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What Is a Sober Companion? For Some, They’re the Missing Piece to Recovery

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  • A sober companion is a hired support person who assists with life after treatment
  • There are three types: live-in, on-call, and sober escorts
  • Companions differ from sponsors, who typically focus only on the 12-step program

 

Addiction treatment is an incredible achievement, yet many people who complete rehab programs worry about heading home. Even with healthy coping mechanisms, staying sober outside of a controlled environment isn’t easy. This is especially true for people who don’t live near supportive friends and family. Even when everything else has fallen into place — a good job, repaired personal relationships, ongoing counseling — without enough support, life in recovery can be difficult. For some, a sober companion can help. 

 

What is a sober companion?

Sober companions are hired support individuals who help recovering addicts maintain sobriety outside of treatment. Companions often have personal experience with addiction, which gives them a unique perspective on life in recovery. Some live with clients, helping them on a day-to-day basis. Others interact with clients regularly, but live separately. A third type, called a social escort, accompanies clients to and from outpatient treatment programs to avoid distraction or temptation along the way. 

The role of a sober companion is to offer guidance, perspective, advice, emotional support, and accountability. It’s harder to relapse with a companion at home. Although many focus on the vulnerable aftercare period, some provide ongoing support years after a client has completed treatment. 

 

How is a sober companion different from a sponsor? 

If you’re familiar with 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, you might wonder whether a sober companion differs from a sponsor. A sponsor is an unpaid volunteer who focuses on helping their sponsee adhere to the 12-step program. A sober companion, by contrast, is paid to provide personalized support. Because companions are hired, they can offer more flexibility in terms of the support provided. For example, a sponsor would not typically drive someone to a counseling appointment or offer live-in support. 

 

Types of sober companions

There are three types of sober companions. Each provides support for different needs:  

Live-In Sober Companions 

Just as they sound, these companions live at home with a client. Providing near 24/7 support, they offer emotional and practical guidance to help your ongoing recovery journey. For example, they might help you establish a schedule, develop healthy eating habits, or manage the stress of a new job. They might also search your house for alcohol or drugs and dispose of the substances. Typical sober companion contracts range from a month to a year. 

On-Call Sober Companions 

The second kind of sober companion is on-call. With this arrangement, your sober companion lives outside the home, but is available for regularly scheduled conversations or even on-demand. This option is often best for those who need support occasionally, but not 24/7. As people start to thrive under a live-in arrangement, they might reach a point where they can transition to on-call assistance. 

Sober Escorts 

Finally, there are sober escorts. These companions primarily travel with clients to various events and obligations, such as work, group meetings, or therapy sessions. They make sure that clients don’t buy illicit substances while in transit, and they provide emotional support along the way. Escort-based sober companions are best for people who have a support system at home, but who want to make sure they don’t relapse during periods when they are typically alone.

 

Do I need a sober companion?

This is a personal decision. Some people find the additional support beneficial. Others may not feel comfortable confiding in someone they don’t know. 

Because sober companions often have addiction experience themselves, they can also offer a perspective or answer questions that friends and family members can’t. For example, individuals who have recently completed addiction treatment often experience feelings of listlessness or dissatisfaction, even when life is going well. Friends and family may not understand these feelings, but someone in recovery can. 

If you are trying to decide whether a sober companion is right for you, discuss it with your therapist or other professionals who may be involved in your care. They can help you determine whether this approach is right for you.


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Alternatives to a sober companion 

Although sober companions are ideal for some people, they aren’t a great fit for others. If you need the support of a companion but prefer not to hire one, there are some good alternatives. 

Some people get the benefits of accountability and companionship from staying in a halfway house. Halfway houses, or sober living homes, allow residents to remain in a semi-controlled environment that is drug- and alcohol-free. Staff and roommates add accountability. 

Other people may be able to lean on their personal support networks. Friends and family, coupled with group meetings, such as 12-step programs, therapy, and other ongoing treatment options, may also be enough. However you choose to approach aftercare, be sure to get the full support you need. Accept help from your support system and remain open to help from others. 

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Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.