My advice... drop your life for a couple of years and go find a good technical school, like NESOP or Brooks. The level of photgraphic experience you are going to find will blow your socks off. Intense, goal driven, artistic challanging, ego reducing classes that will make you into a fine photographer with professional potential.
I did this in 1985/86 and don't regret a single moment I spent there. I later went and got the engineering degree that supports my kids, kameras, and kritters.
tim in san jose (robotics software engineer, B&W photographer)