A Conversation With Sober Companion Brad Langenberg
Personalized sober companionship services are designed to provide guidance and support to individuals who want to practice sobriety and who are on the path to recovery from an SUD. I’ve consulted with many individuals trained to help their clients become productive, healthy, and active members of society.
Sober companions specialize in helping individuals integrate back into their homes post-treatment, maintain and implement their healing and recovery plan, and provide extra support during stressful times. Recently, I had a conversation with dedicated sober companion Brad Langenberg to learn more about the past, present, and future in this unique recovery space and value his unique insights regarding the importance of my own sober companionship program.
What Is a Sober Companion?
A sober companion is an experienced professional who provides one-on-one assistance, guidance, accountability, and support to individuals who are in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD). Companions can provide substance-free support and transportation, assist with daily activities such as meal planning, exercise, and employment, and offer support and guidance during high-risk situations such as parties or social events.
Most sober companions are not licensed therapists or counselors, but they typically work closely with these professionals as part of a comprehensive recovery program. Sober companions can provide ongoing support and guidance to help clients maintain sobriety over a longer period. In this way, they can be an essential part of addiction recovery for anyone who needs extra help to maintain sobriety in their daily lives.
Some of the key responsibilities of a sober companion may include:
- Providing emotional support and helping their clients manage the intense emotions that often arise in early recovery
- Encouraging healthy habits, such as exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough rest
- Offering accountability for client actions, helping them stay on track with their recovery goals
- Providing guidance and advice on how to navigate various situations and challenges that may arise during the recovery process
- Helping to build a support network of family, friends, and peers who can provide ongoing support in recovery
Who Is Brad Langenberg?
Brad Langenberg is an experienced sober companion who has been in recovery himself for 36 years. Brad has a wealth of experience in the field of addiction recovery, including co-facilitating sex addiction groups with psychologists and working in equine therapy for the last 25 years. He has a background as a personal trainer as well, which enables him to provide extensive physical and nutritional advice to improve recovery.
Brad has worn many different hats in his life, both before and during recovery: he’s been a cowboy, athlete, and drug dealer and has met with everyone from movie stars to the Dalai Lama. He’s explored many holy places and different religions and lived all over the world – but he’s a small-town Nebraska boy at heart. He attributes his knack for finding a way to fit in anywhere and with any client to his diverse range of life experiences thus far.
During his time in the recovery space, Brad has worked with many high-profile clients like Lenny Kravitz. While his work has focused on helping the rich and famous, Brad believes it’s just as important to note that sober coaching can be beneficial for anyone seeking support in their recovery journey.
“The one thing I want people to know as far as me being a sober companion – You’d be very hard to find a sober companion that has as much background as I do. I have more hours than most therapists and psychologists. And I actually have therapists and psychologists that come to me. I have hours of training from interventions to equine therapy to sober companions to Sober coaching to working with eating disorders to sex addict’s to codependency from billionaires to gang and street kids to celebrities. 36 years of training!”
A Conversation With Brad
Talking one-on-one with Brad was an excellent opportunity for me to learn even more about how his background in recovery, mental health, and spirituality has lent itself to sober companionship. During our conversation, Brad shared some major insights on what it means to be a sober companion and how that fits into the overall recovery process.
What Inspired You to Become a Sober Companion?
Brad is incredibly passionate about the work he has been doing in the recovery space for the last 36 years. “For me, this journey of sobriety is the only thing that I do of truly lasting value,” he says. For him, helping people on their path to sobriety has provided meaning in life, and it’s where he believes he fits in this world. “It’s a message and a way of life that’s so important to me, and I just love doing it.”
Why Is Sober Companionship So Important?
Brad points out that recovery is a process of the mind, body, and spirit. A sober companion is someone who can support clients throughout the day, connecting with them and helping them stay on track. In this way, sober companions provide tools and support to benefit the recovery process.
“Addiction is a disease of isolation, and you need to get people connected,” Brad says. He points out that people often turn to drugs and alcohol to feel like they are not disconnected, whether from society or from the friendships or family life occurring around them. That’s just one reason he feels it’s so important to accompany his clients to 12-step meetings: these can help his clients reconnect with the world around them and also provide spiritual support that is not always readily available for people in early recovery.
Most importantly, on top of encouraging connection with others, Brad prioritizes sober companionship as a foundational connection itself. For example, he has worked with clients like CEOs and star athletes who have people around them all day. Unfortunately, these individuals find it difficult to make connections when others are making demands – and they can’t walk away because they risk losing millions of dollars. As a sober companion, Brad strives to be the one person who is there for his client, no matter what. He demands nothing but participation and helps clients avoid situations that might break their sobriety and learn how to say no.
How Does a Sober Companion Help Clients Reach Goals and Objectives?
Brad typically helps his patients meet their recovery goals and objectives by implementing the 12-step process “because it works.” He points out that while a full physical detox lasts far longer than the typical detox program – often up to a year, the mental and spiritual detox lasts much longer than that. For this reason, he firmly believes in strategies that also provide spiritual tools for his clients. For Brad, “spirituality is getting into a flow with life and being at ease with yourself in all situations, no matter what comes up.”
