Finding your own “Steps” to recovery

re·cov·er·y/rəˈkəv(ə)rē/
The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the 12 Steps that are the long-standing doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They definitely provided a path for me to follow, the multiple times I struggled to stay sober.

But therein lies the issue. While AA was a safe place to go to for support and to talk about the struggles I was having, the 12 Steps didn’t get at the root of my addiction: the trauma that included seeing a murder when I was young and watching my father die a slow agonizing death during which I was mostly “absent”.

I would state the following in order to “qualify” to attend an AA meeting: “I’m Robert, I’m not an alcoholic or addict but I’m here because I have a desire not to drink tonight.”

I’d use these words because I have never believed I’m just an alcoholic or addict, although I fully admit I was addicted to alcohol and drugs at certain times throughout my life. But there’s more to my story. Every time I failed to abstain from my substances of choice I felt like a total failure, which was even more demoralizing than my addictions.

I never lost my house or my family, and if I had one drink, it didn’t necessarily mean I had 20 as AA often warns.

I was a high functioning substance user with multiple serious mental health issues. That’s what I needed help with. That’s what I needed a path to recovery for.

I use parts of what I learned at AA every day, but there were aspects of the doctrine that were just too one size fits all and unforgiving for me.

Again, I am not bashing AA as it’s a lifesaver for many people. I respect the program, as it eventually helped me figure out my recovery path, which focuses on harm reduction rather than total abstinence.

I know what you may be thinking. Of course he didn’t like AA because he couldn’t ‘quit’!
You would be right but hear me out. For many people like me, the stress of total abstinence can outweigh the value it provides as we work through recovery from a substance use disorder. While abstinence is always the goal, harm reduction recognizes that people can improve their lives and the lives of their families and loved ones by reducing the behaviours that are causing harm. This creates success and empowers people to change their lives rather than feeling demoralized because they simply can’t abstain completely in the early stages of their recovery.

While as recovery coaches we aren’t here to diagnose a mental illness or to help people work through past trauma, we are here to support any positive change, help people avoid relapse, build community support for their recovery, or work on life goals not related to addiction such as relationships, work, or education.

Again, the 12-Step program isn’t a bad place to start. It definitely helped me stay alive, but I don’t feel like a failure because I decided to try something else; to learn from people like Gabor Maté that my addiction was based in trauma, and to work with a psychologist to figure out what that trauma was. Again, as a recovery coach I don’t do that. The medical professionals should be involved at this stage.

What I then do is work with you to achieve your goals, with whatever approach is best for you. You can look through our full list of recovery coaching services to see what that might be or we can talk.
I don’t believe that anyone is born an alcoholic or an addict. It’s something that happened – it’s from what they may have learned or watched growing up, a learned behavior or possibly even transgenerational trauma and again, it’s almost always some kind of pain they want to escape.

As Dr. Gabor Maté says, why the pain is why the addiction.

This is what needs to be addressed to truly help someone become sober or reduce that substances that are causing harm. And again for me, the 80 year old AA model just didn’t work. The idea that if you drink you’ll die or go to jail or lose your wife or lose your home or lose your business didn’t do anything to address why I was drinking and doing cocaine in the first place.

I direct people to different modalities, and help them by drawing on my lived experiences and training. Once we talk and have a better sense of what we’re really dealing with we can get on track with the recovery coaching model that’s going to work. Different, innovative approaches that are constantly evolving as people and their needs have evolved as well.

I guess what I’m really saying is, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are many recovery modalities out there. You need to feel comfortable in your lifestyle – if it feels forced upon you, you won’t be as successful.

We can help and direct you to those options.

And for us, it’s always less about shaming you with your setbacks, and more about celebrating the positive change in your life at all times.

It’s all about helping you recover what you lost with creative ideas and support.
I’m Robert Emond, I’m a certified Recovery Coach and I look forward to helping you every step of the way.