Role models are important in all areas of life because they provide inspiration, experience, and motivation, and if there is a personal connection, the role model can even offer guidance, support and mentoring. The value of role models is well known in business, sports, parenting, and the arts, but they are especially important when it comes to addiction recovery. The 2011 Northwestern University article “It Can Take a Village to Beat an Addiction” emphasized that positive role models are extremely influential in motivating healthy behavior, and the Occupational Therapy International journal argued in 2008 that peer support significantly reduces relapse risk. Role models are vitally important for recovering addicts, and finding the right role models can have a tremendous impact on recoveries.
Personal Role Models
During the early stages of recovery, individuals are encouraged to develop a network of recovery partners who support each other with accountability, encouragement, and positive activities. Furthermore recovering addicts need to connect with recovery sponsors who have several years of sobriety under their belts and can provide guidance and leadership. It helps to have multiple role models, but the recovery sponsor should be the primary role model. When choosing a sponsor, there are several key tips including the following:
- Find a sponsor with whom you have a real connection and who models the behavior you wish to exhibit in your own life.
- Do not pursue a sponsor for the wrong reasons such as the individual’s personal popularity or success in unrelated areas.
- Make sure the sponsor has the availability to answer questions, discuss struggles, provide guidance, and help during tough times.
- Ideally, connect with a sponsor who is actively engaged in a local recovery group that you can regularly attend.
- Consider seeking out a sponsor with a similar background and heritage if such a cultural connection may prove beneficial.
Nevertheless, a person does not have to be your sponsor to be a positive recovery role model. Recovering addicts should strive to build a community of role models who provide support and set positive examples of how to rebuild a healthy life after addiction. The Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy stressed in 2005 that positive community support results in more positive recovery outcomes and people should actively build their recovery communities with role models who epitomize the recovery path they wish to take. These role models can illustrate positive behavior, set an example for healthy living and provide recommendations during key decision points in the recovery.
Public Role Models
Not every role model has to be someone you know. It may be a public figure you admire who overcame substance abuse or successfully manages a mental health disorder. Such individuals may provide inspiration and motivation in a general sense, but recovering addicts can also benefit from public role models through social learning. The Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal in 2007 argued that positive social learning might help reduce the risk of substance abuse while the Addiction journal in 2000 stated that observational learning might play a role in addiction-related issues like drug cravings. When viewing a public figure as a role model, there are several ways to learn from their experiences including the following:
- Read a biography or article that discusses how they overcame addiction.
- Take note of how they respond to personal problems that are made public.
- Follow positive public figures through social media platforms and sites.
- Learn about similar or related public figures who also claim thriving recoveries.
People certainly have enough negative role models, and as noted by the Addiction Treatment Magazine in 2012, developing teens may be negatively influenced by the way the media sensationalizes celebrity drug use. Recovering addicts should consider avoiding all such news feeds and tabloid fodder in favor of positive stories about public figures improving any area of their health, lifestyle or recovery.
How to Be a Positive Role Model
Recovering addicts benefit from surrounding themselves with positive role models, and while people need to be firmly rooted in their recoveries before becoming sponsors, it is never too early to strive to be a positive role model yourself. For individuals in the early stages of recovery, this might entail various acts and goals including the following:
- Find and take part in positive social and recreational activities like yoga, athletics, expressive arts and sober gatherings.
- Always be diligent in utilizing recovery tools like healthy coping strategies and anger/stress management.
- Set an example for attending support meetings, reaching out to new attendees and promoting overall wellness.
The best way to be a positive role model, however, is to find role models you respect and emulate their positive behaviors and priorities.
Addiction and Recovery Help
A key characteristic of positive role models is a willingness to seek out help when necessary. In terms of addiction, relapse and struggles, this might entail some form of rehabilitation treatment. Depending on the patient’s needs, rehab centers utilize a variety of treatments that potentially include supervised detox, integrated mental health care, motivational and behavioral therapies, trauma counseling, life skills tools and strategies for developing support networks.
If you have questions about the many support options available, our admissions coordinators can help. We are available 24 hours a day to provide information and make recommendations, and if professional treatment might be necessary, we can check health insurance policies for rehab benefits. Our helpline is toll-free, so please call now.