Over the last decade, approaches to addiction treatment have changed. Today, more people are seeking help from outside support systems beyond therapists, counselors, and traditional support groups. Although all of these professionals and services remain vital components of an addiction recovery team, many find they want or need additional support beyond initial treatment. Going into recovery on your own can be complicated and intimidating. Leaving behind the stability and safety of a residential addiction treatment program like The Hills in Los Angeles, and going back into the world where addiction lives is often even more daunting. Consequently, many recovering addicts are turning to additional support systems for ongoing support and accountability.
What is a Sober Companion?
Sober companions (sometimes called sober escorts or recovery coaches) are one solution used by many in recovery to help ease the transition between starting recovery and reacclimating back into their home environments. While sober companions may not be the right choice for everyone, they can be extremely helpful during early recovery.
Many people who become sober companions are in recovery from addictions themselves, but they have a long history of sobriety. Because of their past experience with addiction, they understand the hard road ahead, and they can offer advice and compassion that come from a place of experience and understanding.
What Does a Sober Companion Do?
A sober companion is a person recovering addicts can turn to in the early stages of their transition back home after rehab. This individual helps keep them sober and provides emotional and psychological support to help them stay clean during the earliest and most challenging recovery stages. This type of support is essential for many because many recovering addicts leave treatment and immediately relapse. Also, statistics show as many as 60% of people will relapse at some point after completing treatment. While an early relapse is often followed by recovery, a sober companion can help a recovering addict stay on track and avoid relapse altogether by providing one-on-one support and a higher level of accountability.
Currently, there are no federal or state licensing standards for sober companions. However, many who enter this field have professional skills (such as former social workers or mental health practitioners) or come from a place of previous addiction and personal recovery. Either way, these individuals can assist their clients in maintaining sobriety for the short and long term. Sober companions spend a great deal of time with their clients and are an active part of their lives post-rehab. So, what do sober companions do?
Sober companions help offer essential companionship during what is easily one of the most difficult periods in a recovering addict’s life. This is ideal for individuals who live alone, who are estranged from friends and family, or who would otherwise lack crucial emotional support as they transition from rehab back home. Because isolation is one of the primary reasons for relapse, this companionship can be the key to success in recovery. A sober companion will talk to you, talk you through triggers and cravings, and actively offer friendship and companionship. This also includes much needed mental support when faced with triggers, recommendations when you should go to your counselor or group therapy, and non-judgmental, unbiased advice when you need it most.
As mentioned above, relapse is an all too common element of recovery for many. Sober companions actively work to prevent you from relapsing. This may include looking around your home for drugs and alcohol, accompanying you when out (or at social events) to prevent you from purchasing drugs or alcohol, helping you get to 12 step meetings, and actively helping you say no when opportunities for relapse present themselves. In most cases, a sober companion will stay with you, work to keep you from relapsing by taking you to meetings and act as a friend and companion.
Different Types of Sober Companions
There are three primary types of sober companions. While the availability of each may depend on your location or your rehab center, the types of sober companions usually are live-in, on-call, or escort based.
Live-in sober companions move into your home or a sober or halfway house with you as you leave inpatient care or when you begin outpatient care, depending on your specific treatment plan. Your sober companion will actively search around your home or living area for substances and throw them out if you have drugs or alcohol. Depending on the companion, they may offer additional services, including cooking and cleaning. They may also work with you to help build a healthy nutrition and exercise regimen to maintain your ongoing physical health post-rehab.
If you prefer a sober companion to support you during your recovery but don’t have the time or means to have a living companion, on-call sober companions may be the best option. In this case, your sober companion is available on-demand, and you can call them (typically at any time of the night or day) when you need someone to talk to or visit with. This situation is ideal if you mostly need support dealing with triggers or cravings but don’t necessarily need someone to share your living space and provide a 24/7 presence.
Escort-based sober companions primarily focus on preventing recovering addicts from buying substances as they travel to and from work, attend social gatherings, or go to meetings such as group meetings or appointments with your therapist. This lower level support is ideal if you don’t trust yourself to manage triggers or not relapse when left alone, but don’t necessarily need emotional support outside of your mental health provider, friends and family.
How Can A Sober Companion Help You?
Sober companions offer many benefits and can help someone leaving treatment to recover more quickly by preventing relapse. However, the services provided by sober companions will vary greatly depending on the companion, their training, and their qualifications for the role. Below are some of the services that most sober companions provide.
Receiving emotional support is an essential part of feeling motivated, validated, and willing to push through the inevitable sobriety challenges. This includes triggers and cravings. Simply having someone to talk to and confide in knowing they will listen in a non-judgmental way can significantly improve your outlook and strength when things get complicated. Sober companions function very well in this role as many either have qualifications in basic counseling or psychological support. Others have been through treatment and recovery personally and have an intimate understanding of the challenges and emotions associated with addiction treatment and recovery.
A sober companion can help to hold a recovering addict accountable for remaining clean or sober. They will typically stay with you for up to thirty days (sometimes longer) and will often become your friend. Having this presence will make succumbing to relapse harder because you have someone to stay clean and sober for. You will also feel accountable to someone and likely feel guilty if you relapse, which provides extra motivation to abstain from substance use.
Preventing Substance Use
In addition to emotional and psychological support to prevent drug and alcohol use, a sober companion offers physical support. Physical support can range from removing drugs and alcohol from the living environment to providing an escort when leaving home to help mitigate triggering situations. This consistent presence makes it significantly harder to relapse, which is a crucial reason why sober companions are often used when addicts in recovery have little (or no) motivation of their own to remain sober.
Choosing or Being A Sober Companion
A sober companion can be a vital part of recovery if the addict in recovery is living alone. They can also be extremely beneficial to those not receiving emotional and psychological support from friends and family or have chosen outpatient recovery instead of an inpatient addiction treatment center like The Hills in Los Angeles, CA. It is important to choose a sober companion with care to ensure you find one who is qualified and will provide you the benefits and assistance you need to recover and maintain sobriety.
Currently, there are no medical or licensing requirements or set training standards required to become a sober companion in the United States. Therefore, it is essential to look at qualifications, training, and other details when deciding. If you wish to become a sober companion, seek out any possible training you can participate in to ensure you are as qualified and knowledgeable as possible. Looking for recommendations (or advertising your services) through a local treatment center or halfway house is an excellent way to begin your search for the right sober companion.
Depending on your policy and coverage limitations, your insurance may or may not cover the cost of a sober companion. You should call your provider directly or speak with an admissions counselor at The Hills about helping obtain answers to this and any other questions you may have about addiction treatment coverage.
A sober companion can be a valuable asset during the transition period between first achieving sobriety and returning to the life you knew before treatment. Also, they can be vital in preventing relapse during outpatient addiction treatment. A sober companion is many things, but they are not a replacement for treatment and behavioral therapy. However, they are a source of emotional support and companionship to help you stay clean and sober while adjusting to everyday life on your recovery journey.
If you or a loved one is looking for more information on finding or becoming a sober companion, please contact The Hills in Los Angeles, California, and speak with one of our admissions advisors. We are here to help you find the answers you need to continue your journey of sobriety.