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11 Tips for College Students in Recovery Returning to School (And 3 Tips for Parents)

College students studying together and having a good time

Students in recovery must endure a lot of trial and tribulation when embarking on their journey of recovery. Between the day to day of school, work, and spending time with others, students in recovery need a lot of guidance due to their youth and inexperience in dealing with these issues. For students preparing for the upcoming school year, recovering from an addiction will be feasible when they are following a comprehensive recovery program that gives them the tools to be successful.

Tips for Students in Recovery Returning to School

  1. Making this transition may be anxiety producing, whether you are returning to your old campus or going to a new school. It’s important to begin talking through it and your feelings long before you leave for campus. A therapist or recovery coach can help you process those feelings and think through the challenges you may face. Recovery coaches and therapists at Encore’s treatment center in Virginia work regularly with students in recovery returning to college. In addition, talk with trusted family members and friends who can help you figure out what you need to do and resources that may be helpful.
  2. Consider in advance what will need to change: How will you handle friendships with old friends who are still actively using substances? How will you find and make sober friends? Who will you live with? It’s important to find roommates or housemates who are sober or other students in recovery. Where will you live? Is there a sober dorm?
  3. Investigate the resources available at your school and in the surrounding area. Is there an on-campus AA or other recovery group? If not on campus, where is the closest recovery group? Is there a campus sober group or club? What kind of counseling is available through the school? Is there an addiction counselor? Is there a vibrant sober network in that community? If you are going to school near Northern Virginia or Washington D.C., check in with staff at our Virginia treatment center for assistance.
  4. Find an individual therapist on or near campus and set up regular sessions in advance so you can build them into your schedule. That professional support and accountability is a strong foundation for maintaining recovery and will be an important resource to support your emotional health.
  5. Set up a support network as soon as possible, including a recovery group. A sponsor or a recovery coach can be a supportive trusted guide as you navigate life in recovery as well as a liaison between you and your parents, keeping them in the loop about how you are doing. Encore has recovery coaches on staff that help serve in this capacity.
  6. If you would be more comfortable with a more structured recovery support program, find an outpatient treatment center. Encore’s General Outpatient Program at our Virginia treatment center offers individual therapy and two groups a week that meet virtually and includes drug and alcohol monitoring. It’s a four-hour commitment weekly, which is a valuable investment in maintaining your recovery.
  7. Accountability is critical. Consider signing up for a service that will test for alcohol or drug use regularly to provide you and your family with reassurance. Encore provides long-term monitoring, and also works with other accountability services and programs that support patients with drug and alcohol screens.
  8. Time management will reduce stress and help with structuring your academic and personal life. Find an academic coach who can help you or a tutor who can work with you on your assignments. At Encore, we collaborate with academic coaches who can help you with your academic goals, if your campus is near our treatment center in Virginia or Washington D.C. They can also continue to work with you virtually if your campus is located further away.
  9. Figure out what you are going to do for fun. What do you enjoy? Sports? Hiking? Are there leagues or clubs you can join? What about working on the campus newspaper or radio station? Many college campuses offer volunteer opportunities that will get students out into the community. For example, Encore has an alumni group, based at our Virginia treatment center, that is open to our college students in recovery. If you are going to school in the area, it’s a great source of support, friendship, and sober fun. If you aren’t near our treatment center in Virginia, an outpatient treatment center that is local to your campus may have a group you could join.
  10. Take good care of yourself and your physical health. Get a good night’s sleep every night. Eat well. Exercise. Make sure to get outside. If you take medications, keep up to date on prescriptions and check in with your doctor as needed.
  11. Let the close people in your life on campus know that you are in recovery. If you are living in a dorm, tell the RA. If there are adults on campus – a professor, a staff person, or someone else you have a relationship with – tell them. Adults are great sources of support and guidance. Rely on them.

For Parents With a Child in Recovery

  1. Keep the channels of communication open and realize this may be a stressful time for your child. If your student tells you they are struggling, listen and try to understand their perspective first, and then determine what kind of support you can provide. Work with them to find solutions that are best for their situation.
  2. Be clear about your expectations. Your peace of mind is important so if there are things you want your student to do to help ensure they can maintain their recovery, discuss those with them. Accountability services that will test for alcohol and drug use can offer stability for both you and your child. Help them find a therapist, recovery coach, recovery group, sponsor, etc. If your student is going to school near our facilities, Encore has therapists and coaches on staff who can help.
  3. Support yourself. Individual therapy is great support because the focus is on you and giving you a comfortable, private place to process your emotions and challenges. If you haven’t already, join Al-Anon or a similar group. Encore offers a group for family members that meets weekly at our treatment center in Virginia. It’s available to all of our current patient as well as alumni families, regardless of where your child is going to school.

If you have any questions or concerns for us, or about our available addiction treatment programs, or another way to assist students in recovery contact us today!

Addiction is hard

Getting help shouldn’t be.

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