Going Back to School When Everyone is Younger

Often, when you struggle with addiction, other aspects of your life fall back and get less or none of your attention. You probably neglected your relationships with family and friends. Your work probably suffered and you may even have lost your job. Young addicts, who should be in school, often end up ignoring their studies and even dropping out of high school. Whatever your personal situation is, maybe you are thinking of going back to school. Continuing your education or picking up where you left off when you were in the depths of addiction can be a great way to get your life back together. For some addicts, this means getting a GED after dropping out of high school, while for others it means finishing an abandoned college degree. While going back to school can be very helpful for the recovering addict, it can be tough too. It may be difficult to refocus your energy on schoolwork when you are trying so hard to stay clean. And if you are older than your fellow students, it can be especially disheartening to be back in school. There are many things to consider when going back to school. You need to think about the expense, if you have the time to devote to it, what type of education you want and will help you succeed, and you need to consider the workload and the potential stress. For many, the pros outweigh the cons when making this choice. As a recovering addict, education can refocus your energy on something productive. It can help you to feel better about yourself and more empowered to make positive changes. And for practical purposes, more education can help you get a job and earn more money. If the idea of going back to school at your age still seems daunting, here are some tips to get you started and to help you get over that hurdle.

  • Be practical. Gone are the days when going to college was all about the experience and getting a broad, liberal arts education. As an older student with practical needs, you should focus on a particular degree, certificate, or skill set that will help you meet your goals. If you are hoping to advance in a current job, take course work that will get you there. If you are unemployed, take time to consider what job you want to have and what kind of education will help you achieve that position. If you don’t know what degree or certificate you need, speak with companies for whom you hope to work or a college that you want to attend. They should be able to answer your questions.
  • Think about finances. Once you have a goal in mind, be sure that you can afford it. List all your resources and think about applying for grants or scholarships. Loans are another option, but be sure that you feel you could pay it off with your future income before you get in too deep.
  • Be open. Going back to school after a long hiatus means that things are going to look very different. Learning and lecturing techniques may have changed, but be open to them. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude when you feel overwhelmed by what it is like to be a student now. Take the advice of professors and follow the lead of other students when it comes to studying and learning.
  • Get involved. Just because you are older than other students does not mean that you can’t be part of the group. Depending on your course of study, your classes may be large lectures, small classes, or a combination of both. In the smaller groups, dive in and introduce yourself to everyone. Join up with study groups. Don’t hang back just because you’re older. If you get involved with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, you will find that no one else notices your age.
  • Get support. Unlike many younger students, you probably have other responsibilities that require your time and energy. Rely on your family members and friends who have been on your side through recovery to help you now. Ask for help if you need someone to watch the kids or give them rides. And when the stress and pressure of being an older student tempts you to relapse, turn to your support group or your sponsor. If you don’t have a support group, join one.
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