Sober mentors are professionals who start with the experience and desire to help other people struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs) and follow it up with training. It is more than a sponsorship program. It is different from many other programs.
Basically, it’s a one-on-one relationship with the goal of transitioning. That is, transitioning from a healing environment such as a recovery community in a treatment center back into real life. With a sober mentor, this can be accomplished without losing hope or falling out of established sober habits.
For individuals who suffer from SUD, engaging the services of a sober mentor can be life-changing. A sober mentor can also be known as a sober coach or recovery mentor.
In recovery from long-term substance use, mentorship helps people:
- set realistic, achievable goals
- associate with a sober community
- navigate the employment, health, and criminal justice system
Also, mentors provide a good source of motivation and support during cravings. This is important in helping to avoid relapse while participating in addiction treatment programs in Illinois.
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What Does a Sober Mentor Do?
- Go to 12-step meetings with you
- Help you practice relapse prevention skills
- Encourage healthy lifestyle choices relating to chronic pain, stress management, and other issues
- Provide about managing co-occurring mental health issues
- Give advice about how to deal with recovery challenges, based on their own experiences
- Help you connect to resources in the community that may help you
- Reinforce your self-esteem as you decide what you want your life in recovery to be like
- Inspire you to keep working towards your goals and serve as a source of accountability.
What Makes a Good Sober Mentor?
A sober mentor is a qualified professional, but if you don’t like them, you’re not going to get much out of it. It’s important to find one that you can be comfortable with.
In addition to personal chemistry, you may need to prepare for the mentor/mentee relationship. Most importantly, you need to be sure that you want a sober mentor. Consider how much you want to include your mentor into your everyday life. Decide how often you want to meet and what you want to accomplish with the relationship. For example, you may aim to reconnect with family, stay sober for six months straight, or move into a new job.
A sober, or recovery, mentor is an individual who takes the role of trusted counselor and advisor for a person who is in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. A good sober mentor:
- Is also in recovery
- Has experience working with people in early sobriety
- Has a friendly disposition that puts you at ease
- Has strong communication skills–able to express their message without confusion
- It’s important for a mentor to be empathetic in their conversation.
- Is dedicated to ongoing education and training in the field of addiction treatment
- Is open-minded and able to work well with people from diverse backgrounds
- Will respect confidentiality and privacy
- Is motivated by the desire to help other people break out of addiction
- Has experience in the field of SUD recovery–experience in the substance abuse recovery field helps a mentor know how to approach various situations in addiction recovery
- Has the appropriate educational background–the necessary diploma or any relevant degree, depending on the clinic’s requirements.
What are the Benefits of Mentorship in Recovery?
There are a number of benefits to having a sober mentor for recovery. Some of the notable advantages of having a mentor include:
Mentorship programs provide accountability for people going through recovery. The individual can check in with a mentor at certain times of the week and show accountability for their actions. Research has shown that accountability can be helpful in SUD recovery. People who had sponsors and took part in 12-step programs were more successful at staying sober than those who started their recovery without outside support.
Total honesty about addiction experiences helps in the commitment to sobriety. It usually helps the person recognize their responsibility to make better choices regarding substance use. In addition, honesty through accountability also helps the person understand the patterns of behavior and thinking that could cause a relapse. Understanding these patterns can help bring about substantial change.
The path to complete recovery may appear to be immensely complex. Therefore, mentors need to provide continuous guidance for their mentees in recovery. With guidance from a mentor, they can get a better understanding and self-awareness to recover.
Proper guidance also provides a new outlook and helps people identify any habits or behaviors that might need to be corrected. The guidance provided by a mentor also helps the person reexamine their coping strategies. When they feel the urge to use any substance, they can call their mentor to get the guidance they need.
Mentors can usually provide the best advice for people when they try to repair their relationships or create new ones. Mentors provide support in creating healthy relationships as a necessary part of recovery.
Frequently, people who go through addiction recovery feel alone. Most people have damaged their close relationships and have little to no one they believe they can trust. But a mentor will always support the individual, and help them repair and rebuild trust in themselves and other people. Consequently, a sober mentor becomes a person that can be relied upon.
Plus, a sober mentor for recovery can teach people how to regain the trust of loved ones. A common method is to keep the lines of communication open. A mentor may advise staying in contact with loved ones by appointing a time to talk to each other. Most of the time, rebuilding the relationship is easier when they see a change in previous addiction patterns.
Sober mentors can help people by supporting them and helping them get the best of “social support.” Continuous support provides:
- a feeling of belonging
- a sense of being included
- hope and optimism
- safety and security
Social support and support from mentors help provide valuable information to help in recovery.
What to Ask Before Hiring a Sober Mentor or Coach
If you know the answers to the following questions before engaging the services of a sober mentor, it can eliminate confusion or misunderstandings. Since sober coaches are often themselves in recovery, many will try to provide the answers before they’re asked.
- Does the mentor live in my local area?
- What is their style of communication? Will my family and I be able to cope with it?
- How often will they meet with me?
- How often will I receive communication from them?
- How long has the sober mentor been working as a mentor? What do former clients say?
- How are the mentor services billed and what is the rate you’ll be paying?
What’s a Recovery Coach?
Recovery coaches work with people in early recovery or with active addictions. They can also provide part-time support for people entering recovery by helping them work through challenging events like going to work, family gatherings, and other special events. Sober coaches are also in recovery themselves. This means that they understand what it takes to get sober, set realistic goals, and identify triggers. Typically, they are available hourly, daily, and several days per week.
What is a Sober Companion?
Sober companions are suitable for people who are more comfortable with constant supervision. This can include vacations, family events, business trips or any other occasion that may make it necessary for increased accountability and support. The companion will usually stay with the client for the entire period of their service dates.
Supportive family and friends play an important part in the recovery process. However, it’s hard for them to really understand what you’re going through unless they’ve been through it themselves. A sober mentor can provide advice and support based on their own personal experience as well as a professional education.
If you’re aware of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other 12-step programs, you have probably heard how sponsors provide support and encouragement during the recovery process. Although the guidance of a sponsor can definitely be a benefit, there are a number of reasons why you might still want a sober mentor such as:
- It might take quite some time to find a satisfactory sponsor because members are encouraged to go to several meetings before asking someone to be their sponsor.
- A sponsor is another person who is currently working the 12 steps but is unlikely to have a formal background in addiction treatment.
- Your sponsor is experiencing their own recovery-related struggles, along with work and family obligations. They are probably not able to provide an intensive level of support.
- A sponsor can relate what resources have been helpful to them, but may not know about all the pathways available to help you.
This relationship can last for as long as you need it. Sometimes, people only want a mentor for a few months. But other people may want a longer relationship as part of their support system.
Although sober mentors are professionals who become friends, sober mentoring is a service that is intended to be temporary. While some people only need this type of help for a few weeks, others may spend months or even years struggling with their addiction and treatments.
The long-term view requires mentors to focus on the present, while providing tools that will help their clients deal with their issues in the future. In addition, mentors may want to work with close relatives and loved ones to help them realize what they need to do to help their loved one maintain their sobriety. Though we all need support from people around us, looking to professional support forever is not a good sign of recovery progress.
Find Your Way at Northern Illinois Recovery Center
Each of our programs are individually designed to meet your needs. We will make sure that you enter at the level appropriate for you, and will be on your team as long as necessary. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you.
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.