My first attempt at taking a break from alcohol was during the month of October. My son was eight years old at the time and my hangovers were brutal. I was reticent to admit it, but drinking was taking up way too much time, energy, and effort. In truth, I was frightened – frightened that it was interfering with my life including caring for my son. Who justifies driving their child to Hockey practice with a roadie? I did. If drinking wasn’t a problem, then taking a break wouldn’t be a problem, or so I thought. I struggled and stumbled as I attempted to do it on my own back then. For folks who are participating in Sober October, working with a recovery coach can make a huge difference.
Some consider recovery coaching to be a niche service, but it’s becoming more popular. Thanks to individuals like Phil Valentine, Executive Director of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), recovery coaching has been gaining traction. As of September 2023, CCAR had trained over 75,000 coaches nationwide. Peer to peer support specialists and coaches can now be found volunteering in hospital emergency rooms, and recovery community organizations. While some coaches work with recovery services providers like Silverbell Coaching, Sterling Recovery, and the Lighthouse Recovery 365, others have their own private practice and are being recommended by doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists.
A recovery coach is a trained professional who helps anyone who might be curious or struggling with their relationship with alcohol. A non-clinical support specialist, the coach links a person to resources in their community and serves as a personal guide and mentor. Most coaches are in recovery themselves and bring their lived experience to the table along with their professional training. The same holds true for eating disorder recovery coaches. A coach walks shoulder to shoulder with clients, guiding them toward wellness as they set tangible (daily, weekly, monthly) goals and helps hold them accountable. Like an expert tailor, a coach is there to fit the best possible path of wellness to their client’s needs. Some may consider a 12 Step program, but there are myriad others including Dharma Recovery, She Recovers, Tempest, Life Ring, or SMART to name a few. As an accountability partner, a coach helps their client stick to the path, and stay connected to their recovery support or wellness community. Coaches and clients typically meet two to three times a week and have daily check-ins. Using a holistic approach, coaches focus on growing wellness in all areas of a person’s life. Coaches can also be called upon to live-in with a client as a companion to provide 24/7 support, or travel with someone for personal and professional commitments.
A recovery coach is like a compass—a Recovery Compass. Coaches point people in the direction of the best possible recovery and wellness resources all the while meeting them where they are. It’s the strength that we draw from our own experience, our experiential knowledge, that enables us to connect with others, and help them navigate their way. Johann Hari, a British-Swiss writer and journalist, elucidated the inherent power of recovery coaching in his 2015 TEDx Global talk when he said, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.” It’s all about connection. Connection between coach and client, connection to a community, connection to resources, and finally, connection/reconnection to one’s healthy self.
At the end of the day, the coach’s steadying presence reorients and empowers a person to point themselves in a better direction. Whether people are sober-curious or are concerned about someone they love and care about, people can now avail themselves of this dynamic form of support. There is increasing recognition that coaching plays a pivotal role in achieving and sustaining health and wellness so why not help yourself this month? After twenty-three years, I’m still taking a break from not drinking, and as a professional recovery coach who lives in New Canaan, CT, I can wholeheartedly say my clients have never felt better.
Stephanie Hazard, CCIEDC, CARC, RCP