Utilizing a Sober Companion
An addiction treatment program can provide people with the tools they need in order to deal with an addiction issue and get their lives back on track once more. Even so, people who have addictions may have supported those addiction habits for years or even for decades, and they may find it difficult to maintain those changes when they’re back in the real world at the end of a treatment program. The results can be catastrophic. For example, a study in the Community Mental Health Journal found that many clients who completed a treatment program for addiction relapsed to use within two months, and they then waited 2.7 years before asking for additional help. Studies like this demonstrate how difficult it can be for people to make meaningful changes and stick to them, no matter how useful or effective their treatment programs may be. A sober companion may be a vital help in allowing people to preserve the gains they’ve made in therapy.
What Do They Do?
A sober companion is a professional who can provide insight and input that can help people to change their day-to-day habits and preserve their sobriety. Some coaches move right in with their clients, shopping with them, eating meals with them and otherwise walking beside their clients 24/7. Other coaches meet with their clients daily or weekly, and they provide feedback in these informal meetings. The level of care is often determined by the client, but in general, people with intensive needs have more intensive care, while people who may be closer to handling their own addictions may not need such intense supervision and assistance.
These professionals aren’t friends, and much of the work they do isn’t designed to be supportive and nurturing. They want their clients to get better, but they’re often willing to use a tough-love approach to bring those results to fruition.
A sober coach might be willing to:
- Search a person’s home for illicit substances
- Search a person’s phone for calls to dealers
- Perform urine checks for drugs
- Drive a person to all required appointments
A sober coach might also be willing to correct the phrases a person might use in order to support an addiction. People who say, “I think sobriety is too hard, and just one drink won’t hurt me,” might be subjected to long discussions from a sober coach about why this phrase and thought could be disruptive, and how an honest examination of the addiction issue might be more helpful.
Sober coaches might also help their clients to create a healthy lifestyle that doesn’t support an addiction. They might help their clients to create healthful and tasty meals, for example, and they might develop exercise routines for their clients and perform the workouts beside the client. Coaches might also create strict day-to-day schedules regarding sleeping, eating, working and recreation. The coach might also ensure that clients stick to these schedules each day.
How Are They Trying to Help?
Utilizing a sober companion can sound unpleasant, as many of these people are forcing their clients to do things they might rather avoid, but the work is designed to help people avoid some of the common pitfalls that could lead to a relapse to addictive drug or alcohol use. For example, a study in the American Journal on Addictions found that 27 percent of people relapsed because they were impulsive, and 25 percent relapsed due to sheer habit. A sober companion who creates strict schedules could remove the opportunity for impulsive decisions to creep in, and a sober companion who creates opportunities for exercise and hobbies could help people to create new habits that might replace the drug-using habits of the past. The work might seem difficult and pesky, but it really could be helpful.
Sober companions also work to help clients change their views on addiction. A study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs suggests that many people with addictions have mistaken belief systems regarding addiction, believing they could use without relapsing to addiction and finding that substances could help them to deal with a loss or a traumatic set of emotions. A sober companion who allows people to talk, and who challenges mistaken belief systems, could allow these clients to come to new understandings about their addictions, and they might be able to heal as a result.
Many people also relapse because they just don’t feel accountable. They believe that their decisions impact only their own happiness, and that outsiders might never know about poor decisions they make. In this environment, it might be all too easy to slip, or at least to convince the mind that a slip wouldn’t lead to any problem at all. A sober companion who is always there, always watching, can put pressure on a person, and that pressure might make the person comply with treatment where relapsing might be likely without outside pressure. The companion tries to make the addiction issue seem important and healing vital, and the supervision could make a person more likely to follow the rules and keep drug use at bay. The supervision could also remove the opportunity to relapse, since the person isn’t ever really alone.
Who Uses Sober Companions?
A sober companion could be an appropriate helper for almost anyone in recovery, but they’re commonly utilized by people who have tried to deal with an issue on their own in the past, and who have failed in that attempt. For example, a sober companion quoted in an article in the Daily Beast reports that one of his clients had been through 43 separate treatment centers before he hired someone to help him. People like this may know that they just can’t handle the issue on their own, and they may feel as though a sober companion could help them to make meaningful changes in ways they’ve not been able to accomplish in the past.
Sober companions are also typically used by people who have discretionary income, mainly because the services they provide are so intensive. People like this can’t take on multiple clients in multiple locations, as they’re required to provide intensive care and be available almost constantly for the clients they do serve. The fees they charge may be high because only a small number of clients are keeping them fed and housed, and those clients may expect around-the-clock access. It’s reasonable that the fees would be high when the business model is set up in this way. Insurance companies, however, may balk at the idea of paying for this kind of customized care, as they may not feel it’s a requirement for all clients. As a result, people who utilize these coaches may be required to pay their fees out of their own pockets.
How Can Clients Improve the Relationship?
Sober companions have their roles to play, and they work hard to ensure that clients follow their treatment programs and do what they can to succeed, but there are some things clients can do to make sure all moves forward as it should. For example, some people with addictions are accustomed to lying about their thoughts, habits and preferences. They place a veneer over the truth on a regular basis, ensuring that no one really sees what is going on deep down inside. This kind of hiding might be habitual, but it can be catastrophic to a relationship with a sober companion. These people need to know what their clients are thinking and what they are doing so they can provide appropriate coaching and suggestions. Being honest is the only way that might happen.An expert quoted in an article produced by The Partnership at Drugfree.org also suggests that the sober companion relationship works best when clients place a strict endpoint on the contract. It’s easy enough for people in long-term sober companion relationships to:
- Take no responsibility for their recovery
- Blame their companions for slips
- Trust their companions to keep them out of trouble
- Look for ways to test their sobriety, and their companions
People who know that the relationship is coming to an end, however, might be more willing to participate fully in care and prepare to take on the responsibilities of sobriety on their own. They might be willing to accept their role in the addiction, and as a result, they might be more capable of controlling their addictions on their own.
Finding a Sober Companion
A sober companion can provide amazing help that could allow people to kick a drug habit for good, but finding a sober companion can be a little difficult for some people. They may not know of anyone who has used a professional like this, so they might not have any firsthand accounts to rely upon. Their doctors may also not know of any sober companions that other patients have used in the past, and insurance companies may not keep lists of sober companions on their books for client referrals. In short, people who want to use these professionals may need to do their own searches in order to find the right kind of help.
Many sober companions keep detailed websites in which they outline their services and their availability. These sites can provide people with a bit of detail about who the people are and what kind of work they’ve done in the past. But as an article in US News and World Report indicates, families who hope to utilize a sober companion will need to ask their own questions and do their own screening. The industry is somewhat unregulated, so there are no credentials to look for and no groups to contact. Instead, families should ask sober companions for information about their education, including their educational background in the field of addiction. These professionals will be asked to help with very delicate recovery issues, so it’s important that they know how recovery works. Additionally, families should ask about a sober companion’s work history, and get references, if possible.
Sober companions will be an integral part of an addicted person’s life, and they’ll be privy to some extremely delicate information. It’s important for addicted people to feel comfortable with their companions, so they’ll feel able to share their lives openly. It’s best to interview sober companions in person, just to ensure that the fit is right and ease exists between the addicted person and the companion. The role is important, and it’s best to take time during the selection process and look for just the right fit.
If you need help finding a sober companion, we can help. At The Orchid, we believe that aftercare is an important part of the recovery process for clients, and we work hard to ensure that our clients have all the support they’ll need in order to heal and succeed when our programs are through. For some, sober companions are vital and we facilitate that connection. If you’d like to find out more, please call us.