The point of mentorship is to define a path for someone, and to give them a light to shine through the darkness. They exist to cut through the fog, bring clarity to uncertainty, and provide the kind of guidance that lets a person grow without robbing them of the pain and challenge needed for growth.
In addiction treatment, sober mentoring provides that same function, in a professional setting. For millennia, humans have existed and co-existed, passing knowledge on through tutelage, training, and mentorship. Overcoming addiction is as much a matter of willpower as it is a matter of knowledge – and who better to train someone to overcome their own addiction than someone who has done it before.
But to understand the good a sober mentor can do for someone in the early and middle stages of recovery, it’s important to understand what sober living is, and why it plays a role in a crucial part of the recovery timeline.
Explaining Sober Living
Sober living is a treatment philosophy that emphasizes recreating an honest and realistic setting for tenants to live out the every day responsibilities of life without the temptation of drugs. Tenants are asked to pay rent, have a steady job/go to school, and engage in community activities and events, while having individual and group therapy and regular drug testing. Drugs and other illicit substances are strictly forbidden in sober living facilities, and tenants can stay if they like.
The point of a sober living community is to replicate the challenges and difficulties of real life, letting tenants explore the stressors and confront their responsibilities without the temptation of falling back into old habits. For many, this is invaluable – it teaches them self-sustainability and gives them the tools they need to fight their cravings and focus on the task at hand.
Sober living facilities are traditionally a perfect fit for people looking for an intensive treatment program after their initial treatment from addiction. Many have trouble transitioning back into the real world after residential treatment. Adjusting to the world after rehab can be difficult, and sober living is meant to ease people into that world without the risk of relapse.
It’s not perfect, of course. A sober living community is still an addiction treatment center, and the outside world brings with it many old memories and more powerful triggers for cravings and the like. The solution is to continue your treatment, but in a way that remains minimally invasive and allows you to face the struggles of sobriety in the real world head-on – by having a sober mentor.
Professional Mentorship vs. Sponsorship
Support in recovery can come in many forms, and one of the more classic forms is the sponsor from a group meeting. Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have been around for decades, espousing the importance of keeping away loneliness by facing addiction in pairs and groups.
Yet there is a marked difference between having an assigned sponsor and a sober mentor. Sober mentors are professional therapists with a background in addiction and sobriety, a passion for treatment, and a long repertoire of treatment methods. They act as your mentors to living life in sobriety, equipped with a greater understanding of addiction than most people, and an emphasis on how every individual can experience recovery in their own way.
The Mentor-Mentee Relationship
The mentor-mentee relationship is a professional one, but that does not mean that it cannot result in friendship. It’s critical to be in therapy with someone you like and can trust – and this is even more crucial when picking a sober mentor. Sober mentors are not just people you call when you have a problem, or therapists you check in on once a week to get some peace of mind. Their job is to help you on every step of the way throughout early and middle recovery, giving you advice, watching your progress, and telling you off when you’re about to do something regrettable.
Life can become drastically difficult out of nowhere. No one in the world has perfect control, and anything could happen to plunge us into misery and make our old habits look extremely attractive. Fighting against temptation when motivation is extremely sparse is just one of the many things sober mentors tackle with fervor. At the end of the day, they’re not just a potential friend. A sober mentor is a coach, someone with the energy and the insight you need to look yourself in the mirror and understand where you want to go, even when life is at its dimmest and grimmest.
Becoming A Mentor
Research shows that giving is better than receiving, not only from moral viewpoint, but from a psychological one. Giving to others can have a profound impact on you, especially when what you give is a meaningful service. This is an important lesson for people in recovery, because it helps support the idea that if you’ve gone through addiction and survived recovery, then the personal insight you have, as well as the general knowledge you have accumulated, can be invaluable for people struggling with addiction and looking for help in early recovery.
Treatment is hard for everyone, and everyone struggles in their own way – but one person’s struggles can be inspiring, insightful, or helpful to another person, if only to provide a fresh perspective and to motivate.
The first step to becoming a sober mentor for others is to be confident and happy with your own sobriety. The second step is to develop a passion for helping others in the community achieve their sobriety and maintain it. And finally, there are programs and certifications for achieving professional mentorship status that help you further your knowledge on treatment applications, family dynamics, crisis prevention and intervention, motivational techniques, psychology, and addiction science.
Recovery Is An Ongoing Process
Sober mentorship proves that the recovery process is an ongoing one. Even after treatment, there are many obstacles that make staying sober incredibly difficult, from triggers to unexpected circumstances and unforeseen challenges. Life is full of curveballs, and regardless of whether you catch them or dodge them, dealing with them straight out of treatment can be difficult.
Sober mentors and other professionals work to help guide you through the first few months and years after treatment, setting you and your friends and family on a path to keep the addiction in check forever.