Adolescents often benefit from programs in which they’re provided with very specific phrases they can use when they’re offered drugs and alcohol. For example, a study in the journal Preventive Medicine found that teens provided with education about the effects of addiction, along with scripts they could use when offered addictive substances, were able to delay the age at which they began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. They could learn, in other words, how to build a sober life. Teens who have existing addiction issues that are already well underway might need the same kind of coaching, and the same kind of education, but they might need to access that help around the clock. For some families, a sober companion can fill that need.
More Than a Friend
Teens with addictions are often encouraged to make connections with peers who also stay clean and sober. Having sober friends can provide teens with socialization opportunities that don’t involve the use and abuse of addictive substances, and sober friends won’t apply peer pressure regarding the use of drugs. But teens emerging from rehab may have very little in common with their sober peers. They may not have the same set of skills or the same kind of ambition, and they may be stigmatized for their past choices. As a result, some teens may feel as though they have no real friends at all. A study in the Journal of Adolescence found that troubled teens had a more negative perception of family, schools and peers, and it’s easy to see how these thoughts might develop, if a teen is always stigmatized and isolated.
A sober companion isn’t necessarily a friend; this is a trained professional. However, a sober companion can stand in as a friend for a teen in need. These people can:
- Listen to a teen’s concerns
- Provide companionship
- Design sober outings
- Give feedback on a teen’s choices
They can hold teens accountable for the mistakes they’re about to make, and provide companionship and supervision that might make slipups a little harder to accomplish. In time, the teen might be confident enough in sobriety to handle challenges without a sober companion, but in the early days of recovery, it can be of vital importance.
A sober companion isn’t the only way in which teens can connect with a sober peer. Those who participate in 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, might be linked with a sponsor who can provide both advice and companionship. Some teens even develop ad-hoc networks of friends made during their treatment programs, and they support one another in sobriety. In some cases, this is sufficient support for a teen in need, and no other steps are really needed. It’s important to remember, however, that people who participate in support groups and those met in rehab may have their own fragile recovery to attend to, and they may relapse to use from time to time. They may also have school, family and work obligations to attend to. Unlike a professional, who has training and a professional dedication to ensuring sobriety, peers might be a little less help, in some cases.
If you’d like to know more about a sober companion’s role in recovery, please call us at Muir Wood.