Mentoring and Giving Back in Sober Living

No matter what you’re doing in your life, or even how old or experienced you are, it can be helpful to have a mentor. A mentor is someone who can offer experience, advice, and guidance. Sometimes a mentor doesn’t even have to provide direct assistance. In many cases, a mentor is a role model — someone we aspire to emulate. By living their lives, they show use where the guideposts are. And we find it easy to reach our own personal goals, even when they differ slightly from the goals of our mentors.

Sober living homes are recognized by addiction experts as a vital component of the recovery process. In sober living homes, mentorship is a huge aspect of this process. In many ways, sober living homes are facilities that are specifically designed to make mentorship accessible and effective. It is crucial to recognize that the people being mentored are not the only individuals who benefit from this process. In fact, mentors themselves may even benefit more!

What Does a Mentor Do?

Mentors are not necessarily the same as clinicians, physicians, or other professionally helpful people. Those people may sometimes be mentors as well. But it is important to distinguish mentorship from these clinical roles. Mentors are people who voluntarily offer support and guidance to others who are on similar paths. Recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is most effective with strong mentorship.

How Sober Livings Work

Sober living homes are designed to be safe, supportive, and trigger-free environments for people in early addiction recovery. They do not provide clinical addiction treatment. Rather, they offer a space that is conducive to recovery. By reducing the likelihood that a resident will encounter drugs, alcohol, or substance abuse, they limit the potential for triggers. Moreover, residents themselves are all committed to the recovery process, which also limits temptations.

But sober living homes are about far more than just reducing triggers and temptations. Sober livings offer tangible support in the form of staff members and fellow residents. These individuals, who are generally experienced in the recovery process, understand what addiction is like. Housemates form strong relationships with each other. This can reduce alienation as house members increasingly feel understand. Instead of having to hide their struggles, young people in early recovery discover the joys of vulnerability and honesty. Residents and staff members can share stories and laugh about their struggles. Moreover, they provide each other much-needed feedback and advice as they face the challenges of early sobriety together.

Studies on sober livings show that peer support systems can help reduce the chances of relapse. In fact, this protection from relapse lasts multiple years after a person has graduated from their sober living house.

Mentorship from Staff Members

In most cases, sober living home staff members have been through the recovery process themselves. Many of them have experienced harrowing and difficult addictions. Yet they have managed not only to pull their lives back together, but they are often shining examples of how sobriety can change a person’s life for the better. Sober living home staff are not clinical addiction treatment professionals. Most of the time, they are people who have benefited from the mentorship of a sober living home themselves! Yes, their activities as part of a sober living staff are technically work, but they choose this work as a way to give back.

Sober living staff members understand that getting sober can be challenging. Since they have gone through sober livings themselves, they often also understand that adapting to life in a sober living can take some getting used to. They are there to support the recovery of residents and help them develop a strong program of recovery. In most cases, staff members are present in a sober living home on a 24-hour basis, with sober living house managers often living on-site with other residents. This ensures that sober staff members are available at all times to enforce house rules, offer advice and feedback, and deal with emergency situations.

Mentorship from Residents

When a person first enters a sober living home, they may feel a bit overwhelmed. Not only have they quit drugs and alcohol, but they are around new people in a new place. Quality sober livings are highly structured environments with daily schedules, rules, and expectations. Instead of expecting new residents to assimilate all this information right away, they are generally assigned a mentor. Mentors are individuals who have lived at the sober living house a bit longer. They can help show the newer resident the ropes and help them know where to go, what to do, and how to have fun in sobriety! Mentors for new house members are also often the first to recognize when a person may be putting themselves in danger, struggling with triggers, or dealing with emotional turmoil.

It is not only newer house members who benefit from mentorship. After a person has been at their sober living for a few weeks, they may no longer have an officially assigned mentor. But they continue to benefit from general mentorship and experience of sober living residents who have been there longer. More long-term residents often have greater coping skills. Since they have gotten through some of the most common challenges of early sobriety, they sometimes have more perspective on these problems. They can help newer house members recognize that their problems are not the end of the world — and that it is possible to get through them. More experienced sober living home residents can also offer emotional support, direct feedback and advice, and other direct forms of assistance.

Individuals who have been living at a sober living house longer are often entrusted with more responsibilities. Since they have a strong foundation of sober skills, they are generally seen as stable and reliable. With that in mind, sober living staff may trust more long-term residents with cars, cell phone access, and other important roles — like driving newer house residents to support groups or appointments.

Relying on Others to Build a Future

Quality sober living houses understand that recovering from addiction is a multifaceted process. In order to achieve long-term sobriety, it is important to do much more than simply stay away from drugs and alcohol. After all, most people are driven to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place because they are trying to get relief from painful underlying issues. Substance addiction also causes significant damage. Addiction recovery, therefore, involves healing this damage — and taking steps toward building a new life in sobriety.

