Attending a support group, keeping up with therapy appointments and adopting healthy habits are all par for the course when it comes to maintaining a sober lifestyle. If you’re like many others who’ve emerged from rehab in the last few months, you know how necessary it is to avoid triggers that could send you back on a self-destructive path.
Early on, many people express a need for additional social support to help themselves through the recovery process. But it can be tough to form meaningful friendships with others who understand and relate to what you’ve been through.
Enter the peer coach. A peer coach is someone who is specially trained to work with those who are rebuilding their lives from addiction. They’ve gathered significant interest in recent years and are now seen as a vital component to recovery by treatment experts.
Peer coaches help people during their recovery by motivating them to stay sober, involving them in drug or alcohol-free activities, or finding them a safe place to stay. But what sets peer coaches apart from sponsors and licensed therapists is their first-hand experience – many peer coaches have endured, healed and recovered from an addiction of their own. This allows them to provide a tremendous amount of insight for someone who just embarked on their own recovery journey.
A Comrade in Sobriety
A peer coach can help you stay more engaged in your efforts to sustain a substance-free lifestyle. Think of them as your recovery cheerleader who’s encouraging you from the sidelines.
There are numerous ways a peer coach can lend a helping hand in your recovery:
- Setting specific and attainable recovery goals
- Developing recovery action plans
- Helping you avoid temptations to break your sobriety
- Finding a sober living home
- Introducing you to a new set of sober friends
- Teaching you life skills like finance management
- Just hanging out and being a friend!
For many individuals, a peer coach was the missing puzzle piece they needed to complete their long-term recovery plan.
“Treatment centers, they take care of you when you’re in there. They give you aftercare, which helps you get back into society. But they’re not there for you when you go home. To have somebody that will teach you how to go out and eat and sit with somebody and have a conversation . . . To say, hey, I’m having a hard time, what would you do in that situation. To look at their life and say, I want part of that.”
How Peer Coaches Differ from Sponsors
It’s easy to confuse the two, but the role of the peer coach is very distinguished from that of a sponsor.
For example, a sponsor tends to work within the framework of the 12-step method – the healing philosophy used in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. While sponsors have helped countless individuals overcome their addiction, those in recovery are typically encouraged to rely on the 12 Steps alone for their healing.
A peer coach is licensed through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Recovery Community Services Program (RCSP) after completing 40 to 80 hours of training. Peer coaches collaborate with the person in recovery to help them make choices about the path that works for them. They’ll also devote more time to connecting the individual with community health resources, employment, housing and other services.
Where to Find a Peer Coach
There are a number of national, state and local organizations whose primary focus is on communities that require substance recovery support. These organizations supply recovery advocate representatives to families and individuals who are in need.
Some of the recovery support service organizations that exist include:
- The National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery
- The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment
- White Bison, a support organization for American Indians/Native Alaskans
SAMHSA also provides a national directory of substance abuse and mental health treatment services, including recovery support services. Visit their website to locate a recovery support organization that’s close to you.
“We’re in this together.”
Having a peer coach in your life can make a world of difference in your determination to stay clean. Remember: they were in your shoes once upon a time. Through helping you navigate the challenges of recovery, they’re reminding themselves how important and fulfilling it is to never stray away from the journey. And, in many ways, you’re helping them too.