Staying Sober In College: A Cheat Sheet For Students
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
I remember when I decided to go back to college after getting sober. I was so scared that I wasn’t going to have what it takes to pass. I only knew how to take an excessive number of stimulants and staying up all night to cram for tests. I always passed my classes, but barely. The good news is that in my experience and for others that I know who students in recovery are, college is much easier now that I am sober. This does not mean that I do not have to make an effort, but a lack of hangovers and being clear headed only helps when it comes to academics.
Here are some tips to going back to college or beginning college for the first time while in recovery.
1. Stay Connected – When I went back to school, I joined the Center for Addiction Recovery which really helped me on my journey to getting my college degree. I tried going to the library, but I would see students popping prescription medications which I assumed were stimulants or study drugs. I would get worked up over this kind of thing and experience some jealousy. The Center gave me a quiet, safe place where I had access to computers and cubicles and could get my work done. I stayed connected with a group of students who are also in recovery and we regularly share tips on surviving college and regularly check in with one another.
2. Go to Class! – I never knew how much easier college was if you just regularly attend class. In the past, I was constantly playing catch up or having a classmate send me their notes. Being in class makes things so much easier. I think that my teachers appreciate my attendance and respect me for being there every day. I am always in the loop and sometimes I get extra points just for attending. I feel so much more at ease when I attend class and my grades reflect this.
3. Ask for Help – Establishing a good relationship with your teachers is one way to succeed in college. I take advantage of office hours and go over things that I may not understand. I want my teachers to know that I care about the class and my grades. Professors are more than willing to take the time to explain concepts that may be unclear and oftentimes they will review my work before it is due. Establishing a relationship with your professor will also help in the long run. I have used several of my professors for letters of recommendation for graduate school and other things. I feel like I have a lot of support from my professors and have enjoyed getting to know them.
4. Stay On Top Of Things – I try to do something school related every week day. At the beginning of the semester, I look at the syllabus and put everything due date on my google calendar. I check the calendar at the beginning of each week to see what is coming up. I always look two or three weeks in advance just so that nothing creeps up on me. I try to get my work done several days in advance because waiting until the last minute creates a great deal of stress. By getting everything done ahead of time I usually have the weekends to hang out and relax. I never feel overwhelmed with school because I do a little bit every day. I sometimes have a hard time reading for long periods of time, so I like to split up chapters and read 20 or so pages a day. This also helps me retain the information. I have also found that doing work during the day instead of putting things off until the evening helps. I am more distracted during the evening and have a hard time staying focused when people start coming home and I am trying to have dinner and wind down. Getting things done during the day, when things are fairly quiet and calm helps me do my best.Waking up early and at the same time each day also helps me stay ahead of the game and get a lot done.
5. Get To Know Classmates – I have found that getting to know people in my class helps a lot. Sometimes my classmates form a group chat or GroupMe which creates a space for everyone to talk about assignments and ask each other questions. There have been times when I received an assignment and been a little confused about where to even begin. Having a relationship with other classmates has helped me make sense of things when I have questions about what is going on. Having a relationship with people in your class also gives you the opportunity to get together to study and work on projects together. I have created friendships with people in my class and have enjoyed getting to know people outside of my own bubble.
So far, I have really enjoyed college in recovery. It is amazing the things that you can do when you are healthy and in control of your life. I enjoyed school so much that I decided to go to graduate school and may even end up pursing a doctoral degree. I have enjoyed learning and I realized that I am more than capable of doing the work without any “boost” from substances. I have the occasional coffee, but I try not to rely on caffeine and just make sure that I am getting enough sleep so that I feel rested and attentive. I have not had to pull one “all nighter”, which used to happen on a regular basis. Instead, I try to maintain a consistent schedule and ask for help when I need it. I believe that people in recovery make some of the best students. The average GPA for students at the Center for Addiction is consistently higher than other students that are not in recovery. I encourage anyone considering college to feel confident that they are fully capable of being a great student.
Article Commissioned By: ARCH Recovery - Statesboro, GA
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Who's The Author:
Ally Lacey Maguire is a student at Georgia Southern University. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the clinical/mental health counseling program. Ally just celebrated 4 years of recovery and recently got married. Ally enjoys writing about her experiences in active addition and what her recovery looks like today. Ally works for the center for addiction recovery at Georgia Southern University and is passionate about working with others and sharing the message of recovery.
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