The Benefits of Sober Companionship
Though the initial decision to use drugs or alcohol is typically voluntary, continued use can seriously impair a person’s ability to exert control over their impulse to use. The result of this loss of control can be described in a few different ways. Addiction is a general term for the intense urge to engage in any negative behaviors that provide the person with some type of positive sensation or other reward. For substance use, the more appropriate phrase is substance use disorder (SUD). SUD is defined as a chronic and relapsing condition that is characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use in spite of any adverse consequences.
Ultimately, SUD involves functional alterations to the brain circuits that have a role in reward, stress, and self-control. These changes may persist for a long period after the person is no longer using drugs. For this reason, SUD is characterized as a brain disorder and is considered just as real as other health conditions like depression, heart disease, and epilepsy.
When fighting those other diseases, no one expects patients to resolve their issues without a strong support system. Unfortunately, with the stigma around SUD, it is difficult for those struggling to find a support system that truly understands what the process is like offering help without judgment. This is where sober companions play a role: these individuals support those on their recovery journey to improve the likelihood of long-term success.
What Is a Sober Companion?
Whether you have chosen to work with a treatment facility or are going through recovery without a treatment facility, you will need to both learn and implement coping techniques and skills to support your sobriety. Unfortunately, this process seems simple on paper but is much more complex and difficult in practice. Without a solid support system to fall back on, recovery can seem impossible. Sober companions are professionals well-versed in offering this support system in a structured manner.
A sober companion is a professional experienced in SUD recovery who provides one-on-one support, guidance, assistance, and accountability while a person is in recovery from a substance use disorder. Most often, sober companions are not licensed counselors or professionals but instead work closely with these licensed professionals as one portion of a comprehensive recovery program.
Sober companions are able to provide support in many forms, including:
- Substance-free transportation
- Guidance and advice with navigating various situations, especially high-risk situations
- Building a wider network of support with friends, family, and peers
- Assistance with daily activities like employment, exercise, and meal planning
- Helping clients manage intense emotions that frequently arise during recovery
- Offering accountability by staying on track with recovery goals
The Sober Companion Process
There are a number of places you can find sober companions:
- Recovery 12-step groups like Alcohol Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
- Community centers
- Substance use disorder treatment centers
- Independent recovery programs
- Addiction and SUD resource groups
- Independent sober companions
Finding a person that is truly capable of providing the knowledge, insight, and experience you need to succeed in your journey is vital, but it can be daunting since there is no specific certification process. We recommend starting the recovery process by speaking with those already in recovery groups or reaching out to established recovery professionals. These conversations can provide valuable information about some of the options available to you.
Benefits of Having a Sober Companion
Having a sober companion to help you in your journey is important for a number of reasons. Potential benefits to reaching out to a professional sober companion include:
An Outside Perspective
When you’re approaching life situations after deciding to begin treatment for an SUD, it is not uncommon to feel unsure. Speaking with a sober companion about approaching situations you are feeling uncertain about can help you regain some of that confidence, allowing you to navigate these circumstances. Simply talking through a situation with someone can have improvements on how well you are able to handle it.
Having an outside perspective can provide valuable insight and strategies for handling even complex situations. A sober companion can also help you objectively examine your life for risk factors that are likely to hinder your success. Situations that seem normal and low-risk for you may actually be contributing to difficulties that you are experiencing with maintaining your recovery.
Choosing to address your SUD by committing to recovery can feel lonely and isolating, especially if your personal and professional relationships have been negatively affected by your substance use. Though you have initiated your path to recovery, some relationships will take time to rebuild to their prior strength. This period to rebuild trust is understandable, but recovery is much tougher when you do not have strong relationships to rely on.
Even if you do have strong relationships, your friends and loved ones may find it difficult to sympathize with what you are experiencing. Reaching out to a sober companion helps you make a connection with someone who understands what you are going through. Not only will this connection be stable and unmarred by your previous actions, but a sober companion will be more understanding of any mistakes.
Finding support from those within your circle is important for SUD treatment success; however, it can feel like you are taking advantage of their kindness by constantly reaching out when you need help. They may even let some biases or negative feelings bleed into their interactions with you when you are asking for help. Though these reactions may have been accidental, they can still impact your comfort level with asking that person for help in the future.
Reaching out to a professional sober companion that has either experienced a substance use disorder or has close ties with someone that struggled can help you feel more comfortable asking for support as often as you may require. A sober companion can empathize with where you are in your recovery journey and can provide judgment-free support as often as needed. Sober companions will also understand that recovery is not a linear process while still diligently offering support even in your lowest moments. Open and caring support is a strong motivator for succeeding in your journey.
