By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 2.26.2021 —
There’s been an explosive growth of nonclinical peer recovery support services, such as recovery coaching, as an adjunct or alternative to professionally directed substance use disorder treatment. Research has shown that recovery coaching enhances recovery initiation and long-term recovery maintenance through ensuring a high level of integration between treatment, aftercare, harm reduction and prevention strategies, and primary health care.
With Plymouth County Outreach, we are able to provide recovery coaching to the community at large, which has multiple added advantages, such as maintaining long-term personal and family recovery as the primary goal, drawing upon the experiential knowledge within communities to guide our service, contributing to the growth of the recovery landscape and increasing the peer support for those working in the field.
Recovery coaching is provided by people from diverse experiential and professional backgrounds but the distinct advantages of these services being provided by people in recovery, that have been specifically trained for the role, should not be overlooked. People in recovery are uniquely qualified for the recovery coaching peer support model in a different way than an LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor). Now, I am not saying that an LADC doesn’t or can’t provide quality treatment and are not valuable. I just want to shed light on this newer and less-traditional recovery support option.
Recovery coaches represent hope as they are living proof of the reality of long-term recovery.
The truth is, many people have experienced or witnessed substance use disorder in action but may not have seen an accompanying experience of recovery. And sadly, a good number of those folks are not hopeful that recovery is possible because they have not seen it for themselves or their loved ones. When somebody is struggling in active addiction, chances are relatively high that those around them are well aware of it; whether it is standing at a bus stop, in line at the pharmacy or attending an event, it is often clear to the outside world. Conversely, when somebody is living in recovery from a substance use disorder, outside of their immediate circle of family, friends and recovery community members, many people have no idea that they are a person in recovery. In order for the world at large to have hope that recovery is possible, they have to see it. Recovery has to be made just as visible, if not more so than the painfully visible substance use disorder that preceded it. There has to be hope that recovery can and does happen.
We tend to have a vast knowledge of and are able to navigate within, the local recovery support services. We truly understand the personal and collective experiences surrounding the stages of substance use disorder and recovery. The act of employing those in recovery to provide peer support has the added benefit of expanding employment opportunities for people in recovery. Every single day over 100 people – 100 sons, daughters, partners, mothers, fathers, friends, neighbors – die as a result of substance use disorder. One-third of families in our country are impacted in some way by addiction. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we make solutions for finding recovery available and accessible to anybody in need. Millions of individuals have successfully utilized strategies and tools to initiate and sustain long-term recovery, such as recovery coaching and peer support services. With so many individuals living quietly in recovery, there is the unfortunate by-product of silence surrounding what has worked for them. When recovery coaches talk openly about their recovery and the resources, tools and strategies they used that allowed them to sustain it, more people become aware of them; widespread awareness of the solutions drastically improves access to them.
We are also helping community members acknowledge the value and legitimacy of experiential knowledge and expertise. The most effective strategies for breaking down stigma are contact strategies which occur when someone is faced with evidence that contradicts preexisting ideas, beliefs, opinions and attitudes about a thing or group of people. Often times, the perception of substance use disorder does not include recovery. It is only when confronted with evidence showing otherwise that we begin to challenge the way we view substance use disorder. When an individual who has not seen evidence that recovery is possible meets a person in recovery, the walls of some of those preexisting beliefs begin to crack. When those cracks occur, an opening has been made for hope, compassion, tolerance, understanding, acceptance and admiration. This process increases safe spaces in the world for anybody living with substance use disorder or in recovery to be open and honest about it without fear of judgment, discrimination or shame.
I never would have been able to see this opportunity when I was trapped in active addiction… It’s a beautiful gift and a profound thought that I am uniquely qualified to do all of these things in my work as a recovery coach simply because I struggled through substance use disorder and found recovery