One of the major things that active addiction often takes from young adults is their educational goals and academic success. Historically, the path from active addiction to treatment and recovery was one that could be derailed due to a young adult seeking to begin college or reenter the academic environment after having to leave school or fail out of a university. The roadmap from active addiction to recovery and back to school was littered with potential barriers to sustainable recovery: stress, time dedicated to education took away from a focus of recovery, the inability to navigate a questionable academic history, poor time management, or disappointment that could lead to relapse. Additionally, a student in early recovery or the family of a student in early recovery from addiction can often create a barrier by pushing the educational and academic goals too soon, or placing them before the recovery goals, and often without the necessary support system in place.
It was for many of these reasons that we knew we needed to develop a successful educational and academic success support track for the potential young adult patients here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. We know that the pursuit of academic goals and achievements give young adults purpose, direction, and meaning- all things that are also vitally important to sustainable recovery. We also understood the challenges that many young adult students in early recovery faced in being able to figure out a way to begin and sustain their educational and academic courses while also learning to live life in sobriety. We wanted to offer them a way of taking on those academic challenges and goals without sacrificing vital treatment, clinical care, and personal recovery. Fortunately, we didn’t need to recreate the wheel. We simply had to reach out for help from some of our incredible colleagues and partner organizations.
At Caron Treatment Centers, the team at Caron had already developed the Caron’s College Success™ Program, a program that provides academic success support to students receiving addiction treatment services throughout the Caron continuum to being, continue or complete their academic goals in a high school, college, vocational school, or graduate school program. Caron’s team, led by Executive Director of Collegiate Recovery Services Jonathan Saltzburg, MBA, provides the expertise and resources needed for students to being, continue or complete the academic goals as they pass through clinical programming at Caron. These academic goals can relate to any educational setting, including at a high school, community college, public or private university, vocational school, or graduate school.
So, here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, we decided to reach out to our colleagues at Caron for insight and direction on how we might be able to offer patients in the MARC continuum similar support and experiences in their academic careers. We developed a partnership with Caron that led to the creation of the Caron’s College Success™ Program at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. Patients here at MARC that needed the necessary expertise, help, and support for their education would enter this program when clinically appropriate and begin working with MARC Collegiate Recovery Specialist Sarah MacDonald. With collaboration with Caron staff, including Jonathan and his team, as well as the already established resources that Caron had created and the relationships with schools that Caron’s team has established and developed, Sarah would be implementing similar services for MARC patients and their families, alongside Jonathan and the team at Caron. Sarah and Jonathan also worked to develop and establish new partnerships with local colleges and universities in the Maryland, Washington, D.C, and Virginia areas.
We are happy to report that since the implementation of the Caron’s College Success™ at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center 15 months ago, we have seen remarkable academic success for our patients as they begin or reenter into the educational setting and continue their academic careers. Throughout relationships and partnerships with local higher educational institutions such as University of Maryland, College Park, Towson University, Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), Howard Community College, Stevenson University, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), Georgetown University, and George Washington University, as well as relationships outside the DMV areas that Caron has throughout the country, we have been able to help patients find success in continuing their educational careers at an appropriate time, at an appropriate school, with the appropriate amount of clinical and recovery support that will support both their academic goals and a life in recovery from addiction.
Over those 15 months, MARC Collegiate Recovery Specialist Sarah MacDonald has met with over 40 MARC patients who have been interested in integrating academics into their treatment plan. Many of those students have had prior difficulty with finding success at colleges and universities due to their struggles with addiction and mental health, feel ashamed due to what they perceive to be their failures at school, and currently still feel stigmatized, shame, and guilt for what they believe is their experience of falling behind in their academic careers compared to their peers. Many of them had lost hope regarding their educational dreams. Sarah has offered guidance and support to those patients and their families, given them hope, and aided them in recommitting to academics. She also has offered extra accountability and taught our patients/students how to learn to advocate for their needs within a university framework. Sarah has helped many patients/students complete transfer applications, transfer credits from previous schools and academic institutions, take placement testing to prepare for their first sober semester in college, select the best schedules and classes that best support their treatment and recovery schedules and accommodated work, and create accountability, structure, and a sense of community.
And then the COVID-19 global public health pandemic occurred. However, just as students throughout the country adapted, so did the patients here at MARC and our staff. While we were worried this would negatively impact the patient’s track towards academic success, we have been shown that such worry was unfounded.
