How the OU Saved my Life

A substance use disorder changed my life, and the OU saved it.


Content warning: This article discusses substance use disorders.

Substance use disorders affect millions of people worldwide.  I never thought I would be one of them.

Growing up, I always dreamt of university.  From the age of six, I remember saying I was going to go to Harvard someday.  The thought of my future motivated me to study hard, work hard, and get involved in extra-curricular activities that would shine on my university applications – and they did, but at what cost?

When I walked through the doors of my brick-and-mortar university at age eighteen, I was excited by the academics, diversity, and societies on campus.  When I walked out the doors, however, I was a completely different person.

For a long time, I was living a double-life.  Student by day, partier by night.  Until one day, I failed to make the switch, and the nightlife took over.  In what seemed like the blink of an eye, my life changed dramatically, and I was no longer the star student I had always considered myself to be.

I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Distance-learning had never been on my radar.  I never thought that a non-traditional path would be a good fit for me, mainly because it wasn’t presented as an option by my school, friends, or family growing up.  But deciding to transfer to The Open University was the best choice I’ve ever made.  I finally took control of my life and did what was best for me.

After taking some time off and moving home, I started my first modules.  Now, it’s two years later, and I’m about to graduate in recovery.

I may not have fulfilled my childhood dream of going to Harvard (or, what I thought was my dream at the time).  I did, however, regain the confidence, skills, and motivation that I lost while struggling with my substance use disorder.  Today, I feel prepared for my future.  For the first time in a long time, I also feel excited about the future.

I may never be the same person I was before my substance use disorder, but that’s okay.  I have learned valuable life lessons that I carry with me every day, and I have the Open University to thank for that.  Without the opportunity to take things at my own pace and focus on my well-being, I would not be where I am today.

Thank you, OU, for saving my life.


If you or someone you know has experienced the difficulties mentioned in this article, help is available.

OU Students can access help on the Association website support and advice pages, from Peer Support, Togetherall, and Shout.

Support from the NHS and national charities are also available:


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Katelyn Owens

One Comment

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  1. I got massive chills reading your story. A big massive thank you for sharing your journey with all of us and I know that you are going to do great things in life! Cannot wait to see more writings from you, aside from what you already published, and see where the future takes you. Sending you a ton of virtual hugs and good vibes!