Tips for Balancing College with Rehab and Recovery

Tips for Balancing College with Rehab and Recovery

College students are under a lot of pressure, and many students engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse. If you’re a student in recovery, you can get help even while you attend school. It’s important to make sure you have everything you need to lead a healthy life. Creating a good balance between school and recovery starts with taking care of yourself and knowing that you’re not alone. Here are a few ways you can give yourself every opportunity to succeed.

1. Learn how to manage your stress in a healthy way.

Most college students are dealing with new levels of anxiety and stress brought on by the workload of classes and extracurricular activities. It’s easy to see why young adults justify using alcohol and drugs to help them relax or take the edge off the pressures of higher education. However, there are better, more sustainable ways to deal with being overwhelmed by the academic and social aspects of college. Here are some examples of stress prevention and healthy coping mechanisms:

  • Sign up for a manageable class load.
  • Set aside enough study time.
  • Talk to your professor right away if you fall behind.
  • Make time for safe social activities on campus.
  • Prioritize regular exercise to improve mood and stay healthy.
  • Try meditating regularly to unwind and check in with yourself.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

2. Room with someone sober.

Many colleges give students the option of requesting a roommate who is either sober or also in recovery. If you can room with someone on the same page as you about sober living, it’s going to make daily life less stressful. Having a roommate who parties and keeps alcohol or drugs in shared areas might be too tempting or create an environment unsuitable for someone going through recovery. Surround yourself with the kind of people who will help you reach your goals, not hinder your progress.

3. Get involved on campus.

If you’re balancing your schoolwork well and find yourself wondering what to do with your free time, consider taking up a sport or hobby. Join a club that focuses on one of your interests. Not only will this solve the problem of boredom, but being an active member of the school opens opportunities for friendship and a chance to make lifelong memories.

4. Establish and maintain healthy boundaries.

As a young adult in higher education, you want to fit in with your fellow students and make friends, but peer pressure can get the best of anyone and lead down a slippery slope. Establishing boundaries beforehand will prepare you for inevitable awkward situations. Accept that it’s OK to say “no.” Remember, if you constantly find yourself in environments where people who know you’re in recovery still push your boundaries, it’s time to find a new crowd.

5. Seek out safe social spaces.

As fun as it is to go to a party, it’s best to avoid gatherings where drugs and alcohol will be present. There are plenty of other ways to pass time and have fun with friends outside the classroom. For example, many campuses have collegiate recovery programs that put on regular social events for students in recovery. As a two-for-one, you can join a study group for one of your classes and make studying more social and a little more fun.

6. Take care of your mental health.

Issues with drugs and alcohol often go hand-in-hand with other mental health concerns such as anxiety, trauma, and depression. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, we encourage you to reach out to a licensed professional. Our team would be happy to speak with you about ways we can help.

*This blog post was adapted by Dr. Talia Barach from the following article: Addiction Recovery During Higher Education by Higher Education Team. To read the full article which covers: which substances pose the greatest risks to young adults, the potential consequences of being caught, how to get better, and recovery resources, please use the following link:

Accepting Responsibility for Victim Self-Blame

The intention behind this title isn’t to induce guilt or blame, but to help create accountability for society’s blaming of victims of assault; and every one of us is society. Individualistic societies – such as the one we live in – believe that people are in control of their lives and destinies, and this framework is what allows victim-blaming to flourish. 

What Are We Doing Wrong?

Strange as it may sound, assigning blame to the victim gives people a sense of safety because they believe they won’t be victimized if they act a certain way. If someone gets mugged when walking at night, the automatic thought is that they shouldn’t have been walking at night. When a girl gets raped at a party, people automatically wonder how she was dressed or whether she was intoxicated. The center of focus is on the victim and what they could have done differently, both behaviorally and cognitively. 

When learning of or witnessing acts of intimate partner violence, whether real or fictionalized, the question many ask is, “Why don’t they leave?” As an outside observer, it’s so easy to make judgements and so hard to imagine the host of intricate reasons that survivors have for not leaving, which include the wishes to live and protect their loved ones. We know that the most dangerous time for those experiencing domestic violence is when they attempt to leave (Domestic Violence and Sexual and Abuse, 2022). There are so many wrongs with this question. For one, it implies that the survivor did something to bring on this violence or didn’t do something to stop it. It translates to, “If this person had self-esteem…boundaries…self-respect…they would not let this happen to them” (Fast & Kinewesquao, 2019). 

How Are We Affecting Survivors’ Mental Health?

Victim blaming is the damaging attitude that implies that the survivor of intimate partner violence was in some way responsible for the abuse. Society is bombarding people with negative stereotypes about abuse survivors, including representations in the media, which the survivor then internalizes and believes to be true. Sadly, the disclosure of intimate partner violence can be met with doubt and a blaming response from the survivor’s loved ones, their medical professionals, and the legal system. What ends up happening is survivors internalize the stigma reflected to them by society, which adds to the shame, guilt, confusion, and self-blame that they already feel. Kennedy and Prock (2018) divide self-blame into behavioral, or the feeling that one did not control the situation, and characterological, which makes one’s character responsible for the assault. Behavioral and/or characterological self-blame aggravate guilt and shame, which can cause depression, anxiety, and a worsening of trauma symptoms. 

What Can We Do to Support Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence? 

We can validate their experiences, cognitions, feelings, and behaviors. This means saying things like, “I believe you,” “You did not contribute to this, your partner made a choice to abuse you,” or “Nobody has a right to hurt you physically, emotionally, or financially.” Survivors of domestic violence can become so accustomed to feeling invalidated by the court system, healthcare providers, friends, and family and that reaction contributes to their self-blame and has a lasting impact on their mental health – even changing the structure and function of their brains. However, when we apply principles of compassion and empathy and validate survivor’s experiences, we can help them heal. 

The following resource contains comprehensive information related to domestic violence: warning signs, types of domestic violence, and useful coping strategies/tools. While this information is intended to be helpful, please be aware that its content may be triggering:


This blog was written by Vivianna McKenney – a predoctoral Psychological Associate with California Women’s Therapy. Viviana is currently accepting new clients.


Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse. (2022, December 31). Helping Survivors of Sexual Assault and Abuse.

Kennedy, A. C., & Prock, K. A. (2018). “I still feel like I am not normal”: A review of the role of stigma and stigmatization among female survivors of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse19(5), 512-527

Fast, E., & Kinewesquao, C. R. (2019). Victim-blaming and the crisis of representation in the violence prevention field. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies10(1), 3-25