Ironically, coming out of SELF to begin my school activities was the second hardest thing I had to endure next to my being admitted to rehab. After going through a whirlwind of difficult emotions adjusting to the house rules and the hardships that come with TC life, one would think I would have been glad to leave SELF in a heartbeat.But after having discovered myself and having made new friendships, it was hard to leave this place of healing behind. I found myself attached to the people, comfortable in my work environment, and well supported by people who cared for me. When I had to make that painful decision, I was half-hearted. But I heeded the advise of those who knew me well and finally set out to pursue my life outside of SELF.

During my initial exposure to the outside world, I felt small. Despite my past post as the Assistant for Resident Development (ARD) reality made me feel incompetent, and I was skeptical whether I could make it out here. I remember crying day after day, hating and sometimes even regretting having made the decision to leave SELF and pursue my education.
Despite the comforting words given to me by my closest peers and counselors, I continued to wallow in self-pity and felt that my world was falling apart. Nonetheless, I had the sense to take things one day at a time, just like we were taught in recovery. And somehow this motto saw me through my adjustment period outside.

As I went along, time started to fly by and things no longer seemed as bad as they once were. I used the skills the program gave me to help me cope with the stresses of the outside world. Most noteworthy of the skills I developed are my study habits. Having worked the position of ARD for several months, I had learned how to prioritize, focus on the task at hand, and meet deadlines. Having also been trained to be meticulous when checking the daily reports submitted to me by my subordinates in the facility, I now proof-read all of my papers, double checking them for errors and typos before I submit them.

Furthermore, my experiences in SELF as both a resident and staff trainee allowed me to gain insights into the psychology behind social behavior that helped me win the trust and respect of many new friends. Before I knew it I was meeting the expectations of my teachers, got through an entire semester, and even earned myself a spot on the Dean’s List.

With hindsight I can really say that when I left SELF I left it fully armed. All I needed to do was believe in myself. Come to think of it, there is a parallel between the SELF TC and the school environment. The challenges and situations may be labeled differently but the learnings remain the same. (See Table on SELF and School Compared.)

SELF and School Compared

The values and principles taught at SELF are universal and applicable to all aspects of life. So what is the real world like after spending almost three years within the confines of the facility? Well, there’s a wider variety of food and a lot more freedom, that’s for sure. But life is a lot tougher than you would expect because when you face setbacks, disappointments, and failure, you’re mostly left alone to deal with them. And it’s during times like these that you are faced with the decision to either stick with the program or go back to your old negative ways. As for me, I’ve since decided to stand firm with what I now know is right.

In closing, there’s a saying that goes, the place which may seem like the end, may also be the beginning. Looking back at the days when I first left SELF, what I once thought was a dead end turned out to be a marvelous avenue of opportunity to find my purpose in life.

Graduate 2009