Why a Recovery Coach Is the Perfect Place to Start When You Have Drug or Alcohol Concerns
by Michael Walsh
Most people agree that changing long-standing habits of any kind is tough. Maybe it’s that chocolate bar you can’t seem to avoid after dinner each night, or those extra episodes on Netflix that seem to keep you in a constant state of sleep deprivation.
Whatever it is, it’s going to be even harder to change if you’re dealing with an inherently addictive substance. So, when we’re looking to change our behaviors around drugs and alcohol, we’re talking about some pretty tough work.
For some people, the effects of substance use are obvious, seeping into every area of their lives in the form of financial stress, legal issues, health conditions, family arguments, and job loss.
While others carry on with lives that look mostly put together on the outside, but are tortured with internal chaos in the form of bottled-up emotions and a nagging feeling that something needs to change.
The good news is that regardless of where you fall on the continuum, it IS possible to tackle substance use issues and the turmoil that they’ve created. And finding the right support is the first step.
Finding the right support.
Often when people bring up their substance use concerns with friends or family, on of the first questions people might ask is:
“Well, what does your doctor say you should do?”
Starting with your GP (General Practitioner — Canadian term for Family Doctor) seems like a great first step, but the unfortunate reality is that many physicians simply don’t have the necessary knowledge, training, or familiarity with emerging treatment options when it comes to substance use concerns and addiction.¹ ²
This isn’t to say you should withhold your substance use concerns from your doctor – you should absolutely tell them. It’s just intended to set realistic expectations. If nothing else, they can certainly help monitor some of the physical issues that often arise from heavy substance use. Depending on your situation they may want to keep an eye on your liver enzymes, blood pressure levels, and other key biometrics.
Personally, I lucked out when I first decided to bring up my substance use with my GP as he had a good amount of experience and was able to provide some great resources. But I’ve heard of many people who aren’t so lucky, and leave their appointment with nothing more than a generic handout covering some clinical definitions that they’d already Googled a dozen times.
The thing to remember with addiction and substance misuse is that there’s usually a whole lot more than a physical or chemical issue at play. Substance use disorders often develop as a means of coping with difficult emotions, and are steeped in long-standing personal habits that require a lot of work to untangle and address properly.
So this begs the question, where should you turn for more comprehensive support when you have substance use concerns?
Triaging your needs with a Recovery Coach.
A Recovery Coach, or Sober Coach, is an excellent place to start when you have substance use concerns.
As specialists, they are excellent at assessing your immediate needs and helping you understand what type of support will be best for you each step of the way. After an initial intake appointment they might decide recovery coaching alone will be sufficient for your needs.
Or, if you’ve become physically dependent on substances, they can help coordinate and arrange for medical detox and inpatient treatment before you begin recovery coaching.
And still for others they might recommend a therapist and/or counsellor to address underlying emotional concerns in tandem with recovery coaching.
The road to recovery is rarely the same for any two people, and it’s helpful to have someone with personal and professional experience to help you piece together a plan that is best suited for you and your life.
What does a Recovery Coach do?
Most people will agree that in order to get good at something, you need a combination of two things: practice and guidance.
A Recovery Coach, or Sober Coach, is there each step of the way to help you learn and practice new skills, and to guide you on your journey toward health and wellbeing.
They help you navigate potentially stressful aspects of life, like learning to make new friends in early recovery or getting through the holidays with a family who celebrates with copious amounts of alcohol, while offering their shared understanding, encouragement, accountability and wisdom.
Getting curious with a Sober Coach.
The relationship between you and your Sober Coach is designed for open and honest exploration. It’s a safe place to really dive into the reasons WHY you drink in the first place.
Maybe you drink primarily in social settings and that’s helped you feel more at ease around other people, or maybe you find yourself bored or lonely at certain times and substance use is helping you cope with those emotions.
Whatever it is for you, recovery coaching can help you uncover the reasons why you drink or use, which allows you to find new ways of getting your needs met.
The many roles of a Sober Coach.
One of the reasons Sober Coaching has become so popular over the last decade is that a Sober Coach is uniquely positioned to be able to meet you exactly where you’re at, and work with you over time as you explore your relationship to drugs or alcohol.
This type of ongoing and flexible support honors the often winding road that recovery takes, providing a source of stability when life throws you a curveball, and helping you to manage the potential setbacks along the way.
Depending on your unique situation, a Sober Coach can play many roles, such as:
- Resource Coordinator | A Sober Coach can help you coordinate access to helpful resources such as sober housing, inpatient and outpatient treatment providers, mental health specialists, and group support networks.
- Truth Teller | A Sober Coach provides you with honest and unbiased feedback regarding self-destructive patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
- Lifestyle Consultant | A Sober Coach can help you develop new routines, habits, and daily-living rituals that strengthen your resolve in early recovery.
- Mentor | A Sober Coach offers living proof of the power of recovery, stage-appropriate recovery education, and guidance.
- Problem Solver | A Sober Coach can help you identify and resolve personal and environmental obstacles to recovery.
I often tell my clients the easy part is reducing consumption or stopping drugs/alcohol. The harder part is recreating our lives in a way that keeps us sober.
Staying sober with a Sober Coach.
Recovery is about so much more than just quitting drugs or alcohol. Eventually, the work becomes less about drinking and more about life beyond substance use.
It becomes about filling the void with things that are meaningful to you, stuff that gets you excited.
It becomes about tapping into your dreams and letting your mind go wild with new hobbies and interests.
It becomes about finally being able to say yes to the things you love, and building a life you no longer want to escape from.
Choosing the right Recovery Coach.
A good Sober Coach is someone who is in recovery themselves. They’ve been there at ground zero before, and they have an intimate understanding of what it takes to set healthy boundaries, identify triggers, and get and stay sober.
As with any coach, you’re also going to want to look for someone that’s easy to talk to. A good personality fit goes a long way in helping you feel comfortable, especially when you’re dealing with topics that can make you feel vulnerable.
And always be sure to check out the person’s credentials and training to ensure they have adequate knowledge in the field of substance use and treatment modalities.
Getting started with a Sober Coach.
I’m an accredited Addiction Recovery Coach with extensive knowledge in the field of substance use disorders. I’ve been trained by some of the best in the field and continue to remain active in various recovery communities both in Canada, and internationally.
If you’re looking for help to stop drinking, help to moderate drinking, or support in dealing with a substance use concern of any kind, please feel free to reach out to me. I offer one-on-one recovery coaching, family support, and drug and alcohol intervention services.
I offer a no-charge consult call to anyone who has questions about their own substance use, or the substance use of a family member. These calls are completely confidential with no pressure to make a decision before you feel entirely ready.
And if you’re still wondering, “do I have a drinking problem?”, please check out this blog post, where you’ll find helpful steps for evaluating the role that alcohol plays in your life. If you want to know more about how to help someone with a substance use concern please read my article about deploying the CRAFT Model of Addiction.
- Ducharme LJ, Knudsen HK, Roman PM. Trends in the adoption of medications for alcohol dependence. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2006;26:S13-S19.
- Harris AHS, Ellerbe L, Reeder RN, et al. Pharmacotherapy for alcohol dependence: Perceived treatment barriers and action strategies among Veterans Health Administration service providers. Psychol Serv 2013;10:410-419.