What is a recovery coach?
By: Jen Smith
In the last few years I have been asked if I was interested in becoming a recovery coach on more than one occasion. Since my plate was full with a demanding job, family, and service commitments to my twelve step fellowship, I easily declined. This past year I have been mostly unemployed trying to find my place in the world when again one of my best buds nonchalantly said, “Why don’t you become a recovery coach.” Ok message heard this time so I sought out another best bud that could hook me up with this recovery coach thing. I was in luck, he said, there was a recovery coach academy happening in a few week and I was signed up. But signed up for what exactly? I wasn’t sure. Was I going to be paid to be a sponsor? Now that doesn’t quite jive with the 12 step traditions but that was all I could come up with having grown up in that environment.
When the academy began the similarities and differences between recovery coach and sponsor were quickly addressed. The emphasis on, and sharing of, experimental life knowledge is similar between the two along with a role model expectation, but there are many more differences.
First the organizational setting in which the recovery coach resides, including supervision and training. A sponsor never works for money and works within the fellowship traditions mainly sharing their experience with the 12 steps. It is never a recovery coach’s job to take someone through the steps. A recovery coach is a bridge to resources in the community, allied with treatment and recovery services, helping to empower folks to find their own path of recovery.
And then it began, the busting through of biases against different recovery paths. The academy was full of a diverse group of people with many opinions, experiences, and paths to recovery. Some through the 12 steps, some spiritually based, some completely original to themselves, and some folks on paths of recovery from afflictions other than addiction and alcoholism. We explored cultural differences through exercises that helped us recognize our own feelings and limitations. We learned that acceptance is cultural competency. If I feel negatively about anyone I might work with as a recovery coach for whatever reason I must pass that person on. If I don’t have an open accepting attitude about the person I am coaching I will not be effective.
The curriculum and instruction was fantastic and I learned from each and every person at the academy. My job as a recovery coach is to support and nurture my fellow humans on any path THEY CHOOSE to better themselves. As a recovery coach I will be speaking with folks who are sick trying to get well. Peer to peer support as I am also a sick person trying to get well, simply with experience and knowledge of resources. My job is to help folks make positive choices by sharing my life experience as well as open the door to as many paths and as many resources as I possibly can. I really dig this.
Yesterday a young man came up to me and gave me a really nice hug as he thanked me. I recognized his face a little but couldn’t figure out why he was thanking me. He told me that he found a bed in a sober house and was so grateful to be off the street. As he told me more about the recovery path he was following I recalled his visit about a week earlier. I read off a list of sober house numbers, told him the little I knew about the idiosyncrasies of each house and suggested he be relentless calling them. He didn’t have a phone so I let him use our phone. I honestly didn’t think I did much, but to him it ended up being a turning point. Wow this recovery coach stuff is really cool. I don’t need or expect to be thanked for this job but you can sure keep the hugs coming.
I would love to hear your experience or thoughts about recovery coaches, please comment.