Have you ever had a mentor?
Maybe your mentor was a teacher or a coach who always supported you and helped you consistently improve your academic or athletic performance. Maybe you had an internship in college, and your supervisor served as a mentor to show you the ropes. Or maybe you learned an artistic practice like painting or writing or dancing by working with a mentor. In a wide array of areas, a person with experience and wisdom to share can be a great help to someone just starting out.
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That’s true when it comes to recovery, too. Having a strong support system is essential for a person in recovery. That support may be provided by various people, including family and close friends, but there is something to be said for having a formal recovery mentor—especially as you make the transition from a residential treatment center back to independent living.
Providing Support and Advice When You Need It Most
Having a recovery mentor means you will have someone you can trust and ask for advice as your recovery is getting underway. Your mentor needs to possess a variety of traits to ensure they can help you.
- A recovery mentor is also in recovery and has experience working with the newly sober.
- They are friendly and have strong communication skills to help put you at ease.
- A mentor should be dedicated to ongoing training and education to make them more effective.
- They are committed to privacy and confidentiality and are comfortable working with people from diverse backgrounds.
- Your recovery mentor should be passionate about helping others overcome substance use disorders.
With those qualities in place, a recovery mentor can help a person newly in recovery in a variety of ways. Specific activities will vary from person to person and situation to situation but may include:
- Offering advice regarding recovery challenges based on their own experiences as a person in recovery.
- Supporting healthy choices in areas including pain management, stress management, good nutrition, and regular exercise.
- Attending 12-Step meetings with you and helping you employ strategies to prevent relapse.
- Connecting you with important community resources, including information about addressing any co-occurring mental health conditions that may contribute to or complicate a substance use disorder.
- Supporting your self-esteem and enthusiastically encouraging you to work toward your recovery goals as well as toward other important milestones made possible by your sobriety.
For some, working with a recovery mentor might be a short-term endeavor, lasting only a few months as a person settles into their recovery after rehab. That’s just fine. Others, however, may find a recovery mentor essential to maintaining long-term sobriety. That’s just fine, too. The recovery mentor relationship can provide support for whatever length of time seems right to the person being mentored.
How is a Recovery Mentor Different from a Sponsor?
Perhaps you’ve been replacing the words “recovery mentor” with the word “sponsor” as you’ve been reading. After all, many people—both in recovery and in general—have a fairly good notion of what a sponsor in a 12-Step program is all about. In some ways, those sponsors are, in fact, a lot like recovery mentors. But there are some important differences, and a case can be made that a recovery mentor is worth pursuing even if you have—or intend to have—a sponsor via Alcoholics Anonymous or another 12-Step program.
Some key differences include:
- The sometimes lengthy delay between entering a 12-Step program and selecting a sponsor.
- The fact that a sponsor may not have a formal background in substance use disorder treatment.
- The idea that a sponsor may well still be dealing with issues related to recovery and may have professional or family obligations that distract from his or her ability to help you.
- The possibility that your sponsor may not have a comprehensive understanding of the resources available to you as your move forward on your recovery journey.
Why Supportive Loved Ones Are Sometimes Not Enough
Some people in recovery may discover that family and friends have rallied around them. But in many cases, those loved ones have no direct experience of a substance use disorder, rehabilitation, or recovery. Even if they commit themselves to learning all they can about your situation, the fact is they have not lived it and may never fully understand it. And if they don’t have access to counseling or support services designed for those who love someone in recovery, they may—unintentionally, but still dangerously—offer advice or ideas that do not, in fact, support your recovery.
In contrast, a recovery mentor has actually experienced what you have experienced. In addition, they have taken it upon themselves to learn as much as they can about how to support someone else in recovery. As a result, they are well equipped to help you with day-to-day struggles and with true emergencies that threaten your sobriety. On top of all of that, a recovery mentor is a neutral party—neither a member of your family nor a longtime friend. Sometimes it is just easy to discuss your struggles with someone you don’t have a long-term personal relationship with.
Equally importantly, your recovery mentor can offer a balanced perspective that is not colored by the dynamics of your relationships with friends and family or the unhelpful biases those individuals may bring to any conversation about substance use disorders and recovery.
Start Your Recovery Journey With Us
Bel Aire Recovery Center is well equipped to help you or a loved one overcome a substance use disorder and start on the path of recovery. We also have access to and knowledge about a full range of resources—including options for finding recovery mentors—to support you after you leave rehab. We’re eager and able to help.