On a ship, wheelhouses are typically the small, sheltered parts of a bridge that house the steering wheel.  So “in someone’s wheelhouse” refers to something being within one’s areas of competency. For example, command of a ship is within a ship captain’s abilities.

What is the recovery coach wheelhouse?

I’ll keep this simple. Recovery coaches focus on two dimensions.

  1. Recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction.
  2. Individual support to maintain and sustain recovery.

This defines our wheelhouse – our area of competency (to borrow from above).  However, recovery coaches are often asked to step outside the wheelhouse.

Let’s expand on Dimension 1.  People recover from a variety of maladies. Personally, I recovered from alcoholism, addiction and cancer.  Most of us are in recovery from some type of health concern, or trauma, or… you name it.  CCAR consistently fields requests from well-intended people and agencies to provide recovery support services outside our wheelhouse.

Why would we do that? Why would we step outside our wheelhouse?

Recovery coaches have no need to look for other business.

For example, alcohol alone provides way too much opportunity.  Look at this from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

  • According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health 1 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD). This includes 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women.

15.1 million Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder. 15.1 million. How many family members does alcoholism negatively impact on top of this? This number is staggering.

Plus, the opioid epidemic devastates families – this from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website.

  • In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive).

15.1 million people with alcohol use disorder, 1.7 with opioid use disorder – both numbers probably conservative – bolsters a strong case for recovery coaches to focus on recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction, don’t you think?

Dimension 2. Recovery initiates in a variety of ways – an arrest, accident, job loss, divorce… I’m sure you can think of many, many others. For me, the birth of my daughter spurred change that has lasted 31+ years.  I never experienced a treatment episode and I know of many others thriving in long-term recovery who initiated recovery without clinical treatment. Treatment, however, initiates recovery for countless individuals.

CCAR supports and encourages addiction treatment. I believe strongly our United States addiction treatment system (as a whole) initiates recovery better than anywhere else in the world. When a person successfully discharges from a treatment episode, the person leaves stable and with a plan to proceed (usually). However, recovery support services need to be in place to generate greater positive outcomes. Recovery coaching, one service out of a multitude of recovery supports, helps the individual maintain and sustain recovery.

Yet, recovery coaches are often employed in places where recovery begins. Common settings are addiction treatment providers, mental health clinics, hospitals, supportive housing, courts and others (see No Coach Is An Island).

CCAR Emergency Department Recovery Coaches serve in a “gray area”. Meeting people in a time of “crisis”, they work with people to find the next level of care. Wielding our two most powerful questions, 62% of the people connect to clinical treatment where recovery initiates. CCAR Recovery Coaches maintain contact through enhanced telephone recovery support, so when people discharge, we bridge the gap between treatment and recovery.  31% people link to community supports to maintain recovery. 7% of the time people refuse help.

Finally, CCAR Founder Bob Savage shared with me a key to success for any nonprofit.

“Focus on what you do and do it well.”

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

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.

4 Comments

  • Maggie says:

    A perfect read for any day!
    Maggie

  • rick p says:

    Sad, how many good intentions died of suicide after they tried to fight the whole wide, wounded world.

  • Brian Morris says:

    As per usual? Well-played, Phil. And speaking of wheelhouses, has anyone figured out what the FDA’s “wheelhouse” is? Sorry, I’m still steaming from last night’s 60 Minutes episode. As our nation struggles with the mother lode of all AOD scourges, the FDA in its inimitable wisdom decides to roll out Dsuvia…a lethal painkiller 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. WTF? Something wicked this way will come, for sure. The only good news in all of this is? Recovery Coach job safety. Carry on, coaches!

  • Lionel Harria says:

    I think this is awsome. We really make a difference in who ever wants it. I’m totally grateful for understanding of the process. Thank you Ccar.Thank you Phil for being that person everyone needs.

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