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 would have been 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.
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 – I’ll struggle to 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.
I hope I’ll always remember his voice – deep, calm, smooth and kind. I hear him speaking now…
“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 too. 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 Sam Cook may be the greatest singer of all time.
Finally, I love you. I miss you. You lived life well enough.
… you’re welcome …