Getting Personal With Recovery Coach Megan Goodrich
Megan Goodrich is a recovery coach in San Diego. In her work, she meets clients at all phases of recovery and works with them to get them where they want to go. She spoke with me about the role of a recovery coach, some of the ways she works with clients, and her personal philosophy of recovery.
Q: What is a Recovery Coach?
A: A recovery coach is really a hard role to define. It’s good that it’s hard to put in a box because everybody needs different things, and a recovery coach has the ability to be so many different things. The real talent is finding what each person needs and being that for them.
Some of the important kinds of concepts that each recovery coach needs to keep in mind is that we’ve got to be emotional support, informational support, instrumental support, and make that all come together.
A recovery coach is able to meet you where you are in recovery, find out the direction you’d like to go, and get you there. This might look like help finding a job and writing a resume and preparing for an interview, or this might look something like finding the right support group in your neighborhood and accompanying you to a few meetings until you feel comfortable. It could involve providing housing resources or resources for mental health care. Recovery coaches provide basic information on what to expect as you detox/reduce use and tools to deal with each potential obstacle. They can act as sounding boards and help you learn to identify potential problems and resolutions in your life. They can also simply be a companion – another human who truly empathizes with your situation and can let you go through your process without judgement and without isolation.
At times when I work with someone in crisis, it’s about maintaining calm and communicating stability without words, holding space, and letting them know that there’s someone there to witness their struggle. Believe it or not, it’s ok to ask someone, “How can I support you?”
Q: What’s the difference between a recovery coach and a therapist?
A: Working with a recovery coach can be therapeutic but it’s important to understand that we don’t have the capacity to diagnose or provide specific counseling. That’s a positive thing – we’re not there to look at issues too closely or analyze carefully or give anything a name. We’re there to move forward, to get beyond where you are, where you’re unhappy being.
Q: How did you become a recovery coach?
A: In my life, I’ve always taken the role of somebody to lend a hand with empathy. I filled the shoes before I had a specific market. Then you add in my personal experience abusing alcohol and finding recovery and it just made sense to put my struggles to use by helping other people get out of theirs. Of course, I have training in health and life-coaching as well as specific areas of substance abuse recovery methods as my foundation.
Q: In your work with clients, what do you actually do? What’s a day like?
A: I could do anything, and that’s what’s so exciting about it! Just before this phone call, I got back from a hike in the mountains with one of my clients. But I do more mundane things too, like navigating the court system. I don’t provide legal advice, but I can help you find the right courtroom and show up there. Tomorrow I’m going with a young man to his school campus where he’s starting class again, and we’re going to find his books and his classes. I’ve taken people to and from doctor’s appointments. I had one gentleman who had a lot of trouble just getting out of bed in the morning, so I’d go over and wake him up, bring him coffee, we’d sit and set an intention for the day and make a plan. Then I’d check in with him that night to see how he did following through with his plan.
Q: How does Harm Reduction fit into your work?
A: There are so few areas in a person’s life that are black and white, where there are absolutes. Sometimes for people to get started finding their best self, they need to just better their situation a very small amount, and that provides a clarity of mind where they can re-evaluate. It’s important to attack these things without the only options being either you stop entirely or “Screw you, you’re on your own.” That’s not practical at all. It’s really difficult for people to commit to giving up the only thing they’ve known to provide a source of comfort for however many years. Harm Reduction is a way to get a person to recognize where they are in life but without the same scary level of commitment as immediate total abstinence.
Q: What are some of the frustrations that you face as a recovery coach?
A: People in recovery sometimes need to test boundaries, so I need to have a very clear understanding of what my boundaries are to operate well. Sometimes that’s hard. I also need to recognize that I need to lead by example. I need to get a good night’s sleep like I’m telling my clients they need to do. I need to eat well, like I’m telling my clients to do. I need to take a moment to do an inventory: where I am, where I’m going, how I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s hard to practice what you preach.
Q: This sounds like a very emotionally demanding job. How do you incorporate self-care?
A: I think it goes back to practicing what I preach. Taking the personal space I feel I need and knowing when I need to take a moment. Being able to communicate my needs. I also still see a lot of people that I feel are personally therapeutic and make sure that those relationships stay solid because you don’t want an emotionally handicapped person giving other people life lessons. It’s like continuing education, you have to keep up to date. If I don’t keep my head screwed on straight then I’m no good for anybody else.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: I think it’s really special to be able to connect with so many different kinds of people and work to share what you see in them that you know they can’t see for themselves. You truly start to see this value in everybody that comes into your life, and everybody I’ve worked with has taught me something about myself. I don’t think there are many people who can say they get paid to just continually evolve and grow and learn about themselves.
Q: So Megan, what’s your personal philosophy of recovery?
A: I always have trouble with questions like this because, the way my mind works, attaching myself to a philosophy is limiting. For some people the ability to identify and attach themselves to a philosophy is the only way they feel safe enough to expand… and that’s alright because they’ve found a way to grow. The journey looks different for everyone. Those that have found success should share it remembering it’s not gospel. Those that haven’t found success would benefit from staying open-minded, trying new things, and remembering their self-worth. A person doesn’t need to agree with every part of any program to get something out of being there with the honest intention to be a better version of themselves. Take what works, leave what doesn’t, and trust in the process. Trust that it will be okay.
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