For young adults in recovery, I have noticed an unfortunate, but relatively common pattern: they seek treatment, they begin their recovery journey, they become employed, and then they relapse. I have witnessed this cycle on countless occasions. It is a discouraging and frustrating experience for not only the person in recovery, but also for their loved ones. However, I believe the pattern can change.

In my career working as a Case Manager in Higher Education, I have witnessed over and over again how academia has a positive influence on sustained recovery—specifically how it seems to disrupt the aforementioned cycle. When education is integrated, this alternative pattern frequently emerges: treatment, recovery, education, employment, and ultimately, sustained recovery.

Education is often the last thing on the mind of those experiencing active addiction—and once they transition into active recovery, the pursuit of academic endeavors can be exceptionally overwhelming. The application process alone is a daunting task, even for “seasoned” academics. The mere prospect of going back to school (or going for the first time) can cause what may be described as “paralysis” in the individual—when coupled with a recovery journey, academic pursuits may seem nothing short of impossible.

Because of this, many people in early recovery opt to seek employment, rather than pursue further education. Although this decision might seem to make sense in the short term (whether financially, or otherwise) it can be detrimental to long-term recovery.

Academic pursuits seem to foster learning and growth in a way that I have not observed take place by way of employment alone. Continued learning stimulates young adults in their journey toward self-discovery. In this journey, they are able to develop a sense of self,  identity and what they would like to contribute to the world. Throughout this process, their natural abilities, learned skills, and passions can come together to form a sense of “calling” or “purpose.” On this subject, Frederick Buechner says “one’s calling is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”—and I have seen this be particularly true for my students in recovery.

Recovery is not for the faint of heart. Similar to the educational environment, it demands growth. The journey never plateaus, and the two require constant refinement. As such, it seems they are beautiful compliments that mutually encourage one another. At Alpha, we believe our students are entirely capable of recovery alongside academia—we are simply here to bridge the gap.

A final word to friends and family of someone in active addiction or in recovery: I hope you will encourage your loved one towards any pursuit of continued education—transformation is possible, sometimes it just needs inspiration.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Lauren Herzog. I grew up in Austin from 1992 until 2009 when I began my undergraduate education at Pepperdine University in California. There I completed my Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. Following college graduation in 2013, I moved to Seattle, WA and obtained my Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Seattle Pacific University. After graduation, I remained in Seattle, working at a local treatment center in pursuit of my clinical hours towards licensure, and also pursuing a certification in Medical Family Therapy….CLICK HERE to read Lauren’s full Bio.