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Ed. Magazine

Collegiate Recovery

For one student, education brings a clean start
Moriah Lit
Moriah Lit
Photo: Jonathan Kozowyk

It was the beginning of January 2023, and Moriah Lit opened the first acceptance letter for graduate school. Within a couple of weeks, she would open seven more. It was a surreal and triumphant moment for her; only six years earlier, after a long bartending shift, Lit had found herself curled up on the floor of her shower. She had used again and knew it was finally time to get sober. 

“Something came over me that night and I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” she says. “The next day, I checked into rehab, a 35-day program, and got clean.” 

She spent the next year going to daily meetings and finding a new set of friends. She got a sponsor. And during that pivotal year, she realized she had bigger aspirations — and a way to get there. “For me to expand the possibilities for my future,” she remembers thinking, “school was part of that gateway.” 

She had tried higher education before, a couple of community colleges after attending an alternative evening high school where she says not a lot of learning happened.

“I would go for a semester or two, then I’d stopped going to classes,” she says. “My GPA reflected that, and back then, I just decided that education was beyond my reach. I had other priorities at the time, which was partying and having fun.” At 23, she overdosed and went to rehab. When she was 29, her father, who had been in active recovery, overdosed and died. Lit’s drug use spiraled for several years. And then that night in the shower happened and, at the age of 32, she went back to her local community college in Philadelphia and started taking classes again, this time with a new focus. She became president of the student government and three years later, gave the commencement address. She knew she wanted to keep learning. 

“For me, an associate degree wasn’t enough,” she says. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but that was when I started to think that I might want to do something in college counseling.” 

She wasn’t sure how to apply to a four-year colleges, so she did the obvious: She Googled top schools. Eventually, she got full offers from four of the Seven Sisters colleges. “This is really dear to my heart,” she says. “A lot of the Seven Sisters schools have programs for nontraditional age students.” At the age of 36, she started her undergraduate degree at Wellesley College, majoring in sociology. 

Two years later, after graduation, she found herself again on Google, this time researching education graduate programs. She applied to eight and got into all of them, including HGSE. She says she didn’t hesitate in deciding which one to pick.

“Something came over me that night and I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ The next day, I checked into rehab, a 35-day program, and got clean.”

Moriah Lit

"Harvard was hands down my first choice,” she says. “There was no way that I wasn’t going to come. Everything about it — from its reputation to the fact that they had a higher education concentration at the intersection of human development — really spoke to my values and the direction I knew I wanted to go in.” 

Part of that direction, she says, now includes helping other students who are in recovery. 

“Since I had gotten clean, I started to advise friends how to go to college because it had been such a transformational experience for me,” she says. And then an aunt suggested starting a company. 

“I was telling her that all I really wanted to do was help people in recovery get back into college because I understood,” she says. “When you get clean, let’s say you’re 32, 33, you think that you have these limitations. You think, the best I can do is make $18 an hour working at a recovery house or a bar. You don’t understand that there are so many opportunities and so much funding available. For a lot of people, the process is so daunting that they put it off and say maybe one day.” 

After working on the business plan in her classes, Lit’s new company, Collegiate Recovery Solutions, was selected as a Harvard Presidential Innovation Challenge semifinalist. The company fills a crucial gap. 

“I looked into it, and there are all sorts of support services to help people in recovery integrate back into society,” she says, “but there’s no program that specifically helps people get back to school.” 

But there should be. 

“Students in recovery are all over campuses across the country,” she says. “They’re largely unnoticed and under the radar, but it’s important to hold space to recognize them. I also want to decrease the stigma that people that have substance use disorders should be relegated to one kind of lifestyle for their whole lives. I want to show that we can do anything and that the opportunities are limitless.” 

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