By Sandy Baker
A mentor is someone you can look to for guidance and support.
It can also be a person living the same battles you’re facing and doing well in the process.
Mentorship is valuable within the addiction recovery process because it provides an opportunity to learn from those who have walked your path. Yet, mentors shouldn’t be seen as responsible for your relapse or success.
What Is the Purpose of Having a Mentor in Addiction Recovery?
Consider, for a moment, what having a professional mentor in your career would offer to you. He or she guides you in making decisions about positions, education, and potentially about life choices that impact your career path. In addiction, your mentor goes further. He or she offers support for recovery-related concerns, but also is there to help you with day-to-day struggles that extend beyond your substance abuse problem.
Many times, mentors operate as the go-to for any type of struggle you are having during recovery. The goal is to have someone to talk to when you are facing difficulty. By having someone who listens, you may be able to work through your problem more fully—potentially avoiding the risk of drug or alcohol relapse.
As a result, then, the purpose of having a mentor shouldn’t just be to be able to stay sober. Rather, he or she should be there to help you with your mental health, relationships, spiritual health, and your job. This is the type of person you can turn to for questions about relationships or the individual you count on to answer the phone at 3 a.m.
It’s Not Always Just One Person
You cannot just find a mentor who can be on your speed dial for every question or concern you have throughout the day. Remember, they have their own lives to live. That’s why it may be beneficial to have more than one person to talk to like this. For example, you may have a religious professional you know you can count on for moral questions. You may have a mentor that’s worked through a transitional home with you that can offer guidance on breaking off bad relationships.
Don’t focus on just having one person to solve your problems. Instead, build a network of people you can rely on to support you as you make decisions.
What Happens When You Have a Mentor?
Here’s a situation that could happen to you. After leaving rehab, you started a job, moved in with a family member, and began building back your life. Yet, there is a person from your past who continues to try to contact you. You know contact isn’t going to lead you down the right path, but you don’t know what to do next.
Your mentor can listen to what is happening and help you to see the picture a bit clearer. They can point out a life experience of their own that may mimic what happened to you. In some situations, they can tell you right away what to do. Yet, their job is more about listening and encouraging you to make the better decision for your future.
When you have a mentor, you get all of those thoughts and concerns in your mind out into the world. You work through them. You can call on your mentor for help when you feel withdrawal pain or when you just want to know it’s okay to break off those bad relationships.
Research indicates there are benefits to using a mentor and peer support groups. In a study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, there was evidence that peer support like this helps individuals with an addiction to avoid use, engage more thoroughly in treatment, and minimize risky behavior.
Your Mentor Isn’t Solving Your Addiction Problems, Though
Mentorship is an excellent supportive tool during the recovery process, but it should not be seen as a solution to your addiction. Your mentor isn’t responsible for your success or failure. More so, a mentor also cannot provide you with solutions every time you need help. They shouldn’t give you money or bail you out. Rather, they should listen to you and offer you advice from their own experience.
How Can You Find a Mentor Like This?
Look within your network first. Avoid anyone that has a history within your past life of drug addiction. Instead, look towards those who were a part of your addiction treatment and rehabilitation. Look towards your 12-Step program group and other support groups. Choose someone that you respect and feel confident talking to on a routine basis.
Sometimes family and friends can help. Other times religious professionals, school counselors, or therapists you created a bond with can help you. Work with your treatment center for additional support in finding a mentor.
When you have a relationship with a mentor, remember that it’s providing you with incredible strength and determination. Now, as you work towards growing your own success, try to become a mentor yourself, giving back to those who are in need within your local area.