WORRIED ABOUT TOO MUCH HOLLY JOLLY? HIRE YOURSELF A SOBER COMPANION
Power owner Nanette Zumwalt (above) will send one of her sober
companions to keep you on the straight and narrow – for a fee.
By MANDY STADTMILLER
Posted: 12:38 am
December 16, 2008
YOU’VE been there before: pounding headache, gurgly belly, even your
knees hurt. Why, oh why, didn’t someone stop you from having that last
Honestly, your fellow revelers are not exactly a font of common
sense, which is why you just might hire yourself a sober companion.
Someone like Paul. For several hundred dollars, Paul will pick you
up, escort you to your parties and make sure you’re 100 percent sober
when he takes you home. In most cases, he’ll even spend the night and
act as “the cop and the father and the sister and the brother and the
agent and the handler and the friend.” Your keys? He probably has them.
Cellphone? He’s on top of that, too.
Paul (not his real name) is a New York-based recovering alcoholic
and addict himself, 20 years clean, who says he “did everything and
every crime.” He now charges anywhere from $675 to $1,750 a day for a
24-hour watch to keep clients sober.
No surprise, around the holidays he finds himself more in demand than ever.
“The holidays are a big party,” says Paul, who’s minded everyone
from Fortune 500 CEOs to trust-fund kids to celebrities to porn stars.
“But a good addict or alcoholic doesn’t even need the holidays – that’s
While technically the role of sober minders is to talk you out of
drinking and help you resist your “triggers,” industry veterans say
restraint becomes necessary on occasion. “I’ll do a strip search,” Paul
says, “whatever it takes” – especially when the job is to act as escort
to a rehab facility. He says he was once offered $10,000 by a client to
look the other way.
Scott Bienenfeld is an NYU-affiliated addiction psychiatrist who
has worked with various sober companions for the past five years and
says, “They can get a bad rap because there’s this perception that
sober companions are just crutches, but in reality companions are
helping people with the tools and skills to embrace sobriety.”
Demand seems to be growing. Once the province of celebrities such
as Owen Wilson and Lindsay Lohan, minders are increasingly finding need
for their services among the nonfamous. “Some of our members, and I
suspect more in the future, are adding sober companions as a business
line or service,” says Ron Hunsicker, president of the National
Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.