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Mentoring in Recovery - Staying Sober by Helping Others

The most successful people I’ve known in Recovery are the ones who stay in the middle of it all. They surround themselves with clean, sober, and genuine people on similar journeys. They are being led by those further along and they are offering what they have to the newcomer. Many of them recognize that they are not yet prepared to offer sponsorship but have the wisdom and experience to see that there are countless other ways to be a support.

Take Stock of What You Have to Offer

In early recovery, we often recommend that folks write gratitude lists. It’s a way of developing a healthier perspective and embracing a better attitude. Reflecting on all the good things in our lives is a form of introspection that allows us to impact others more positively.

Take some time and reflect on the lessons you’ve learned thus far in recovery. List them out. This is part of what you have to offer. Next, list the pitfalls you fell into – what did they teach you? What were the lessons you resisted that turned out great? What can you look back on today and laugh about that seemed overwhelming at the time? Each of these experiences expanded your perspective and they need to be shared.

I’ve always hated reinventing the wheel and I can’t see value in attempting to overcome fears alone. The old adages ring true, "If you really want to learn something, teach it.” There’s always another level – another layer of the proverbial onion. Helping others find their way reminds us of where we’ve been (and could return to), and makes us more aware of where we’re at and what we still need.

The 100 Pound Phone

Consider the value in simply having a willingness to listen and share your “experience, strength, and hope.” Remember how hard it was to reach out in your early days? Maybe instead of just offering our phone number as a contact we can exchange numbers and initiate the call? The value of this is easy to overlook. By calling others we acknowledge that they’re worth knowing.

What did you know about your worth in your earliest days of recovery? Surely you remember how hard it was to make that call. How awkward it seemed, wondering what in the world you’d talk about.

Hang with the Winners

It’s overwhelming to be brand new to this stuff. Be a compass. Be someone that shares what they’ve learned the hard way.

Through your time in recovery, you’ve found resources and people worth knowing. Sharing these options and making these introductions has enormous value. It’s terrifying to meet new folks. Be a bridge that helps facilitate connections.

Beyond the step work and spiritual growth, folks have no shortage of basic needs. Who’s good with pragmatic stuff like housing and finding work? What are the programs or treatment centers that are especially helpful?

Create Opportunities for Fellowship

Amongst a thousand other lessons, folks new to recovery need to learn how to have fun and socialize sober. Some of the most successful fellowships I’ve seen take place in pizza parlors before and after meetings. I’ve seen a greater sense of belonging fostered by bowling leagues and softball teams.

It’s about opportunities to do what you love to do without the temptation to drink/drug while you’re doing it. It’s about making new sober friends through shared activity. It’s about taking the pressure off to form these relationships by doing more than just talking.

Consider opening your home as a place for folks to meet with you individually or in small groups. We know that people in recovery need lots of people and places in which they feel safe. Celebrating holidays within these sanctuaries saves countless relapses.

Maintain Balance

Supporting others can be incredibly rewarding, but only if we’re maintaining a balance between self care and caring for others. Acceptance of limitations and setting healthy boundaries are vital to our success individually and collectively. If we find ourselves getting drained, we’ve taken on too much.

Start small. Choose one person. Choose one way to be of service. Be clear in defining what you can do and what you can’t.

The Only Way to Keep It…

…Is to give it away. We desperately need mentors, guides, friends, kin, and brother/sisterhood. We need connection to something far greater than ourselves and we need for those connections to grow in number and in quality.

Give that we cannot afford complacency, there is no better way to ensure that we continue to grow than to expand our reach. Common sense dictates that the more we learn, the more we have to offer. Recovery allows these dynamics to be far more fluid and shared. Let us seek challenges from those who teach us and those we pass it on to.

We want ripple effects. The more we give away, the more we benefit our communities – both in and outside of recovery.

Clinical Social Worker/Therapist
My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: Thanks! Jim

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