What happens if you feel you’ve exhausted all the methods you can think of to stay sober and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the temptation to drink? Finding a sober buddy could help to hold you accountable.
A sober buddy can be any responsible person you trust and who understands your struggles with substance abuse.
“Having a sober buddy can be much like having a coach. They can help reframe the distortions, change the narrative, and improve dialogue with ourselves and with others,” said Richard Kohl, Community Ready and Resilient Integrator (CR2I) in the Army Substance Abuse Prevention Program at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Essentially, a sober buddy can help you exercise healthy coping skills. Sometimes there are things we can handle ourselves and sometimes it takes a village.
“It's important to have a community of people who are also going through what you're going through. It's important to have someone to be able to go out and do fun things with—hiking, movies, concerts, whatever that is—who's also sober with you so that you can talk about your cravings,” said Heather Hayes, a licensed professional counselor with over three decades of experience in treating clients with complex mental health issues and the full spectrum of addictive disorders. Strength comes in numbers, when you realize you’re not in it alone, you’re stronger and better equipped to manage the issue, she said.
A sober buddy can support a Soldier in the following ways, according to Kohl:
· Support healthy behavioral change. Authentic and connected relationships build trust, which is an essential component to personal change and breaking down barriers to change.
· Provide an accountability partner. There's a process of change that takes place as you go through the process of self-actualization and sometimes, we need people as accountability partners to be able to do that.
· Change the narrative. When someone is at a high risk for misusing a substance, their perceptions, thoughts, and feelings may be distorted. This impacts their statements to themselves and others. A sober buddy can help shift a negative outlook by reframing thoughts or attitudes.
There may be some reservations in finding a sober buddy; shame, uncertainty, or even not knowing where to start. Kohl advises to “Evaluate the trust building process in your personal life. Building trust can feel risky, however, it is necessary and part of recovery if a substance has been used at a high-risk level.”
At the end of the day what matters most is your sobriety and learning how to cope with daily challenges in a healthy way. If you need support, a sober buddy can help you put things into perspective. You may look to Family, friends, or your fellow Soldiers to help hold you accountable. You can also talk to your local chaplain or a local substance abuse support group to help designate a sober buddy for you.
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