In early sobriety, it’s easy to be intimidated by the atmosphere of some of these events. Many of those in early recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs wait some time before going into this type of atmosphere, which is wise. For those who are ready, these events and activities can sometimes feel overwhelming and intimidating. Achieving sobriety is not about not having fun; it’s about having fun and staying sober doing it. By putting a few plans in place, any recovering alcoholic or drug addicted person can go out and enjoy summer without having to avoid the best that summer has to offer.

Most college students in rehab for drug or alcohol addiction are eager to return to school.  It is common to feel regret for getting off track due to the drug or alcohol addiction and to feel antsy about returning to “life as usual." However, jumping back into college too quickly and without a solid plan in place can be dangerous.  A good plan will help you navigate the potential pitfalls: old using friends, peer pressure, boredom, cravings, easy access to drugs and alcohol, stress, anxiety, depression, and academic pressures.

Successfully returning to college involves the right timing and the right strategies.  Here are 5 steps to follow:

1.  Leave Rehab with a Good Sponsor

Managed care is continuing to cut treatment time for drug and alcohol addiction.  Make your time in treatment count by actively engaging in your treatment from the start to finish and planning your transition from rehab.  The first step is to get a good sponsor.

When looking for a sponsor, consider these factors:

  • Has what you want
  • Lives the solution not the problem
  • Walks the Talk in all his/her affairs
  • Has a sponsor themselves
  • Emphasizes the steps and traditions of the program
  • Has more time in recovery than you do
  • Has worked more steps than you
  • Is available for telephone calls and personal meetings
  • Emphasizes the spiritual aspect of the program
  • And lastly IS THE SAME GENDER as you

A good sponsor is crucial to help you work the 12-steps, implement new coping skills and be accountable for your recovery.  A sponsor increases your chances of remaining soberin college, where substance abuse is common, by offering support and encouragement.

2.  Identify the Best 12-Step Meetings for You

There are many 12-step meetings specifically for young people.  They are a wonderful resource for your early recovery.  By connecting in these meetings, you have the opportunity to develop a sober network of friends who are working towards the same goals and facing the same challenges as you.  Check around until you find meetings that offer the best fit.

It can be a struggle to leave an old circle of using friends without a new group established. So - be proactive and attend 12-Step meetings for young people to begin creating new friendships that support your sobriety.  You may be pleasantly surprised to discover vibrant communities having fun in recovery through a myriad of sober events.

This encouragement to attend 12-Step meetings for young people DOES NOT imply that you should stop going to other 12-Step meetings. Diversity of 12-Step meetings are good and will keep you humble.

3.  Find a Therapist Who Specializes in Young Adult Issues

As we have previously written, all emerging adults encounter stress and difficulties transitioning from high school through college and into the workforce.

A therapist who specializes in working with young adults can help you cope more effectively with any anxiety, depression and other emotions you may have during this transitional time.  Look for a trained professional who understands the developmental issues all young adults face.  This will help you increase your ability to effectively cope with life transitions and to adjustment to adulthood.

4.  Participate in an Aftercare Program When Transitioning Back to College

The most successful emerging adults in recovery are those who gradually step down from inpatient to outpatient treatment to aftercare.  You must have patience to be successful in recovery because addiction is a cunning and powerful disease.

Before racing back to college, successfully complete each phase of your recommended treatment.   A vital step between treatment and college is aftercare, which offers several months of extended support.  You get to check in, ask for help and receive support from other young adults in recovery. It is like returning to daily life with training wheels.  Aftercare provides you with a chance to safely begin to implement the new coping skills you learn in rehab.  After several months of successful transition, the wheels come off, aftercare concludes and you transition into individual therapy and college.  Aftercare will increase your self-confidence and ability to successfully navigate the world in a sober way.

5.  Get involved in structured and meaningful activities.

Rehab is a highly structured environment.  It is like standing on the moving walkway at the airport whereas recovery outside of rehab is like walking up a downward escalator.  As you transition out of rehab you will need to create a structured environment to help you stay active and sober.

One size does not fit all: find activities that are meaningful to you and support your sobriety.  Your rehab counselors should give you ideas and initial plans for structured and meaningful activities. Once you have developed a schedule with structured and meaningful activities your chances for long-term sobriety will be much greater.

Finally, remember: “keep it simple.”  Use these five steps to make your transition back to college successful. New Hope Recovery Center has extensive experience helping Emerging Adults with alcohol and drug addictions to transition from rehab to college. For more information call 773-883-3916 or email us at

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center