Addiction is a disease that is handled differently from person to person, and the same goes with finding the right education plan for students who are returning from treatment. Whether it’s high school or college, returning to school after addiction treatment poses challenges for both individuals and families. Even though parents may want their child to immediately return to the classroom, depending on how long the student has been in recovery, and their own state of mind, jumping right back into the school environment may be a challenging obstacle rather than a way of moving on.
Returning to high school after treatment poses a unique set of challenges for students in recovery and their parents. To make the transition as smooth as possible, parents should get the planning process started early. Before the student goes back to school, parents may want to contact school administrators, mental health staff, or teachers to make sure they understand the situation. Some parents (or the school’s staff) may want to schedule a meeting to discuss the best way to support the student, their goals, and put an emergency plan in place if a problem should arise.
Finding (And Re-Connecting With) Friends
If the student is returning to the same school they attended before rehab, there may be social challenges if their peers are the same as those before. Perhaps the student feels they can’t hang out with old friends who were connected to their use. Or, in some cases, parents may not feel comfortable with their child spending time with those friends, even if their child wants to. The best thing to do is to sit down with the student and discuss the importance of staying sober or clean.
No matter whether the student is returning to their old school or starting fresh at a new one, peer pressure is everywhere. So, to ensure the student feels comfortable, it’s important to help them with a support system. Connecting with teachers or staff to find extracurricular activities or opportunities beyond classwork is vital to making recovery successful and ensuring students have a strong support system behind them. Whether it’s a community service project or a sports team, a team activity can change their priorities and teach them a lot about what really matters.
When a child is living at home, parents are often able to monitor more about their progress in recovery. What happens when a student is living away from home and needs help staying sober? The college lifestyle is famous for a party atmosphere. Yet, there are many, many ways students can feel safe and addiction-free at college.
Taking A Break
Most addiction experts advise college students to wait approximately a year before returning to the campus lifestyle or beginning college for the first time after going through treatment. With the added stresses of college classwork and a “party culture,” staying drug and alcohol-free can be difficult. Before students return to college, it’s important they develop a support network to ensure they have people to turn to. In the meantime, students who want to continue classes can attend a community college or commuter school.
The best indicator of whether a student is ready to go back to school is their level of initiative. Students that are regularly attending 12-step meetings on their own, calling sponsors and friends for support, and seem to be adapting well are probably more likely to succeed as they continue on with school. Students who are struggling to stay sober or not taking a lot of initiative should delay their return.
Knowing Where To Turn
Larger universities often have offices specifically designated to providing support for students in recovery. Special programs organize on- or off-campus substance-free housing, and facilitate 12-step meetings. On the social side, support groups, activities, and community projects are also part of these offices. Both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have college recovery programs with these services. Some universities also have dorms that are specifically for students in recovery. Unfortunately, mid-sized or small schools may not have extensive recovery programs. However, many have a counseling center or offer free counseling services for students.
Getting Involved On-Campus
As with high school students, activities outside of school are one of the best to succeed in college. Students might even find opportunities to work with other students in recovery to make the community a better place. Even though the college environment can be challenging for students in recovery, with the right support, success is likely.
Other Resources on Returning to School