Should You Head Back to School if You Are in Recovery?

Choosing outpatient treatment over inpatient care can provide you with everything you need in terms

Education e-learning class and e-book digital technology concept with computer notebook and opening book flipping on classroom desk in school library among old stacks of textbook archive collection

Choosing outpatient treatment over inpatient care can provide you with everything you need in terms of therapeutic support, but it may not provide escape from life’s responsibilities in early recovery. That is, the bills keep coming in, and many feel pressured to quickly find employment.

While working can be good in recovery, providing structure to your schedule when you are not actively at the treatment program, and giving you the resources you need to begin to get your life back on track financially, it also has the potential to be a detriment. If you are working too much, working at a job that you find unfulfilling, overly stressful, or your job puts you in constant contact with drugs or alcohol or people who use them, it can harm your ability to stay sober.

For many, the logical response is to find a new job, potentially a new career, and start over again in the workforce. This usually means heading back to school to learn new job skills, get certified, or obtain a degree. While this can certainly improve job prospects and perhaps earning potential as well, is it the right choice in early recovery?

Better Education, More Opportunities

There are a lot of benefits to going back to school. You can:

  • Meet new people who are focused on bettering themselves as well and interested in the same things you are
  • Make connections with others who will be in the same industry that can help you later in life
  • Connect with internship programs and get your foot in the door at companies that might be a great fit for you and your career
  • Learn skills that will help you to excel on the job
  • Give you the space and time to do well on something you care about and, in so doing, improve your sense of confidence in your ability to manage life in sobriety

The more educated you are, the more confident you are, not just at work but in your life in general. You know who you are, what you are doing, and where you are headed, and you will have the skills to take you there.

Too Much Stress?

The glaring potential issue with heading back to school can be summed up in two words: stress and money. In early recovery, finances are tight, and if treatment is expensive, school may be even more so. Here in Louisiana, higher education is not yet free, so those who choose to go back to school will have to figure out how to fund not only their academic pursuits but life in general as well, often while paying for or paying back the cost of treatment. Financial pressure can put you in a position of feeling like you need to work as much as possible on top of going back to school and keeping up with treatment and therapy, and that pressure can push you closer to relapse.

Additionally, school takes a great deal of mental energy and focus. You may come across concepts that do not come easily to you in the course of your studies. It may be frustrating and cause you doubt, especially if you are at risk of failing a class and potentially having to take it again. Self-doubt is a risk at any time in recovery, and if you have invested time, money, and energy in diving into a school program, it can be a trigger for relapse.

Is School the Right Choice for You?

Like everything in recovery, the decision to enroll in a school program is intensely personal and a choice that should be made based on your stability in recovery, your home life, your finances, and your goals for recovery and your life.

Ask yourself:

  • How will I support myself while I am in school?
  • Will I still be able to put my recovery first?
  • What will I do if my financing falls through?
  • How will I handle it if I find that I am not suited to the career?
  • What support systems do I have in place to keep me on track in recovery no matter what else happens?

In recovery, the priority is always to stay sober first and foremost. If school gets in the way of that, it should be put on hold until you are in a more stable place.

What do you think? With September right around the corner, do you think that school is the right choice for you?

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.