By Sandy Baker
A mentor is someone you can look to for guidance and support.
A mentor can also be a person facing 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. They could guide you in making decisions about positions, education, and even life choices that impact your career path. In addiction, your mentor goes further. They can offer support for recovery-related concerns and also 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, your mentor can help you with your mental health, relationships, spiritual health, and job. This is the type of person you can turn to for advice about decisions you have to make or count on to answer the phone at 3 a.m. when you’re having a hard time.
It’s Not Always Just One Person
While it would be convenient to have one person to put on speed dial for every question or concern you have throughout the day, mentors have their own lives to live. That’s why it may be beneficial to have more than mentor. For example, you may have a religious professional you can count on for moral questions. You may have another mentor who 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 start a job, move in with a family member, and begin building back your life. But someone from your past continues to try to contact you. You know that contact with this person will not be healthy for you, 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 be similar to your situation. Maybe they can give you advice, or maybe they can just listen and encourage you to follow your instincts.
You can call on your mentor for help when you feel withdrawal pain or when you just want to know if it’s okay to quit that job or break off that toxic friendship.
Research indicates there are benefits to using a mentor and peer support groups. A study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that peer support like this helps individuals with an addiction to avoid use, engage more thoroughly in treatment, and minimize risky behavior.
Your Mentor Can’t Solve Your Addiction
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 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, support group peers, 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, you will grow in strength and determination. As you work towards growing your own success, you can become a mentor yourself, giving back to those who are in need within your local area.