Back To School: Tips for Maintaining Sobriety On Campus

Student in addiction recovery on campus

Contributor: Marissa A. Angileri, MSW, CADC, Addiction Specialist, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Whether you just discharged from addiction treatment or have been sober for some time, stepping back into the world of academia can seem rather daunting.

For someone in recovery, going to school may not seem to be an option due to the environment outside of the classroom. Yet, when bringing along some of the favored aspects of treatment back to school with you, the experience may be more conducive to your recovery.

In my line of work, when discussing a return to school with my clients, I often bring up three important areas of remaining sober on campus. The three aspects are structure, (sober) fun and accountability.

Building Structure in Addiction Recovery

College girl photo

The first aspect is structure. Structure is important in maintaining sobriety, especially when returning to school. The demands of daily tasks may become overwhelming and being able to visualize where each task fits into the weekly schedule can help to eliminate extra stress.

A helpful tool to provide structure is to write out a weekly schedule.

The schedule should be very detailed, and information may include the following:

  • Wake up and go to bed (being aware of how many hours of sleep)
  • Hygiene (morning/evening or both)
  • Classes (block out from beginning to end)
  • Study time (maintaining grades helps boost self-confidence)
  • Meetings (AA, NA, etc.)
  • Counseling/treatment/doctor appointments
  • Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)
  • Personal time (free time for fun/relaxation)

Finding the Fun in Sobriety

The second aspect is sober fun. Sober fun is important in remaining sober because it can be a way to relieve stress, find new interests and one’s sober self.

Certain activities may be more difficult than others, especially if the activity was during times of drug use.

Please note that activities may vary depending on location of school. Some ideas may include the following:

  • Bowling
  • Hiking
  • Volunteering
  • Campus clubs
  • Movies
  • The zoo
  • Explore the town
  • College athletics

Accountability for Relapse Prevention

The third aspect is accountability. Accountability is important in maintaining sobriety; many times when someone relapses, it is due to the lack of extra support.

A helpful way to hold yourself accountable is by seeking continued services. Not only are you holding yourself accountable by making and keeping the appointments, but also relating those services to your recovery. Some ideas include the following:

  • Find support meetings near campus
  • Find a counselor/therapist on or near campus
  • Keep in contact with a sponsor/work the steps
  • Maintain doctor appointments when sick
  • Connect with sober friends and family

College studentSome final thoughts. College can be some of the most memorable years of your life; it would be a shame not to remember those precious moments. It is important to remember to take one day at a time, as it is a small piece to the big picture of your future.

And when that day comes that you put on your cap and gown and walk across the stage to receive your diploma, you will have proven to yourself that you can achieve any goal that you desire.


Marissa AngileriAbout the Author: Marissa Angileri, MSW, CADC, is an Addictions Specialist at Timberline Knolls. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Communications and a Master’s in Social Work degree with a specialization in Addictions Counseling at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 1, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 1, 2017.
Published on

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.