Imagine the following scenario: your work life has been growing in complexity for several years and what started as occasional viewing of pornography to ‘ease that stress’ has grown to become a nightly habit of hours spent hidden away from your wife and children and the eventual discovery by your wife of disturbing and upsetting pornographic material on the family computer. And this was before she knew about the use of escort services when you claimed to be ‘working late’.
Being discovered led to a dramatic emotional breakdown and a lapse into depressive and suicidal thinking. A close friend intervened and recommended a treatment centre. You spent 2 months learning all about yourself and your relationship with compulsive sexual behaviours. You received many suggestions about how to rebuild your life and you are now about to leave treatment and return home to confused children and an angry wife. The treatment centre recommended a therapist and you are looking forward to your first weekly session. What you are not looking forward to is how to deal with the other 167 hours in the week!
Recovery coaches help bridge the gap between treatment and life. In her song, ‘Cold’, Annie Lennox sings that,
“Dying is easy; it’s living that scares me to death”.
One could argue that living in active addiction is a slow and lingering death. To many addicts, dying does seem like an easier way out.
Entering a treatment centre is making a choice to ‘live’ and centres do an amazing job at filling in the holes in the emotional education an addict likely missed as a child. And having become stable and having started to feel safe and nurtured within the protective walls of a treatment centre, many find the prospect of leaving it utterly terrifying.
Few have any practical knowledge of living free of addiction. Where are all the ‘anonymous meetings’ mentioned in treatment? How will one re-engage with one’s partner? What is ‘healthy sex’? Who is going to clean the ‘stash’ of pornography off the family computer? The prospect of implementing the myriad suggestions received in the treatment centre can be overwhelming. So many questions and very few people from whom to find the answers!
Whilst not an exhaustive list, here are some of the things with which a coach can help -
A question you might already be asking is; ‘what is the difference between a sponsor, a therapist and a coach?’ The importance of and benefits to seeing a therapist cannot be overstated. It is crucial for a client to be exploring whatever traumas unfolded in early childhood, to come to terms with what was experienced and endured and to seek ever deepening acceptance around such deep issues. Delving into past trauma and pain should always be done in a safe and qualified environment and this is the job of a therapist.
A 12-step meeting sponsor is another excellent support and can be sought as early as possible in recovery. They provide a safe emotional haven and a familiar face during early meetings in what can otherwise be a confusing and daunting environment. A sponsor, however, is unlikely to have the breadth of knowledge required to help expand horizons beyond what they may have heard in meetings. A sponsor may also have their own challenges and may have limited time to offer someone new to the whole recovery journey. And of course, you’ve got to actually find and attend a meeting to find a sponsor in the first place!
Many addicts report that they have never felt truly ‘seen or heard’ by anybody. It is not a coincidence that this is exactly what trained coaches are trained to do: to see and hear their clients. For some people, being truly seen and heard can in itself be transformational. It is then the job of a coach to take what is seen and heard and to help a client explore their strengths and weaknesses with much greater clarity and purpose.
Coaching is a guided process. Coaches are trained to guide with the use of powerful questions that allow a client to arrive at their own conclusions and thus, fundamentally, to answer their own questions. What better way to empower a client with a deeper sense of self and growing self-confidence?
Relapse is an inherent challenge: while one might wish for a perfect and relapse-free recovery, reality tends to bring us back to earth with a bump as we learn to face life in the real world and to embrace the reactions of others we may have hurt along the way. How much help could it therefore be to turn to someone who truly understands what you are going through; someone who has possibly ‘been there and done it’; who has taken the time to understand themselves and their interaction with others; who has been trained to see and hear you; and whose goal is to help motivate you to pursuits and behaviours far more conducive to a happier and healthy life?
There is a large gap to fill in addiction after-care and there is a role for coaches to play in guiding clients through the fragile and overwhelming early days of addiction recovery. Coaches work hand in glove with treatment centres, councilors, therapists and other clinical professionals to expand the sphere of help available to those finally choosing to bring change to their life.
The larger the team of trained professionals working together in the field of recovery after-care, the greater the chances of helping clients avoid the painful depths of relapse and remain on the stepping stones to solid recovery Never has there been a greater need to strengthen the support available to people leaving treatment as they re-enter life without the help of their old addictive ‘friend’ to lure them off course. Make a coach a part of the aftercare team and let a coach be the person to whom the recovering addict can turn, a safe port in which to become familiar with the realities of life on the path through addiction recovery.
Mark Drax is an independent Addiction Recovery Coach and spends his time coaching private clients and groups of men on both sides of the Atlantic. He holds a business degree and is an accredited coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). He is a SASH Board Member.
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