I never thought in a million years that I would be living a life free from drugs and alcohol, or that I would live to see the age of twenty-four. College was not really on the list of things that I was able to do while I was still using. I tried. I tried and just could not complete my first semester at the age of seventeen, fresh out of high school. I was spiraling out of control. When I was twenty- three, I finally asked for help and went into treatment.
I had a lot of people tell me that I should not go back too early. That college was too stressful, that it was too much to take on in early recovery.
Going into treatment was not something that I was excited about – I did not know what all I was going to do, or what “they” were going to ask me to do. I started to get better, I started to feel better. I was in long term treatment and when I was finished, I had no idea what was next. I had developed a routine, going to my support meetings, talking to counselors, and supporters. College was definitely on the horizon, I wanted to go back and prove not only to my family but to myself that I could do it. I had a lot of people tell me that I should not go back too early. That college was too stressful, that it was too much to take on in early recovery. I want to also point out, I am one of those people that like to prove people wrong, stubborn I think is the word. So I began going through the process of applying to a local college. I thought to myself, how could growing be a bad thing?
I remember starting my first class and thinking wow, here I am a college student. I was very ambitious and wanted to get all the information I could about everything. I can tell you that it was stressful, it was hard, and it was demanding. I would not change that experience for anything. I was learning how to develop a schedule, to balance work and school, homework and study time. I had to make a plan. I stayed so busy in that first semester, well really all of my semesters have been pretty busy. The great thing about that first semester, though, was that I learned how to set a plan and a schedule. I learned how to say no, and most importantly I learned that it was ok to be uncomfortable.
College did not only change my life and help me to grow intellectually, it enhanced my recovery journey.
College instilled the same tools that I was taught while in long term treatment. It reinforced the concepts of growth, development, courage, and living a life in recovery. I remembered everything I was taught in the treatment center that I was in, to sit up front in classes, pay attention, there is never a dumb question – so if you don’t know then ask, don’t be afraid to ask for help, be honest, self-care. I can probably go on for the rest of this post telling you all the same principles that college taught me that were the same as my recovery principles. College tested me, not in the means of a quantitative test, but more of a qualitative. Sitting in those classrooms every semester with new faces, developing relationships with my peers, and learning about new subjects enabled me to continue a structured lifestyle. Which yes, can be demanding and stressful, but it was a good stress because I cared. I cared about my life, about my grades, about who I wanted to be. The future didn’t seem as empty as it once did.
Today, as I reflect with an associate degree finishing my bachelor and living a life of recovery for the past five years, I am so unbelievably grateful that I did not listen to the negativity, or give up on myself. My personal life has seen ups and downs, I have gone through tough times, being a college student trying to pay my way through school. I would not change any of it. Today, I know what balance means. I know that I can say no, and not feel guilty because I have other obligations. And even better than that, I know my self-worth as a person. I know who I am today, and what I am capable of. College did not only change my life and help me to grow intellectually, it enhanced my recovery journey.