Tips and Tricks for Going Back to School as a Person In Recovery

August 2, 2019

Going back to school after years of addiction can be daunting, but that doesn’t mean it can’t—or shouldn’t—be done. Getting an education can be a great start to rebuilding your life in recovery. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting started.

Start Small

Circumstances vary, but it’s common for people who develop addictions to start using drugs in their teens. Sometimes that leads to dropping out of high school.

This can lead to feelings of shame and inadequacy, but it’s important to move past that. You can still get the education and life that you want; it’s never too late. If this sounds like your story, start by getting a high school equivalency degree like a  GED. You can enroll in GED preparation classes, or use GED study guides to prepare for the tests.

Once you’ve gotten your GED, consider taking some community college classes. You can go for an associate’s degree or a trade certificate, depending on what your goals are. If you plan to go for a four-year degree (or higher), an associate’s degree will help you get into another program. Many state schools have contracts with community colleges that allow for direct credit transfers, and even if you decide to go to a private school or an out-of-state college, many of the credits from community college will count toward your degree.

Wait Until You’re Ready

It’s no secret that school is stressful. A lot of young people who don’t have addiction histories end up dropping out, or developing symptoms of depression and anxiety while in school. If your addiction spanned years, you might feel eager to jump into school and get started with your new life in recovery—but don’t go too fast. Even if you feel solid in your recovery, it’s possible to relapse, and stress can be a huge trigger. Don’t feel compelled to jump into an intensive academic program right away. Even if you feel you’re much older than the typical student, remember that plenty of people go to school at a variety of ages for all sorts of reasons. Although society has labeled 18-24 as the “normal” age for pursuing higher education, the reality is that students actually come in all ages and life circumstances. So don’t rush things. Be honest with yourself and wait until you have a good foothold on your recovery before jumping into school. It might even be a good idea to start with night classes or enroll part-time to start.

Find a Campus Recovery Program

Unfortunately, school campuses are notorious for being chock-full of substances. Whether it’s alcohol-fueled college parties, or stimulants as study aids, a lot of students engage in substance use. How you handle your addiction recovery is your choice; maybe you have decided that occasional alcohol or marijuana use is not a trigger—but that doesn’t mean a campus environment won’t be triggering. Prepare yourself for potential triggers by finding a joining a school affiliated recovery program or group. If your school doesn’t have one, see if you can start one (I guarantee there will be other interested students), or find another type of peer support group that’s near your school so you can head over there if the occasion calls for it.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our Ammon Recovery Scholars Program. Our program goals include: removing financial barriers through financial scholarships; providing strategic support for recipients through offering personal, professional and academic support; and creating a supportive peer community committed to combating the stigma associated with addiction by promoting that recovery is possible. We are committed to giving away at least $100,000 in scholarships annually and are looking to fund education as a stepping stone to stable employment, safe housing and adequate healthcare. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here or email