Do You Want to Be a "Sober Companion"?
The first school for those who want to make a living escorting wealthy addicts through early recovery will change perceptions, one trainer tells The Fix.
"Sober companions" are often paid big bucks to escort affluent, newly-sober addicts through the difficult period of early recovery. Until now, there's been no real training program for those in the profession, leaving newbies to figure the process out as they go. “It was trial by fire,” Tim Harrington, co-founder of Sustainable Recovery and a sober companion since 2002, tells The Fix. “The person I worked for basically called and said ‘Okay, be ready on Thursday. You’re going to Wyoming for two weeks. Talk to you later.’ There wasn’t a lot of conversation. I didn’t talk to the counselor. Nothing came up on how to be more support than just a warm body.” But the industry's Wild West days could be about to end, with the launch of the Institute for Recovery Companions (IRC) in Los Angeles, which will open its doors to potential trainees this September. Founded by author and addiction expert Dr. Allen Berger, the training center should also prove useful for those interested in working in other areas of the recovery industry, such as treatment centers and sober living facilities. Harrington, who will be one of the program’s trainers, says the curriculum will cover all aspects of the job—so companions will better prepared to serve their clients diverse and often demanding needs. He promises, “It will be a good training service that will support them overall on their track working in the industry.”
A sober companion comes with a hefty price-tag, keeping them well out of most addicts' reach. But Harrington hopes that a more structured industry will prove that the service is worth the cost. “We want people to see this as something that invests in and protects the treatment investment,” he tells us. “Relapse has its consequences and those consequences can be expensive—so you’re just adding that on to the cost anyway. This is a service that can extend recovery and address those things in a more positive and thoughtful way so we can hopefully avoid treatment re-entry.” The IRC anticipates that other training certification programs will spring up in its wake—so their plan is to set the bar high from the start. “We want to change the perception of recovery companions,” Harrington declares.