Art loved his work as a Master Trainer of recovery coaches for the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR). Through his immense wisdom, compassionate style and unlimited kindness, he inspired people to coach with genuine care just as he genuinely cared for others. His unique approach of using acronyms, words and diagrams to explain deep concepts set Art apart from the crowd. Indeed, his tender influence on the lives of thousands of individuals will positively impact the recovery community for generations to come.
Art Woodard passed away on Sunday, October 4, 2020, just 70 years old, 18 weeks after undergoing heart transplant surgery. His original heart wore out and the new one… well, it couldn’t meet the demands of Art’s powerful soul.
In 2018, Art talked to me about his decreasing energy. He chalked it off to a variety of reasons; not a big deal. But it was. His failing heart landed him in the hospital in critical condition. To extend his life, doctors installed an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) also known as a mechanical heart, a drastic but effective measure. For a year or so, he lived connected to a battery pack to keep his heart going. He still coached and presented when he could. He still made a difference.
Then he received a call that a donor heart could replace the mechanical heart. He went in to surgery well aware of the risks, still optimistic. For the months that followed, he struggled, yet through the pain he maintained his positive outlook. The hospital staff loved him too.
In June 2018, Art and I trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy for maybe the 40th time together. I wonder, if I had known it was our last time, would I have done anything differently? Probably not. We hugged every morning; Art did not like to start the day without that connection. At the end of the day, we told each other “love you” and headed home. During the training, we talked about our families, spirituality, racism, the Yankees, politics, basketball, the state of the world, our current emotions and oh yeah, recovery coaching. No topic was off limits.
One time, he pointed out to me people’s responses when they receive a “thank you”. Art and I were both taught to say, “You’re welcome.” We noticed that people rarely said it any more. It became a quiet thing between us.
“Art, that was really cool the way you did the cultural piece today.”
“Thank you.” He’d draw out the youuuuuuu.
“You’re welcome.” And we’d nod slightly in agreement.
As a training team, we communicated wordlessly and instinctively. The very first time we trained together, we received feedback that we trained like an old married couple (I think that was a compliment). We ebbed and flowed easily. Art was the nice guy. I was not.
I’ve been facilitating the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy Online this week. Art’s spirit rises up in me and I can’t talk and water leaks from my eyes. The emotion is one-part sadness, one-part relief that his suffering is over and ten-parts love. As I facilitate I hear Art’s voice – deep, calm, smooth and kind. I hear him speaking when I repeat…
“What you have is good enough.”
“You teach best what you most need to learn.”
“Let’s create a culture competent enough to embrace us all.”
Art was the gentlest man I ever met, masterful at one-on-one conversations. It’s like his soul had the ability to touch another soul. And when it did, your soul received some measure of healing. He knew this. His email? SoulHelp@me.com
Art would often say that he evolved from a clinical social worker to a recovery coach. A coach through and through; he lived to encourage others. Reading through all the social media posts about Art, one can easily see the positive, loving impact he had on so many – an incredible legacy.
Art, I am grateful for you showing me that kindness rules, that being gentle is a sign of strength and that love for another human being is all that matters. And that listening to Sam Cooke definitely soothes the soul.
Finally, I love you. I miss you. You lived life well enough.
… you’re welcome …
In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During
that sacred time, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in January 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is one way for me to share lessons learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. When I engage with others, I present the same messages repeatedly. It’s time to write them down.
Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87