Dominate the Day: Teen Outpatient Recovery Tactics for School Victory

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School and Recovery: Strategies for Teens in Outpatient Programs

For many teens looking to make the change to sober living, balancing school is often tough. Here’s how to stay ahead of your work while in outpatient programs.

Drug use among young people has fallen, but overdoses have risen. This means that teens are still very much at risk when it comes to substance use, and if you or someone you know is a teen with a substance use problem, it’s time to find help.

Outpatient programs for teens can be incredibly beneficial, but teens also have to deal with the trials and tribulations associated with school while they’re recovering. That’s not going to be easy.

We’re here to help. Read on to learn all about how teenagers can work toward finding a balance between school and recovery.

Understanding the Challenges

First, before we talk about how teens can balance school and recovery, let’s discuss some of the common challenges that they’ll face. Teens aren’t just dealing with growing bodies and raging hormones making recovery all the more difficult. They’re also faced with maintaining grades and sticking to strict schedules for the first time while preparing for college or the workforce (if they’re not already working).

Teens who are in recovery have a hard road ahead, but with the right support, it’s manageable. Here’s what they can expect to deal with. 

Time Management

Teens in recovery may struggle to find time to attend outpatient programs, therapy sessions, support group meetings, and complete schoolwork. Many teens struggle to do their schoolwork. Adding so much more into the mix can be frustrating.

Balancing these commitments while also managing extracurricular activities and social life can be overwhelming. Many teens may have to stop working and stop extracurricular activities for a while (if it’s possible) so they can adjust. Remind them that recovery is vital to their health and they can always rejoin these activities once again later on.

Academic Performance

Addiction, like any mental health disorder, can have a significant impact on academic performance. Teens in recovery may experience difficulties concentrating, retaining information, and meeting academic expectations. This can be the result of the effects of addiction on cognitive function and motivation.

Mental health conditions can cause serious brain fog. This can cause forgetfulness, sleepiness, and an overall difficult time maintaining grades.

Peer Pressure

School environments can be full of peer pressure to partake in substance use and other common risky behaviors. Teenagers are already more prone to risk than adults. Teens in recovery may face temptation and pressure from peers who are unaware of or insensitive to what they’re dealing with.

While many modern teens are sensitive to the struggles of addiction, this will still be a hurdle. 

Stigma and Discrimination

Despite increased awareness and understanding of addiction, stigma, and discrimination against people in addiction recovery still exist. Teens may experience judgment or negativity from classmates, teachers, and school staff. 

This discrimination can undermine their self-esteem and sense of belonging (which is important for teenagers).

Stress and Anxiety

Balancing school and recovery can be inherently stressful, especially for teens who are already navigating the ever-present challenges of adolescence. Academic pressure, social expectations, and the demands of recovery can contribute to heightened stress and anxiety levels.

Those higher stress and anxiety levels could potentially influence teens to relapse, so it’s important that they have a strong support system. 

Lack of Support

Some teens who find themselves struggling with addiction may lack a supportive home environment or social network to help them navigate the challenges of recovery and school. This can lead to further problems. 

Feelings of isolation or alienation that are already so common during adolescence can exacerbate existing mental health issues and increase the risk of relapse.

Access to Resources

Access to appropriate resources and support services is essential during recovery, but unfortunately, that access may vary. Teens in recovery may encounter barriers to accessing quality resources like counseling or addiction treatment services.

For the best chance at successful recovery, teens need to have as many resources at their disposal as possible. This even includes potential school resources. 

Relapse Triggers

School environments may expose teens to various relapse triggers. These include stress, peer pressure, academic challenges, and common social events where drinking and drug use are prevalent.

Learning to identify and cope with these triggers is essential for maintaining sobriety. This is a challenge for all teens, but it’s even harder for teens in recovery. 

Transitioning Back to School

Reintegrating into school after (or while) undergoing addiction treatment can be a huge adjustment for teens. They have to re-learn their old routines and rebuild relationships. They may have fallen behind their peers or they may struggle with the structure of the classroom. 

Strategies for Balancing School and Recovery

So what can teenagers do to improve their school-recovery balance? By working together with mental health professionals, peers, and family members, teens should be able to find a balance that works for them.

School is important, but teens need to prioritize their mental health and recovery when necessary. While academics are important for their future, there won’t be a guaranteed future if they can’t make it through recovery. 

Here are a few strategies that can help teenagers find a balance that works for them. 

Establish a Support System

Never underestimate the importance of a good support system when it comes to addiction recovery. Teenagers already need so much social support as-is. They naturally find themselves in social groups at school but may feel isolated due to their condition.

Teens should do their best to maintain strong and healthy friendships throughout their recovery. They should focus on friends who are not bad influences and who respect their desire to be sober

Teens may also want to join support groups. These groups will be full of other people who understand what the teen is going through, so they will come from a place of empathy. 