Early on, it may be important to emphasize repair and healing first. Whether you are dealing with mental health issues, interpersonal conflicts with family members, or legal and financial problems, there are likely other people living in your sober living home who are dealing or who have previously dealt with similar issues. These individuals can often provide actionable advice — or at the very least offer moral support and compassion.

Once you have begun repairing past damages and developed a strong foundation of sobriety, you may find yourself thinking of the future. Becoming independent and autonomous is an important goal, but it is wise to recognize that, ironically enough, few people can become independent and autonomous without outside help. Sober livings sometimes require that residents acquire and work jobs during their residency. In many cases, the network of sober living alumni can be of great aid in the job search! Fellow residents, staff members, and other sober living graduates can also help as you work toward other goals and ambitions, whether they involve beginning new careers or enrolling in school.

Mentorship and Support Groups

The vast majority of sober living houses are heavily influenced by the principles of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). While today there are many different approaches to addiction recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous remains the model for many of them. This is because 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous were some of the first effective approaches to addiction recovery. There are many components to the program of recovery that AA offers. Ultimately, however, the basic idea behind 12-step programs can be boiled down to one concept: people who suffer from addiction can help others who suffer from the same problem.

Thus, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and even non-substance abuse-related 12-step programs like Overeaters Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous are based on the idea of community and mentorship. Members attend meetings regularly to work with other people who suffer from the same condition. By offering understanding, empathy, companionship, and advice, people find that it is possible to stay sober together even when it seems impossible to do so alone.

Most sober living houses encourage residents to attend support groups regularly. While there are many options for support groups, 12-step meetings are the most widely utilized. Some sober livings require daily 12-step meeting attendance. These support groups offer residents a chance to expand their social support systems beyond the confines of their sober living facility. Meeting people in recovery from all walks of life throughout their city can be very healing. With so many mentors to choose from, a wealth of experience to learn from, and countless people holding you accountable, it is far easier to stay sober.

Sponsorship in AA and NA

Sponsorship is a vital component of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Sponsors are individuals who have been sober longer and who have finished working the 12 steps. When a person begins attending meetings, they can ask anyone to sponsor them. A sponsor will help them get through the 12 steps, while at the same time offering their experiences, strength, and hope. Sponsors are not therapists, but they make themselves available at all times for moral support and guidance.

Sober living homes that are 12-step based will generally encourage house residents to get sponsors and work with them to complete the 12 steps. As a result, house members not only benefit from the general mentorship of their sober living home and a 12-step program, but they have a specific person assigned to them who they can rely on at all times.

Giving Back in Sober Living

Many sober livings encourage residents to volunteer and do community service. Doing so can be very healing, especially for individuals who did a lot of damage in their active addiction. In fact, giving back to the community and volunteering can be great ways of making amends for previous wrongs. Moreover, volunteering, like working a job, can teach important life skills, among them responsibility, accountability, honesty, integrity, and hard work.

There are countless ways of volunteering and giving back for those who are interested. Some ideas include:

  • Working with a local battered women’s shelter
  • Volunteering time at a local soup kitchen
  • Working at a homeless shelter
  • Providing  bags of toiletry items or food for rough sleepers
  • Cleaning up local beaches, rivers, or parks

Benefits of Helping Others

When talking about mentorship, it is often assumed that the people who benefit the most are those being mentored. In reality, the people getting the most benefit might be the mentors themselves! One study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs showed the engaging in “helping behaviors” can actually lower a person’s likelihood of relapsing. It is not exactly clear why this is the case. Perhaps being seen as a leader or role model helps people stay accountable. It may also be the case that helping others with addiction helps people who have been sober long remember why they got sober in the first place. What most sober living mentors discover, however, is that helping others helps get them out of their head — and puts personal problems in perspective. Ultimately, whatever explanation, the fact remains that everyone benefits.

Recovery is Possible at Design for Recovery

With two locations in West Los Angeles, Design for Recovery is widely viewed as Los Angeles’ preeminent men’s sober living home. As a structured and gender-specific sober living house, Design for Recovery a greater variety of targeted resources and support than other sober living facilities. The property provides both comfortable and safe accommodations. Staff members are passionate about working with residents to help them build new relationships, develop new coping tools, and address underlying issues. At Design for Recovery, no matter what a person’s background is, long-term sobriety is achievable.

At Design for Recovery, residents pursue long-term sobriety and work to develop new lives for themselves that are happy, joyous, and free. Design for Recovery was founded on the simple idea that addiction recovery entails more than mere physical abstinence. Residents cultivate a firm foundation of principles to live by, which include values like integrity, honesty, accountability, and responsibility. They also learn important life skills, form strong relationships, and begin to take concrete steps toward their goals. Our residents develop autonomy and independence — but they do so by learning when to ask for help and how to rely on mentors. By the time our residents graduate, they can stride with confidence toward more prosperous futures. Moreover, many of these alumni remain involved and continue to find ways to help newer housemates — even though they may lead busy lives with families and thriving careers.

If you are ready to break the endless cycle of addiction and despair, contact us today. Recovery is possible.

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