Be Your Own Sober Boss w/ a Recovery Coach

by Michael Walsh

“Be Your Own Sober Boss w/ a Recovery Coach” - article by Michael Walsh

We all have things we’re super passionate about. Maybe for you it’s related to your career, or being a better parent, or a hobby that you can talk about for hours on end. [updated March 2023]

As a Recovery Coach, and as someone in long-term recovery myself, the thing I find myself thinking about more than any other single topic is how to help more people reclaim their lives from drugs and alcohol. 

The reality is that there’s a major gap in the number of people drinking problematically and the number of people actually seeking treatment.

Approximately 15% of Canadians who drink alcohol consume above Canada’s Low-risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. In 2014, alcohol contributed to 14,826 deaths in Canada, representing 22% of all substance use attributable deaths. Nearly 15 million American people meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), while only 7.3% of adults with AUD received treatment in the past year. And the average person takes 10 years from the onset of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) to seek treatment.¹

Naturally, statistics like these leave me thinking:

How can I (and we, as a society) help more people get the help they need sooner?

And the answer I keep coming back to is meeting people where they’re at, and breaking down barriers to entry.

So today I’m going to share my perspectives as a seasoned Recovery Coach, about how to make recovery work for YOU (or someone you love).

Bust Through The Barriers to Entry

Oftentimes, when a person opens up about substance use concerns to their friends or family, or to their GP, they’re met with suggestions.

These include well known pathways of recovery such as A.A. and other 12-step based programs, or time-intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment options.

These suggestions work well for some people, yes. But they can seem a bit overwhelming if you don’t want to label yourself as an alcoholic (a foundational aspect of A.A.), or you don’t feel ready (or able) to carve out the time necessary to complete intensive rehab programs.

The reality is there are many reasons why you (or someone you love) might not be open to pursuing a certain treatment program.

  • Maybe you don’t feel like your substance use is “bad enough” to necessitate that particular program
  • Maybe you worry about the stigma that comes along with being associated with a certain program or group
  • Maybe you aren’t ready to commit to fully stopping, but are interested in exploring moderation, or
  • Maybe you simply don’t feel comfortable addressing your concerns in a group setting

But the good news is, you don’t have to force yourself into a program that doesn’t feel quite right in order to improve your relationship to drugs or alcohol.

You can actually design your own program, and there is a growing body of evidence that supports this type of self-directed, individualized treatment as being particularly effective.

So let’s start by looking at some of the reasons why you might want to consider creating your own program of recovery.

WHY Being Your Own Recovery Boss Works

Unlike prescriptive approaches to treatment where a person engages in a rigid path of recovery with a narrow definition of success, self-directed paths empower people to advocate for their own individual needs.

Creating your own recovery roadmap fosters an “internal locus of control”, which is a fancy term used to mean that it helps you to feel more in control of your own life. This feeling of control is especially supportive in recovery because when you’re experiencing substance use problems, it’s common for life to feel chaotic.

Taking a central role in your recovery plan combats feelings of hopelessness and helplessness by empowering you to actively direct your own healing. And it gives you a sense of accomplishment along the way as you build trust in your ability to make positive changes.

Self-directed paths of recovery also help activate intrinsic motivation, which is the most powerful form of motivation. This type of deep internal drive is much more effective than extrinsic motivation, which is based on a person’s desire for external reward or the avoidance of a negative consequence.

A good example of extrinsic motivation is when an outpatient rehab program requires a person to provide a urine sample every week to prove their sobriety. These types of systems may work temporarily, but lasting change comes from intrinsic motivation.

Sounds pretty good, right?

So let’s look at how to actually create your own recovery plan.

Creating Your Own Recovery Roadmap

The best program of recovery is one that will work for you.

Start by taking an audit of:

  • Your immediate needs
  • Your overall goals (and how to track them)
  • Things you want to explore (therapy, nutritional support, coaching, meditation, etc…)
  • Places you can find support, and
  • The reasons you want to change (your “Bigger YES”)

Here are some actionable steps to get you moving in the right direction (you may also find this Change Plan helpful to consolidate your thinking).

