The issue of sobriety has been addressed for centuries in America. Getting sober and staying sober has been a goal for people long before the inception of AA, and addiction and sobriety as concepts are older than this republic of ours. Yet despite the long and hard struggle, we still have a problem with drugs and alcohol. However, one thing that has changed is how we approach the issue: the idea of a sober companion.
Sobriety usually had its place in society as a form of spiritual cleanliness. While some religions experimented with psychedelics as part of their rituals, others denoted the importance of keeping a clear head. It wasn’t until quite recently in human history when science began addressing the medical importance of addiction, most commonly including the damage done by abuse of alcohol and morphine, and in the 19th century, we began treating the issue. It took decades for a unified definition, with countless terms being coined to generally explain the same thing – a habitual and insatiable craving for certain substances, with damaging consequences.
From there, the debate sparked around the how and why. Is it psychological, or physical? Or both?
Recent studies show that addiction is a disease of the brain and must be treated on both a physical and psychological level. Yet instead of giving patients their medicine and sending them on their way, time and empirical evidence has proven that therapy is the most effective way of preventing relapses and achieving long-term sobriety. Most notably, however, the social aspect of recovery is what seems to help patients stick to their sobriety even in times of high stress.
Enter the sober companion. While still a relatively new career in addiction treatment, sober companionship has its benefits when it comes to helping people stay clean.
What Is A Sober Companion?
A sober companion is someone available to a recoveree, often living with them, and providing constant guidance and help. Sober companions or sober mentors are more than just good friends. A sober companion is not stationed in an office, approachable thrice a week for a standard consultation.
Sometimes, a sober companion is trained to work with people to adapt their recovery to who they are, what they can and can’t do, and what they need. Other times, they have no professional or psychiatric training.
Addiction is a complicated disease, and the reasons for why people get addicted and stay addicted vary wildly. As such, there is no easy answer for getting sober. It takes hard work and the right people to find out exactly what works best for you in recovery, and a sober companion can help you figure that out.
Sober companions are paid by the week or the month, and they can help you out for a few weeks, or a few years. There are no concrete limits, and the exact terms and rules depend entirely on you, your companion, and how you want to frame your relationship.
Companionship vs. Sponsorship
Many draw parallels between sober companions and sober sponsors, but there is a significant difference. Sober sponsors, typically as part of a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, are basically members of the program who have taken it upon themselves to help you stay sober by offering advice, knowledge, and time. Sometimes, they become friends.
At other times, they become confidants. Yet in every case, a sponsor is meant to help prepare you for many of the things you’re likely going to face in early sobriety by drawing from their own experiences working with others and on themselves. There is no training involved, and very little in terms of necessary qualification. It’s not a profession, either – sponsors are not paid to do the work they do with others.
Sober companions are professionals. Some are trained, others are not. Some act as life coaches or personal trainers in addition to being sober companions, or as spiritual guidance. Others focus solely on keeping you sober, 24/7. All sober companions are paid to do the work they do and dedicate themselves to your sobriety by doing whatever it takes to help you stay clean. They may be your friends one day and your nemesis another, but every ounce of effort is put towards improving your recovery.
Regardless of whether you find a sober sponsor, or enlist a sober companion, they both do have one thing in common – they are a significant part of your support system. A support system is a group of people you rely on to get through hard times. Chances are you are part of someone else’s support system – a friend or a loved one – and together, we all help each other deal with our challenges and struggles, and ideally provide one another with the motivation and inspiration to keep going.
Your Support System Matters
To understand how a sober companion functions, it’s important to understand the importance of a proper support system. A sober companion is a professional trained to keep you sober, most often to help after rehab to keep you on track long enough for sobriety to set in permanently. But a strong support system is just as important and will keep you set for life. That does not mean just surrounding yourself with people who support you – it means integrating yourself with a community or group that cares about you, and that you can care about. Be a part of something bigger than yourself, from a functional family to a sports club or a group of another kind.
It is also important to weed out relationships that actively hurt you and your recovery. Separate yourself from people who doubt you, pull you down or enable your addictive tendencies. For many, that means cutting out a large portion of their social circle – but this is for the best in the long term.
Making Sober Friends
Keeping a sober companion in your employ for the rest of your life means you’re not moving past treatment into a steady sober life. The goal of every tool in the recovery arsenal is to teach you to live life free from those tools. Some things will stay forever – lifestyle choices, like eating healthy and staying sober, are prerequisites. Other things, like attending treatment programs and meetings, may fade with time.
But one thing that must stay constant is a solid support group. Sober friends are the best way to take care of this. Many people find themselves in a position in life where they can’t confide anything to anyone except their own therapists. But a friend you can trust, one you can tell anything and help with everything, is a truly rare and special thing. And it’s something you should pursue in both life and recovery. Having a sober friend at your side can help you both keep each other from using again and support each other when things go wrong – without the help of a professional.