People often ask the question: “Why does someone need to hire a recovery coach?” As a recovery coach, the best way I can answer this is to share part of my story.
When I got sober at age 48, I found myself in a new world. This strange new place was one that required abstinence from alcohol and continuous practice of recovery principles. I had to engage in these new behaviors all while functioning in my chosen profession of coaching as if nothing had changed.
I knew I would need help. In fact, one of the first messages I heard when I began my recovery journey was “if you could have done it alone successfully, you would have.” All my attempts of trying to solve my own problem—the therapy, the self-help books, the motivational seminars, the holistic gurus—failed miserably. It’s not that they didn’t provide any value; they just didn’t solve my problem.
Before I discuss the virtues of working with a recovery coach, I’d like to address some other important support roles that are often confused with those who do the same kind of work as I.
Counselor/Therapist – Webster’s defines a therapist as, “a person who helps people deal with mental or emotional problems by talking about those problems: a person trained in psychotherapy.” Having a relationship with a therapist is critical, and counselors and therapists are trained and licensed to handle mental health issues that arise during early recovery and beyond. A coach is neither trained nor licensed to provide therapy.
Peer Recovery Support Specialist – Treatment facilities use recovering addicts/alcoholics to provide one-on-one support to their clients. A Peer Recovery Support Specialist is a person who is in recovery, and because of their life experience, has expertise that professional training cannot replicate. They may help set up goals for recovery, help a person learn/practice new skills, help monitor progress, model effective coping techniques/strategies based on their own recovery experience and even advocate for a person and connect them with necessary community resources. These individuals typically work as volunteers or are paid an hourly wage by the treatment facility.
Sponsor – If a recovering person chooses the 12-Step path to recovery, he will work with a sponsor who is “an alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program who shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety." (Alcoholics Anonymous) The sponsor’s goal is to help a newly recovering person apply the recovery principles to their life. This support role, however, is non-professional and unpaid as the sponsor provides this “service” to support his/her own sobriety as well. Hence the expression, “you’ve got to give it away to keep it.”
What is a Recovery Coach?
According to Recovery Coach International (RCI), a professional association for individuals engaged in the practice of recovery coaching, a recovery coach is “an individual who is engaged in an ongoing professional relationship with people in recovery from addiction to produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations—while advancing their recovery from addiction.” It encompasses the whole person: their life, career and business all within the context of recovering from addiction or the affects of addiction. Many of my clients have a therapist. If they are working a 12-Step recovery program, they have a sponsor. My job as their coach is to provide a process that promotes self-awareness so they can maximize their results.
Here are five reasons executives and other professionals use a recovery coach to help navigate the uncharted waters of recovery.
1. No Focus = No Success
Newly recovering professionals have questions like, “Who am I?” and “How will my recovery impact my life and my career?” Professionals who are unclear on their core values and life vision are less likely to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle that supports long-term recovery—especially amid the distractions and demands of their profession. Coaching keeps the spotlight on what’s important, so that their careers can reflect who they are.
2. Sorting It All Out…In Real Time
Professionals, especially in the business world, are expected to hit the floor running and produce, regardless of outside concerns. But those new to recovery or just returning from treatment need a safe space to sort out how new healthy behaviors can support their professional success. There are lots of new concepts to digest when embarking on the road to recovery. Trying to sort it all out while working can be overwhelming. Coaching allows the person an opportunity to look at what’s going on at the office through the new lens of recovery without the risk of losing productivity, or worse yet, losing the confidence of peers or direct reports.
3. The Possibility of Letting Go
Executives are wired to get results, control outcomes and direct others—all traits that can derail successful recovery. One of the first concepts a recovering person hears about is powerlessness over alcohol. But how does this apply to business operations? Office relationships? Personal relationships? Coaching helps successful people explore the concept of “surrendering to win” within their professional role.
4. Isolation Kills Addicts & Alcoholics
By the very nature of their position, executives, owners of companies and high accountability professionals, are isolated. Successful recovery requires these “lone wolves” to accept help. A coach is the confidante who is available anytime, whose only goal is to help the client be the best possible version of himself or herself. The client can speak the “unspeakable” without worry of someone finding out or exposing the chink in the armor. It is said that the disease of addiction wants the addict alone and mute. Coaching by its nature breaks that isolation and silence.
5. Recovery is a Process…Not an Event
Because recovery is new and unfamiliar territory, recovering people in the professional ranks need a confidential guide who can help them recognize the ways their addiction/alcoholism shows up in the context of their work lives. Recovery coaching takes these high-achievers through the learning process over time allowing the person being coached to gradually internalize what they learn so transformation can take place.