One major hurdle to overcoming a substance use disorder is finding the necessary resources when they are needed. In many instances, sober companions can make themselves available to you 24/7, ensuring access to knowledge and support whenever the need arises. Sober companions have experience with the type of services available to you and can suggest the most appropriate options for the specific situation you are experiencing. They can also connect you with others who can provide assistance if they are unable to help at that moment or are not the best resource for your particular issue.
Everyone’s journey to recovery looks different, so choosing resources that are specific to your interests can increase your likelihood of success. Therapy can help you build positive experiences, but only if that therapy is right for you. Potential therapy types include the various types of individual psychotherapy, as well as art therapy, equine therapy, and group therapy, ensuring you can find an option that interests you while you work toward sobriety.
Support and resources are an important part of succeeding in your recovery journey; however, they are far from the only requirements for success. Accountability helps you be honest about your actions and stay on track with recovery goals. Often, it is considered one of the most important parts of recovery. Unfortunately, holding yourself accountable is difficult, especially when you are just starting recovery. A sober companion is someone you can be accountable to while you learn to become accountable to yourself. They will have a record of your goals and can confront you if you are consistently failing to improve.
Taking accountability for relapses helps you identify what contributed to the slip and create a plan for avoiding those circumstances in the future. Just as important as taking accountability for mistakes is taking accountability for successes. Sober companions will help you take accountability for reaching goals, ensuring that you do not downplay the importance of each milestone you reach.
Improving Your Quality of Life
Recovery from a substance use disorder requires a significant change in lifestyle. You must develop coping mechanisms, manage stress, avoid triggers, and learn how to deal with any emotions that arise as you navigate your new normal. Depending on your quality of life before you chose sobriety, you may also need to relearn how to accomplish daily tasks like paying bills, running errands, cooking, and maintaining a household. A sober companion can help bridge the gap while you adjust to being more self-sufficient.
All of these changes will improve your quality of life, but learning and applying the necessary changes can be difficult. A sober companion can help you improve your quality of life in multiple ways. Most importantly, they will have the knowledge and skills required to find methods that will help you succeed both in staying sober and living a better life.
Mental Health Support
It is not uncommon for adults struggling with substance use disorder to also experience other mental health conditions as co-occurring disorders. More than one in four individuals who have a serious mental health condition also live with a substance use problem. Some people find relief from their mental health conditions by self-medicating, leading to a dependency that develops into a SUD. SUDs and mental health disorders also share some of the same underlying causes, such as genetic vulnerabilities, changes in brain composition, and early exposure to trauma or stress. This significant overlap cannot be ignored.
For true success in recovery, any mental health conditions and SUD must be addressed simultaneously. A sober companion will not be able to treat a mental health condition, but they can help direct you to the appropriate medical support teams. Often, these resources are recommended by the sober companion because of previous positive experiences. When choosing facilities and professionals to recommend, your sober companion is likely considering what they have learned from working with you and what they believe can most help you succeed.
For any person in their recovery journey, relapse is a pressing concern. The fear of relapse can be a major stressor and may even become a self-fulfilling prophecy without a strong support system. Your previous patterns and even some of the people in your life can contribute to the possibility of relapse, but a sober companion can help you create new patterns and connections with people who will support your sobriety. People who have a history of relapse are especially likely to benefit from a sober companion, as they can help provide alternatives for choices and circumstances that contributed to the previous relapses.
Sober Companion Services With A Time to Heal: Family Intervention
Ultimately, sober companions are a vital part of an overall comprehensive plan required to succeed in substance use disorder recovery. It is rarely questioned when those suffering from medical conditions that affect the brain – like a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, or brain cancer – seek help from experts. These are all documented medical conditions that will cause changes in a person’s brain, and so is substance use disorder. There is no shame in contacting professionals to help you recover from the condition, and it is even more important that you do so if you also live with other mental health conditions that have impacted the severity of your SUD.
We created A Time to Heal: Family Interventions and Recovery Support Services to support individuals and their families as they navigate the journey and trials of recovery. One of the most crucial services I offer is sober companionship assistance. I believe that effective, compassionate sober companions have a single goal: to help clients maintain recovery and healing. To accomplish that goal, sober companions can provide a number of services, including guidance during high-risk situations, assistance with daily activities like employment, transportation, moral support, and more.
While most sober companions are not licensed counselors or therapists, a truly effective sober companion can help you effectively work with these professionals to create a comprehensive support plan. To learn more about how sober companions can help you through your recovery journey, reach out today.
Yours in Recovery,
- Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction
- Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health/mental-health-substance-use-co-occurring-disorders
- Haggerty, J. (n.d.). Sober Companion: What is It and How Does It Work? James Haggerty Recovery. Retrieved from https://jameshaggertyrecovery.com/blog/sober-companion/
Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional
Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.