Never too late to be a student

It’s never too late to go back to school.  Even if you’re over 40, and even if you’re a hopeless drug addict.  I am both, and let me tell you, I have earned that title.

I’m 42 years old, at least I will be for about another week.  I spent half of my twenties and almost as much of my thirties being addicted to heroin.  I’ve been homeless, I’ve lived in cars and in campers.  I’ve had multiple overdoses and I’ve been arrested more times than I can count.  I’ve been through countless treatment programs, including methadone maintenance.

The only thing in my life I have ever been an expert in is drug addiction.  It remains the one thing that I am comfortable with, even as I approach my one-year sobriety milestone.

I got clean because I had absolutely no choice in the matter.  I was given lots of time in which to screw up, which was my usual procedure.  Somehow, this time, I held it together.

I had no idea what to do with myself, as my job history left a lot to be desired.  At a loss, I decided to attend school.

It had always been my dream to go back to college, to earn a college degree, but I had always been so messed up on drugs that I was unable to succeed at anything.  Drugs had caused me to systematically destroy anything I ever attempted in my life; amazing jobs, educational opportunities, relationships… Everything.  This time, I was out of options, so I obtained financial assistance and enrolled at Seattle Vocational Institute, which is located near Chinatown.

My teacher was impressed with me, and tirelessly encouraged me to apply for a scholarship called the Washington Award for Vocational Excellence.  The application process involved writing several essays, and I finally did it, procrastinating until the very last minute.

I had returned to court for my sentencing in late 2005.  The judge said that he would allow me to complete my classes at Seattle Vocational Institute with the caveat that I turn myself in to federal prison in April of 2006, to serve out the rest of my time.

I thought I was too smart to fall back into the cycle of addiction, but it eventually caught up with me.  I ended up right back where I left off, which is what happens to addicts.  Nobody outsmarts their addiction.

After realizing that I would lose the life I had worked so hard to rebuild if I didn’t quit using, I put myself back into in-patient treatment last July.  I have been clean and sober since June 26 of 2012.

Somehow I found my way, and education helped me gain a new knowledge about myself, a new confidence.  It wasn’t too late after all.

I’ve been attending Bellevue College since April, after having decided to pursue journalism as a career.  It has only been through furthering my education that I have found something else that I am good at.  Something aside from being a drug addict.

I truly believe that anyone can go back to school, no matter what the circumstances.  No one should ever feel that it’s too late to get an education.