Brad is also a proponent of developing a morning routine to help his clients stay grounded, aware, and ready for the day. He mentions a study done in Akron that actually showed that individuals in a clinic were relapsing because they didn’t have a proper morning routine established. On the basis of this evidence, his clients start out with a simple 3-minute morning routine that consists of the following:
- Writing down general thoughts and feelings for one minute
- Reading something that inspires or gets them grounded for one minute
- Careful observation of all of the thoughts going through the mind without trying to grab onto them – and then letting them go – for one minute
For clients who are further on in the recovery process and want to keep improving, sober companions like Brad enjoy meeting them where they are to help them. He provides key tools, such as behavior modification techniques, as well as spiritual insights, relapse prevention strategies, and more.
What Skills/Attributes Are Important for a Sober Companion?
Brad stresses just how important it is for sober companions to be honest, open, and vulnerable with clients so that they will open up as well. He makes a personal effort to remain open about his history as a drug addict, alcoholic, compulsive overeater/bulimic, nicotine addict, caffeine addict, and steroid misuse. Since he has had to go through a number of the associated trials himself, he is able to be a better companion. Brad understands the critical warning signs and triggers for relapse that someone who hasn’t gone through the recovery process might not notice.
Brad emphasizes that charisma, the ability to be flexible in various situations, and the ability to put family members, friends, and the client at ease are all critical qualities for a sober companion. He notes that it’s important for a sober companion to be a good communicator, as well. These qualities can help both clients and their loved ones understand that the person needs support, long-term treatment, or other help as recovery continues.
He also recommends that every sober companion, especially if they are just starting out, should attend therapy. The job of a sober companion can be both physically and emotionally demanding, and they may spend long hours with their clients. To prevent burnout and continue gaining key skills that can be passed on to the client, it is important for sober companions to attend therapy.
What Challenges Exist for a Sober Companion?
Brad emphasizes that being a sober companion is a lot of work. He knows some professionals who have relapsed, and yet they are still working as sober companions. Another thing he often sees are young people starting sober companionship jobs who feel as if they are “thrown into the deep end with no swimming skills.” To avoid situations like this, he suggests that sober companions should have over seven years of sobriety and some real background in the mental health and recovery space.
For example, Brad has worked everywhere, from mental health hospitals to a prison lock-up ward; through it all, he has seen a wide range of clients. He’s worked with eating disorder clients and spent thousands of hours facilitating recovery groups. Without this strong foundation, new sober companions may help clients at the detriment of their own recovery.
What Are The Rewarding Things About Being a Companion?
Brad acknowledges that relapse is always a risk for any person in recovery, and experiencing relapse along with a client can be deeply upsetting. Still, he stresses that the times that stand out the most are when advice he shares finally ‘clicks’ for a client.
Brad points to instances when clients have come back to him to say, “I was thinking about what you were talking about, and my whole life is changing.” He notes that this often happens when working with younger people. In particular, he mentions one young guy he spent a year with who finally learned to stop looking backward and forward and instead appreciate what was right in front of him in the present. For Brad, moments like these are the most rewarding.
He also shares a story about a client who is an actor. Brad was continually impressed at the client’s progression in recovery, especially the peace he was able to develop with his surroundings and the personal and situational awareness he had attained. Brad always likes to remind his clients, many of whom are coming from high-pressure settings: “Don’t try to do something; just be something.” This is a message that resonates with Brad’s clients, as well as anyone else in recovery.
What Are Some Misconceptions Related to Sober Companionship?
Brad notes that some people seem to have a strong misconception that sober companionship is akin to babysitting. However, he emphasizes that sober companionship is much more than that. “It’s a full-time recovery program centered around them. We are trying to elevate their level of consciousness and awareness and ability to deal with life.”
He points out that therapists and psychologists might work with a client once or twice a week for one hour at a time, but that is in their own setting. Meanwhile, sober companions can work directly with a client the entire day in real-world settings, none of which are controlled or clinical. As a sober companion, Brad and others like him are there all day long, providing support and making connections. It takes a great deal of time and patience, but Brad stresses that it’s well worth the effort.
Detoxification and Addiction Recovery
While physical detox can be completed in a relatively short period of time, the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of recovery often take much longer. Many people in recovery describe the first year as a time of “thawing” or awakening to their emotions and spirituality after years of numbing themselves with drugs or alcohol.
During this time, individuals may experience a range of emotions, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty, as they adjust to a new way of living without the presence of substances. This extended “emotional detox” means it’s extra important for individuals in early recovery to have a strong support system, including a sober companion, to help them navigate these challenges and build a foundation for lasting sobriety.
With time and continued effort, it is possible to develop the emotional, mental, and spiritual tools they need to manage their addiction and maintain a fulfilling and healthy life in sobriety.
Find Support on Your Path to Recovery
I’d like to thank Brad for sharing his insights about how sober companions can be incredibly beneficial and effective tools for maintaining sobriety. With the guidance and support of a trained professional, you can navigate the challenges and triggers of early recovery, build a strong foundation for lasting sobriety, and improve your overall well-being.
If you or someone you know is attempting to maintain recovery from a substance use disorder, it’s crucial to seek help and support.
I’m thankful everyday for the opportunity to provide compassionate, customized intervention and addiction recovery support services. It’s an honor to work with Brad to offer sober companion services designed to meet the unique needs of each of our clients. If we can help you or your loved one with your own recovery journey, please connect with us using my online form here and one of us will be in touch with you to discuss how we can help.