. Socializing on and off-campus is a big part of college life. Sometimes, these meetings will involve drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Alcohol is very popular among college students and binge drinking is a huge problem on many campuses. One study on college student drinking found that 44 percent of students had a binge-drinking problem. Binge-drinking is dangerous and increases risky behavior. You may feel tempted or pressured to join in on the fun. This is dangerous ground to be on, and pre-determined relapse prevention techniques should be immediately implemented. A good technique for this type of situation is to simply say “no thanks” and leave the party. Slipping back into relapse just isn’t worth a few hours of reckless living. You have already been down that path and you know where it will lead. Staying sober and heading in the right direction is all that matters now. Be prepared to effectively deal with situations that threaten your sobriety.
Meeting the academic demands of college life can be very stressful. There will be a lot of studying and tests to take. Many students will use stimulant drugs to cram all night before a big test. This will not be the case for a recovering addict. They will need to muster their own inner strength to cope with the demands of college life. A recovering addict should try to get enough rest whenever they can and a good night’s sleep. They should keep their energy up and body strong with good nutrition, vitamin/mineral supplements and by drinking enough water. Exercising will help to relieve stress, keep the body strong, the blood flowing and will increase oxygen intake. The addict should focus on what is important and keep the mind and body strong naturally. By maintaining a healthy body and mind, the addict will be able to think clearly and retain the information he needs to learn.
Dealing with Triggers
There will be times that you will be tempted to use drugs or alcohol. If you have been doing well scholastically, you may think you deserve a little reward by celebrating with a drink or drugs. Most addicts identify using drugs or alcohol as a reward. As a recovering addict, you have to erase this type of thinking from your mind. You will have to decide what safe things you can receive as a reward when you’re doing well. Going to a sporting event, movie or out to dinner with a friend can be a reward. Ladies may like a day at a spa or shopping for a new outfit.
Slipping into relapse will undo all the work you have accomplished so far, and is not an option. Going backward into another self-imposed prison of drugs or alcohol does not seem like a reward at all, and you should realize this. Substance abuse is not a reward; it is a punishment that may eventually cost you your life.
You can have a wonderful college experience if you stay focused on what is important. You can make new friends that do not use drugs or alcohol and have a great social life. You can get involved in extracurricular activities that peak your interest. In addition, you should retain your connection with your therapist and still go to support group meetings. By putting boundaries in place and having a plan of action, you can achieve all you set out to do and begin a new, sober and exciting life.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.