Finding Rewards in Mentorship – How Teens and Addicts Can Benefit Most
By Jessica Kantor
On a daily basis, the average life is filled with confusion, angst, adversity, and more. These are impossible to avoid, even for a commonly positive person. Companionship with another individual often offers a sense of comfort and stability to many that go through life’s worst tribulations. There is something calming about finding someone to confide your problems in and have them listen, offer guidance, or help direct you on the “right” path, whatever that may be.
Many times, we do not feel comfortable sharing certain things with family members or friends. One may not necessarily be embarrassed about it, or maybe one is, but you need someone else. A therapist? Not everyone who wants a therapist, can afford a therapist, or sees the benefits of a therapist (a different article for a different time).
Finding someone, sans family, friends, or therapy, to help one through hard times seems like a difficult task, but can become easier when you discover the world of mentorship. In this article, we’ll take a look at this important role. We’ll give you tips on how to find someone that fits your personality.
What Does a Mentor Look Like?
“Mentor” develops in the mind as a stuffy example. Someone that tells you what is appropriate to pursue in life and career and what is not; what to wear to work and what to say during a job interview. This is not an entirely accurate description of the mentorships available today. In fact, some of the strongest modern mentorship programs around are for teens and those interested in a sober lifestyle.
The teenage years are some of the most difficult. Not only is the individual dealing with bodily and hormonal changes but they’re learning about how the world works, some quicker and more harshly than others. Liz Hardy of Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership says that the benefits seen by teens that are part of the program are diverse and plentiful.
“Mentoring helps young people succeed by offering consistent guidance, support, and encouragement,” says Hardy. “Mentors can help young people set goals and achieve them. It is a gateway to skill development and self-confidence, which is key to helping young people make the most of their future.”
Teens that have a mentor are more likely to graduate high school, enroll in college, and volunteer in their communities. They are also less likely to begin using drugs and alcohol, according to the 2014 report, The Mentoring Effect.
“We believe that all young people can benefit from having a mentor, but those who may benefit most are those most at-risk for becoming disconnected from school, family, and work,” says Hardy.
Have a Mentor, Be a Mentor
Some of those teens that could have benefited from a mentor are individuals that now choose to lead a sober lifestyle. Nicole Vasquez, National Alumni Manager at American Addiction Centers (AAC), is a big proponent of both having and being a mentor, as she herself is both.
“I want to impress upon everyone the value of mentorship,” says Vasquez. “Whether you are in Recovery, or not, it is great to have somebody that you can bounce ideas off and go to when you need guidance. Sometimes you just need someone to listen. In your work space or home life, don’t wander around aimlessly. Others have experience that you can, and should, utilize.”
For those choosing sobriety, by way of addiction, having a stable support system is a life-saving choice. Chris Boutté, Alumni Coordinate at AAC, knows that he both needs a mentor and chooses to be one for others in need. Chris says,
“As an addict, my life is unmanageable and I don’t know how to live a proper life. I didn’t know how to live without drugs and alcohol because I didn’t know how to manage my feelings, good or bad. Having a mentor gave me the opportunity to learn a better way of living in all aspects of my life. Sayings that many hear in Recovery are ‘We keep what we have by giving it away’ and ‘We give back what was so freely given to us’ — Not only does [being a mentor] help me stay sober, but it’s given me a purpose in life. I feel like it’s the priceless debt I owe to the men and women who helped me in my early recovery.”
Boutté was amazed, when first in recovery, that he was getting such positive support and life lessons from someone without having to pay for it. He now understands the value of mentorship and wants to gift that to others.
Hardy speaks of the same gift for the adults that work with teens,
“We often hear that mentors feel they learn more from a mentoring relationship than their mentee does! Mentoring is a very accessible pathway to action for adults wanting to make a difference in a young person’s life.”
Mentoring as Rewarding Beyond Your Expectations
Vasquez shares the same positive message that being a mentor is just as rewarding as having one.
“I feel like [when you are a mentor] is when you need a mentor most of all. We will never have all of the answers to life, so you need others that you can reach out to in the event that you may need guidance for you or your mentee. Many times it is great to have a mentor who has a mentor who has a mentor. You get access to all of that wisdom up the line!”
Not only does Vasquez have a mentor in sobriety, but one in a leadership position as well.
“When choosing a mentor, find someone that you feel you can trust. What is so important about the mentor-mentee relationship is that you have someone that you can confide in. Essentially somebody that has what you want. For me, that was someone whose recovery I wanted to model, who was happy. That was very important to me. When I got clean, I looked for somebody who exhibited joy and happiness. You have to figure out what you yourself are looking for and find that in another person.”
This runs true for sobriety, relationships, careers, and more. Teenagers should find a mentor that represents, or are, something that they want to be. Those in Recovery should do the same. Boutté agrees,
“I wanted a mentor who had peace, serenity and sanity. I wanted a mentor that not only talked the talk, but they walked the walk too. I wanted a mentor who was someone I’d be proud of being myself, and that’s who I found and stuck with.”
Mentoring is a rewarding opportunity for all involved. Any caring individual, that has time and feels they have something to offer, should join a program for teens or those in sobriety.
“No matter what the situation is with each individual, I’m forever grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to potentially make a positive impact on their life and give them a little bit of hope that they can stay sober too,” says Boutté.
If you are interested in mentoring a teen, visit www.mentoring.org to learn more about their national programs.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, visit www.americanaddictioncenters.com to learn more about treatment and sobriety.