We wanted to take this time to recognize the exceptional academic performance of the six current patients/students engaged in the Caron’s College Success™ at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center program, who finished their semester via a “virtual college” program at their respective schools. We are pleased to inform you that the participants earned an average 3.80 GPA this Spring 2020 semester, which translates to an A-. A total of 30 credits were taken by the students during the Spring 2020 semester. Consistent with MARC’s efforts for quality outcomes, each student provided our compliance and quality team with our quality team with their transcripts to ensure that this date was verifiable.
This is truly an extraordinary time, and we are working in collaboration with our university colleagues to help structure the best clinical and recovery support for our patients/students engaged in the Caron’s College Success™ Program at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. As we continue to face this unprecedented pandemic, we anticipate a rise in anxiety, depression, and other comorbidities because of increased isolation. As we continue to respond to the changes the coronavirus has brought to our society and the world, we have been meeting with our colleagues in higher education to support collegiate recovery efforts while ensuring that our students are able to have the best learning experience possible. As you can imagine, this has been a challenge; however, we are pleased to inform you that we have increased our correspondence with students through daily like skills meetings to address how they are coping with the “new normal” and how they are structuring their day between clinical services and treatment, school, and recovery. Furthermore, in a parallel process, we are continuing to work hard to support the families of our patients as well. We continue to work each day to deliver exceptional comprehensive clinical care and educational support, and though these are challenging times, continue to support our patients/students that are in need of treatment that prioritizes their education and career goals while helping them achieve sustainable recovery.
Hear firsthand from some MARC patients that have taken part in the Caron’s College Success™ at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center program:
Ashley, MARC patient/College Success student:
“Sarah has helped me out with my educational goals in a variety of ways. When I obtained my transcript from my previous university, I was taken aback with my final GPA due to not being able to medically withdraw from classes at the time because of my addiction. Sarah has guided me with the medical withdrawal petitions and has eased my nerves when I came to her a bit distraught over my transcript. Together, we have enrolled me in classes at the local community college for the summer so that I can build credits and transfer to a four-year university. If I did not have the help of a collegiate counselor, I am not sure I would have been able to complete these goals, or if I had been, it would have caused much more stress.
My views on going back to school have changed for the better. After dropping out of a university due to a drug overdose, which was followed by countless treatment programs, I was not very sure about going back to college. I had thoughts of maybe being a hairdresser or pursuing a career where I didn’t need a bachelor’s degree. However, once I got sober, I’ve realized that I miss school and decided that I want to go back and do something in a field I’m passionate about which is psychology. I have always been a very bright student, and I am going to use that to the best of my ability. Sarah has assisted me in being able to see my potential, and more importantly, has guided me on how to use it.
I want to tell future College Success students that they are worth getting an education. That they are more capable of going back to school than they may think. Some of the “character defects” we had in our addiction, can be turned into a positive way to pursue our dreams. We went to great lengths to find drugs and alcohol, so why not use that to our advantage in sobriety? Don’t overthink it, you can do it!”
Caitlin, MARC patient/College Success student:
“Sarah has helped ease me back into the college routine! From her helpful expertise regarding transitioning, to her presence during phone calls with advisors, to her overall support with obtaining a degree! She has truly impacted my college experience in a great, new, sober way! I initially was hesitant to go ahead and jump back into my studies, but with the help and support of Sarah, I am confident I will succeed! I have found a new sense of accomplishment since working with Sarah and I am truly excited for whatever may lay ahead!
Schools have been quite cooperative with MARC regarding the struggles due to COVID-19. Having a collegiate recovery specialist such as Sarah has helped me to be able to navigate during this difficult time. I am taking summer classes, as well as some courses remotely in the Fall semester, as my school is in New York state!
I know that addiction is a lonely disease, but school doesn’t have to be that way! Sarah, as well as the rest of the MARC team, just wants what is best for you and your long-term sobriety and recovery!”
John, MARC Patient/College Success Student
“The college and academic success program has helped me organize for college, develop new skills to facilitate the transition, and set goals. During the time working with Sarah my perspective of college changed from just wanting to get by to striving to reach my potential. Being in recovery has impacted my view on college in terms of wanting to really take it seriously and to not get caught up in old behaviors and wanting to just “have fun” while I’m there. Sarah has really helped me organize myself with balancing work, school, and recovery by making sure my classes fit with my other obligations and not overloading myself to the point where I may put recovery on the back burner.”
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.