It’s said that 40% to 60% of those who are addicted to heroin and who have gone through treatment and sober living services will relapse within the first year. In fact, for many relapse happens within the first year of completing a sober living program.
Yet, there is a way to acquire help for recovery that is detailed, custom, and specific to an individual’s needs, and that assistance is in the form of mentoring. According to a new one-year pilot project at a Cape Cod addiction treatment center, sober mentoring is being explored in regards to its ability to facilitate sobriety.
One of the patients there, a 21-year old male who became addicted to heroin two years ago, has shown significant results from the sober mentoring he has been receiving at the center. He is new to this particular treatment center and a participant in the pilot study. He agreed to live in a sober living house, attend daily 12-step group meetings and get individual counseling. Yet, most importantly, he has assistance daily, sometimes hourly, from a sober mentoring coach.
Mentors, or coaches as they are known in the study, can help recovering addicts with a range of skills, including managing their emotions, filling out job applications, going to 12-step meetings, and taking good care of themselves. Most importantly, mentors are trained to help recovering addicts replace the old positive feelings about getting high with new positive triggers for taking steps towards recovery. Furthermore, sober mentoring coaches assist their mentees with creating and following a weekly recovery treatment plan.
Adding the sober mentoring service to the treatment center in Cape Cod has already proven to be incredibly effective. Comparing the medical records for their participants one year before the pilot program and one year into the pilot program revealed significant improvements, including an 83% reduction in admissions to rehabilitation facilities and a drop of emergency room admissions from 16 to one.
In fact, according to Robert Lubran, director of the division of pharmacologic therapies at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) there appears to be a trend to use sober mentors or coaches to help heroin users, specifically. A mentor can hold a vision for what it’s like to move away from addiction, seek sober help, experience the healing process, and finally arrive at sober living. The State of New York is already paying for coaches to help treat addiction through its Medicaid program.
Certainly, the field of addiction and treatment is a growing one, and it appears that the use of mentors is a positive way to approach facilitate sober living in recovering addicts. In the pilot study, one of the ways that mentors are shifting the stigma of addiction and facilitating sobriety is through the use of the disease model. They are encouraging their mentees to treat their addiction as though they had a chronic illness.
For instance, as one of the coaches in the pilot study pointed out, it’s just like “taking insulin, watching my diet, getting my blood work drawn, going to different appointments, walking on the treadmill, making sure I’m taking care of myself.” In the same way, coaches are encouraging their mentees to do the same with their addiction by treating it as though it were hypertension or diabetes.
Mentors, no matter what area of life – career, health, school, spirituality, relationships, and sobriety – have proven to dramatically improve one’s ability to achieve. Certainly, the relationship between mentee and mentor plays a significant role, especially if the mentoring is happening daily. A strong mentor/mentee relationship can make a vast difference in achieving lifelong goals. There’s no question that with the right support, encouragement, and commitment, a recovering addict can create a drug-free and healthy life.
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