1. Evaluate Your Physical Needs

    Depending on how much you’ve been drinking or using, you may be at risk for serious withdrawal symptoms, so it’s always best to meet with your G.P. and let them know of your plan to cut back or stop drinking or using altogether. They can also run useful blood tests to help you gauge your overall health, which is an important part of your overall healing journey.

    2. Map Out & Track Your Goals

      Next, you can create some clear personal goals, and determine how you want to track them. There are many ways to go about goal setting, so take some time to find something that works for you. It could be as simple as tracking your sober days with an app on your phone, and making a point to reflect on your overall progress on a regular basis.

      3. Establish a Support Network

        Changing long standing behavioral patterns is tough work, and you’re going to need some encouragement along the way. This certainly doesn’t have to be AA. In fact, there are several community-based programs available today that all offer very different approaches and perspectives on recovery. It’s just a matter of finding something that aligns with your own perspectives and values. Be open to trying out several so you can get a feel for what you like, and what you don’t like. Many also have online options for those wanting to maintain more privacy. Here are a few groups worth exploring: SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, Refuge Recovery, She Recovers

        4. Fill Your Downtime With Supportive Podcasts & Books

          There are so many refreshing podcasts and memoirs out there today. Take some time to find some inspirational books or podcasts that you can delve into before bed or on your lunch breaks. Little bursts of motivation like this add up over time. As far as books go, some recent client favorites include: Quit Like a Woman, We Are The Luckiest and This Naked Mind.

          5. Add Accountability w/ a Recovery Coach

            Accountability is an important piece because despite our best intentions, it’s easy to let things slide when life gets busy. While it’s possible to find accountability through peer groups and/or friends and family, it’s incredibly helpful to add an experienced Recovery Coach to your recovery plan, if possible.

            Turbo Charge Your Healing with a Recovery Coach

            One of the more profound tools that I use as a Recovery Coach is the evidence-based technique of motivational interviewing.²

            The spirit of motivational interviewing is deeply aligned with empowering you as an individual. The process helps draw out your own realizations about why you drink in the first place, and encourages juicy dialogue about your deeper desires in life.

            A good Recovery Coach will ask open-ended questions, encouraging you to talk about your desired goals, and collaborate with you as you begin taking action toward these goals.

            As you move along the recovery path, your needs will evolve. What you need in early recovery is probably going to look different than what you’ll need 6-12 months into the process. Developing an ongoing personal relationship with a Recovery Coach helps prepare you for each major juncture along the way, whether that’s the holidays, a work celebration or your first sober vacation.

            Get Started with a Recovery Coach

            It's a lot less scary when you have an experienced guide to help you sort things out.

            I’m an accredited Addiction Recovery Coach offering worldwide virtual support. If you’re interested in exploring 1:1 recovery coaching to help you cut back your drinking or stop drinking entirely, I’m happy to answer your questions.

            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. All it takes is a desire to make positive changes and a commitment to being honest with oneself along the way.

            I’d also like to invite you to read more about my personal story here

            If you’re ready to explore the potential of working together, I’d love to chat. Michael is based in Victoria British Columbia Canada. The other Recovery Coaches on the team are based in Nanaimo, Vancouver British Columbia Calgary, Edmonton Alberta, Toronto Ontario, Montreal Quebec, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Because we all work virtually — we can work with anyone no matter what city, province or country around the world. We have clients all across Canada and the USA, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, New York City, Denver, Nashville, Berlin, Tel Aviv, London, Singapore and Australia.

            Phone or Text: 250.896.8494
            Chat: Start a WhatsApp chat

            Connect On Social
            LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram


            Michael Walsh

            About the Author

            Michael Walsh

            When I say I’ve been there, I mean it. I am a different person now, and I am fired up about helping other people get to the place where they, too, are living better, healthier, and bigger lives.

            Contact Michael

            Further Reading

            View all articles

            • How to Help a Loved One With Addiction

            • Alcohol-Related Dementia: What it is And How to Prevent It

            • How to Plan an Invitational Drug or Alcohol Intervention