Family support is also essential during the recovery process. While parents and guardians may be dealing with some emotional struggles regarding their teens’ recovery journey, this is the time to step up and help them. 

Learn and Practice Time Management Techniques

Teens who are in recovery need structure. Outpatient is a type of structured treatment, but it’s less structured than inpatient. Teens need the same type of structure that inpatient often provides but at home.

Structure is good for a teen’s mental health. It can decrease anxiety which is good for recovery. It also allows for less free time to do things that the teen shouldn’t be doing.

The structure won’t have to be strict forever. After an adjustment period, the schedule can loosen up and free time will be available for relaxing and fun activities that aren’t pre-scheduled. At first, however, schedule everything.

This will help when it comes to developing time management techniques. It will feel forced at first, but then it will begin to come naturally. 

When it comes to actual treatment, stick to what has been scheduled already. Don’t skip appointments or medications without the consent of the mental health professionals.

Communicate with School Personnel

Whether you’re the teen or the parent, it’s important to communicate with teachers and other school staff. They’re going to be helpful resources during this difficult transition period back into school. 

Often, teachers are more flexible and understanding than students give them credit for. If a student has a legitimate issue (such as addiction recovery), a teacher can perhaps give them more resources or time for assignments when it’s appropriate.

The school may also have mental health accommodations available for students who are dealing with similar issues. They may allow students to take breaks when necessary or to miss more than the standard number of classes for mental health appointments. 

If you don’t communicate with the staff at the school, they won’t know that you (or your teen) need help. Communication is key here. 

Learn Coping Strategies for Stress and Triggers

Triggers can be difficult to avoid as a teenager. School is stressful by default, even more so if you add on the stresses of applying for college or thinking about future careers. Add on the stresses of relationships, extracurricular activities, and even homework, it can all feel like too much. 

This is without the immense stress associated with trying to recover from a serious addiction. 

Because stress is a huge trigger for so many people, triggers themselves may be unavoidable. Yes, you can avoid temptation, but you may not be able to leave stress behind you.

What you can do is learn how to cope with your stress and triggers so they don’t overwhelm you. This way, you don’t feel the immediate need to turn to drugs or alcohol for relief.

Your counselor can help you develop coping strategies that make the most sense for you, but it’s a good idea to always have a few in your back pocket (so to speak). For example, you may want to learn about helpful breathing exercises for stress relief, or you may want to keep some sensory objects in your pocket or a bag. 

It can take time to find coping strategies that work well for you, but it’s a worthwhile venture. 

Establish Boundaries and Learn to Say No

Boundaries are crucial for everyone, not just teens going through recovery. However, many people don’t understand how to set boundaries until they’re well into adulthood. For teens going through something so challenging, it’s important to learn about how to set boundaries sooner rather than later. 

Teens need to know how to tell their friends and family members “No” when something makes them uncomfortable. This can mean saying “No” to substances or even saying “No” to situations that they know may be triggering or stressful. 

Establishing boundaries and removing yourself from uncomfortable situations can feel wrong at first, but it gets easier. 

Seek Professional Help and Guidance

All teens who are going through recovery should be seeking the help of mental health professionals. Those same professionals who are helping you recover in outpatient can also help you learn how to find a balance.

If you’re struggling to manage the weight of all of your responsibilities at once, talk to your therapist about it. They understand that you’re in a challenging position, and they may have insight based on their years of experience with patients in similar positions that can help you. 

Be Gentle With Yourself or Your Teen

This is an undeniably stressful situation, so it’s crucial to be kind to yourself (or your teenager) during it. There will likely be setbacks, even despite your best efforts. There will be good days and bad days, and that comes with the territory of addiction recovery. 

Gentleness is essential during this time. Teens are already sensitive, and what they need most is acceptance and support. They need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they grow from them. 

Don’t punish setbacks and make sure to reward yourself (or your teen) for successes, no matter how small.

Don’t Neglect Other Needs

Teens who are going through recovery need to focus on that recovery as well as academics, however, they still have other needs. They have social and emotional needs to fulfill, and while parents may worry, those needs are important. 

When possible, teens should still engage in fun (and safe) activities with friends. They should follow their hobbies and enjoy themselves. This will lower their stress levels and help with their overall emotional growth. 

Safe after-school activities and hangouts with friends are perfectly normal and healthy for teenagers even when they’re recovering.

Balancing Outpatient Programs and School Is Tough

Outpatient programs can be challenging, and adding in the stresses of school and adolescence doesn’t make them any easier. No one ever said that addiction treatment would be easy, but it’ll be worth it. 

If you or someone you know is a teen struggling with addiction, it’s time to start your healing journey at New Life Recovery Center. We serve people of all ages, including teens, who are struggling with addiction. Let us aid in your recovery journey.

Reach out today to learn more about the variety of programs and services we offer, or visit our center in Montville, NJ.