Sometimes with addiction, you need all the help you can get. Actually, you always need all the help you can get – especially in early recovery. I think many of us have an idea that getting sober involves a trajectory that goes something like this: detox, rehab (in- or out-patient), therapy, 12-step groups, getting a sponsor. That’s frequently how it goes, but as I always say, recovery is also about evolving and that means exploring other avenues of getting better. This might mean getting a recovery coach, which is a relatively new idea, but one that’s been getting a lot of traction.
You might say to yourself, “But I’m already doing so much!” and that might be true. Consider, however, how a recovery coach works. Differently from your sponsor, a recovery coach doesn’t focus on your past and they have no agenda, especially regarding the 12 steps or other paths to recovery. Your coach is there to challenge and support you in your new sober life as you make lifestyle changes and enjoy a better quality of life as a sober person.
With 12-steps and sponsors, many people with substance use disorders immerse themselves so much in their past “failings” and the examination of their “defects of character” that they might lose the sight of what their future might look like. If you’re stuck in the circle of self-blame, repenting, amending, and then examining every minutiae of your behavior, you might start believing that you’re in some way a broken person, someone who’s doomed to the life of shame and guilt – and even when you start feeling solid on your feet there’s always that dark cloud hanging over you. I’m talking about the relapse cloud, the thing that scares most people with addiction the most.
Not all people coming from AA recovery feel that way, of course. Many have evolved beautifully and left guilt and shame behind and are focusing on maintaining their sober lives, working toward being content and accomplished in their lives… they leave the past behind as much as they can and at best treat it as some kind of a bad dream that they managed to wake up from. But others falter. They feel hopeless and unlucky and scared of making a mistake. They run everything by their sponsors, even their thoughts – they constantly check in to make sure they’re not screwing up.
That’s not a way to live. We, as people, need autonomy and independence and a coach can help you develop and achieve that. You don’t have to be the slave to your past and to your mistakes.
“Keep it Simple Stupid,” “Sit Down and Shut Up,” “Stinking Thinking”- those are just some of the slogans in AA that make me feel nauseous: How can you talk to other human beings like that? Those slogans show up in meetings, and while their intention is good, perhaps, they don’t bring humility – they bring on humiliation. You won’t see such slogans in your sobriety coach’s office, you will never hear that you’re worthless and need to shut up because you don’t know what you’re talking about having been newly sober.
I am all for recovery, but above all I am for healthy recovery and for finding venues and supports that will allow that. Consider talking to a recovery coach or at least read some literature that will elevate you, lift you up from the place where you’re just a silenced body in a chair in a room full of other silenced bodies. You have a voice. And it is beautiful.
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