They go by many names: sober companion, sober coach, recovery coach, etc. But no matter what you choose to call them, their role remains about the same. A sober companion is someone you pay to help you stay away from drugs and alcohol. Some of them work with behavioral addictions as well, such as compulsive gambling or hypersexual disorder. Many work with eating disorders as well. Depending upon the coach in question, the client may request help maintaining total abstinence or simply achieving harm reduction. Some work with medical teams, while others are independent and unregulated.
Most assume that the sober companion offers their help only to the rich and famous. And this is certainly true in the case of those who receive up to $1000/day for their services. But some offer their services at a far lower price, helping those who wish to stay sober but do not have the ability to leave school or work for the purposes of attending a treatment facility. In other cases, they serve as extra help for those who have left treatment but aren’t confident they can stay on their feet just yet. You might think of them as paid sponsors, but their job entails a bit more than that.
For those unfamiliar with the work of a sober companion, we’ll discuss their services a bit below. Then, we’ll take a look at both sides of the coin—the pros and the cons. We can’t tell you whether or not to seek the help of a sober companion. What we can do, however, is ensure that you are informed enough to make the decision on your own.
What Does A Sober Companion Do?
If you watch the television series Elementary, you might already be somewhat familiar with the concept of a sober companion. In that show, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) hires former surgeon Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) to be his sober companion after his release from treatment. During her tenure as Holmes’ sober coach, Watson lives with him and often helps him with issues that may seem ostensibly unrelated to addiction. If you ignore the parts where they also solve murders together, this can be a pretty accurate depiction. Not all recovery coaches work around the clock, but many do. It all depends on the arrangements you make with them.
Those who work around the clock may fulfill many duties. They might ensure you go to support meetings, and that you have someone to watch you when cravings kick in. A sober companion can also help you develop healthy routines, such as maintaining exercise and nutrition. When you hire them, you outline the sort of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth you’d like to see in recovery. As long as they see the potential for growth in the plan you outline together, they’ll help you stick to it. Just remember that they aren’t your personal assistant—they won’t be taking your calls or buying your coffee for you. Some might, but it’s not really the job for which you should be hiring them.
Addicts and alcoholics with less money cannot afford 24-hour care of this nature. In these cases, they may hire a sober companion to work on call. If you’re struggling with cravings, simply pick up the phone and they’ll be there to help. When this is the case, they really do act more or less as paid sponsors. In fact, some sober coaches even claim that they can help you rebuild relationships. And if you fall off the wagon, many recovery coaches will provide you with transportation to the nearest treatment center.
Some hire sober coaches merely to accompany them to certain events. Say there’s an upcoming work-related convention at which alcohol tends to flow freely. They may accompany you to this event in order to ensure that you aren’t too tempted to partake. Or if you’ve just returned from treatment, you might hire a sober companion to help you clear out your hidden stashes of drugs. Many seek the services of a sober coach for up to thirty days or even longer, but it isn’t too difficult to see where they might come in handy for these sorts of one-time events. But since long-term services tend to be more costly, those will be the services upon which we cast our focus below.
Why A Sober Companion Might Help
The primary benefit to utilizing a sober companion is that our sponsors can’t be there for us every minute of the day. If our sober coach works 24/7 or stays on call, then we know we always have someone to help us stay sober. This provides us with a peace of mind that might be hard to come by in any other fashion.
This isn’t meant to be a knock against sponsorship. It’s very important, and helps many people stay sober. But while sponsors may tell us that they’re always willing to drop what they are doing to answer our calls, this is much easier said than done. Sponsors are, after all, human beings. Some of them work for employers that will not allow them to drop what they’re doing to answer the phone. Many have families, which means they also have obligations outside of sponsorship. It’s selfish for us to expect them to drop these things every time we dial their number.
A sober companion, especially one hired for live-in care, can help you no matter what. Even if nothing dramatic is happening in your life, triggers will still pop up. You might be triggered by a sense of isolation, a feeling of mild depression, or even sheer boredom. With a 24/7 sober coach, you don’t need to worry about it. They can help stop you from running to the liquor store or calling your dealer. You might have left treatment with a relapse prevention plan, but a recovery coach will help you carry it out. In early sobriety, we sometimes need all the help that we can get.
Think of a sober coach like a personal trainer. You probably don’t work with a trainer every single time you go to the gym. But thanks to your training sessions, you know what to do when you’re at the gym alone. Your sober companion fulfills a very similar role. They won’t be with you for the rest of your life. Eventually, however, you’ll get to a point at which you no longer require their services. You know what to do for yourself in order to maintain your sobriety. This is the end goal that most people have in mind when they hire a sober companion in the first place.
Why You May Wish to Look Elsewhere
While it’s easy to imagine many benefits to using a sober companion, there are some drawbacks as well. First of all, it’s difficult to trust someone who’s working for pay. Sponsors may not be available 24/7, but at least you know that they’re working with you because they truly care. And since many sober coaches work independently of any medical institution, it’s hard to tell whether or not they truly have your best interests in mind. Addicts and alcoholics need reliable help. If your coach is simply looking to make a buck, they don’t fit that description.
On top of that, some may question whether or not the notion of a sober companion truly works at all. After all, this person works for you. If you elect to use a sober coach in lieu of running a more traditional program, there’s only so much your coach can do if you decide to drink. Some sober coaches say they can help you achieve harm reduction instead of abstinence. But how? If they try to cut you off and you don’t feel like stopping, there’s nothing to keep you from firing them. Either their job description becomes “damage control,” or they’re left looking for another client.
But even if you respect your sober companion enough to heed their warnings, there may still be issues with the concept of sober coaching. Your primary concern should be how you’ll cope when you eventually stop using their services. Staying sober takes a bit less effort when someone’s monitoring your every move. If you cut yourself off from your sober coach instead of weaning your way toward self-sufficiency, you may find that you weren’t as prepared to go it alone as you previously thought. This is the risk we take when we elect not to run a more traditional program of recovery.
In the end, the choice is yours. If you think that a sober companion might be of service to you, then you have every right to seek one out. But if you’d rather not take the chance, then you should stick with traditional methods. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor. And if you think you need some professional medical help, consider trying our programs. We ensure that our patients are gradually reintroduced to the world outside by moving them to outpatient care before eventually offering them a chance to stay in our sober living facilities. If you think the notion of a sober coach seems risky and you would like to give treatment a chance, contact us today for more information.