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Posted by on in Other Addictions

Many years ago when Overeaters Anonymous was in its infancy in Los Angeles, members of AA who had years of sobriety were invited to speak at OA meetings. They brought experience, strength and hope to a group struggling to get on its feet. Among the AA helpers was a wonderful woman named Dottie who was an inspiring speaker. Dottie was welcomed at the burgeoning OA meetings and became a friend and supporter of those wanting to be free of compulsive eating.

As the years went by and OA grew, other anonymous meetings sprang up for drug addicts and later spenders and sex addicts. Then word went around that Dottie was starting another new meeting that was different from all the rest. It was a meeting open to any and all people suffering from addictive or compulsive behaviors. No type of addiction was considered more serious than another. It was a meeting where all attendees were practicing the 12 steps.

Soon after this meeting got underway I moved away from Los Angeles so I never found out what happened to that group, but I never forgot it. We desperately need a new support system today that is like Dottie’s since we have become a society riddled with addictions and compulsions of all sorts. People switch from one to another but are never free of the cravings to feel good at all costs.

I recall Betty, the very first client I treated after I was licensed as an MFT. Betty was an overeating, drug-addicted alcoholic. She wanted me to help her stop her compulsive overeating. Then she met her husband, who was a drug dealer, and she dropped out of therapy. She eventually returned, having divorced her husband. She was not using drugs and was trying to stay off booze, but food was a constant battle.

I worked with Betty for quite a while as she tried to kick all three of her compulsions. She never managed to get rid of all three at the same time.  Finally she relocated to another city. I remember one of her letters in which she said that she went to an alcoholism counselor who told her, “I don’t care what you do, just DON”T DRINK!” She wrote that she stopped drinking and immediately gained 35 pounds!

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous provides us with many great tools.  We suddenly are given an amazing support network, a spiritual program of action, and wonderful opportunity to grow.  Although Twelve-Step programs offer us so much, there are certainly things that we may find outside of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The stigma surrounding this prevents many people in the program from doing so, which is hurtful toward recovery.  There are several ways people look outside Alcoholics Anonymous for help, and none of them are wrong.

Professional Help

There are many professionals out there that offer great help to addicts of all kinds.  However, people tend to treat seeking professional help as taboo in twelve-step programs.  This attitude is extremely hurtful and close-minded.  Many of our fellows benefit from professional help of different kinds, and discouraging them or making them feel different because of it can change someone's life.

Physicians

Taking the example of physicians, there are many issues which we cannot ourselves handle.  Our physical health is of the utmost importance to our recovery, as the body's health can dictate the mind's health.  There are times where we must seek a physician's help.  Our physician may prescribe medications as he or she sees fit.  In my personal experience and opinion, we may take certain narcotic medications when they are absolutely necessary.  It is also always important to speak with a sponsor or mentor before doing so.  We must be careful in taking any medication of any kind, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  We cannot trust our own heads to make the decision on whether or not it is necessary, and this is why we speak to a sponsor.  Also, it helps substantially to have a doctor that is sober.

Psychiatrists

Another professional that we may seek help from is a psychiatrist.  Psychiatrists may help diagnose and treat mental illness.  Obviously medication comes into play here, and that is perfectly alright.  There are many addicts that suffer from mental disorders.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Over 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders; that is they have both a mental and substance use disorder."*  Not seeking help can be an issue of life and death.

Although psychiatrists may prescribe medications, this is not a reason to shy away from them.  Dealing with co-occurring disorders is not easy.  Without treating the mental illness, sobriety is near impossible.  The addiction and mental illness create a vicious cycle, and without treating both simultaneously, the person has little chance of recovery.  Again, we should be careful of blindly accepting medications without speaking to those with more experience than us.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

If I’m to be honest answering this question, there will be no quick way through it. I could say I became a sober coach because I was tired of going to bed at 6am and sick of having to shout over loud music to be heard  - but that’s only part of it.

When I got clean in 1988, I placed all bets on my writing. This meant that instead of taking a job that would have career advancement, I stuck with freelance work, doing anything that could finance large chunks of uninterrupted writing time. I came up during the late 70s and 80s among a scene of underground artists, musicians, and filmmakers, many of whom went on to mainstream success. After I got clean, I became the go-to girl for anyone from my previous life wanting to get off drugs. This lead to my first coaching jobs inside the entertainment industry. The calls were so random that I never considered it a real employment source. In between coaching gigs, I continued to take on whatever work paid the bills. Coaching and sober companion work felt like the right fit but I never gave it much thought as a career. At the time it was controversial and renegade.


As the years passed, I continued to write and perform. Although my work was being published and optioned, I still hadn’t made it through the “big doors". It killed me to watch my friends’ lives successfully moving forward while mine seemed, at least outwardly, frozen in time. What was i doing wrong?  My moment of clarity came at fifteen years clean. It occurred to me that I had never stopped directing my romantic and financial affairs and those two areas were not changing. I needed to let go (as they say in 12 step programs) but I didn’t know how. I definitely couldn’t think my way into a new life. I suppose I needed a spiritual experience but being an atheist this was difficult to imagine.

Right as my screenplay was gaining momentum and I was being flown back and forth across the country, the writers’ strike happened. Out of money, I went back to working in bars. The loud music and crazy hours were killing me. Like my final days with drugs, I was absolutely miserable and hopeless. At seventeen years clean, I was back at square one. Then the most amazing thing happened - I ran out of ideas on how to run my life. I was having tea with an old friend from the music industry when I asked him “You know me really well – what do you think I should do for a living?” It didn’t take a minute before he said, “You’d be perfect as a sober companion.”  I had no idea that sober coaching had come into its own as a profession. The renegade rock and roll days had paved the way and now treatment facilities, therapists, and psychiatrists were seeing positive results from setting up clients with sober companions. My friend suggested I contact a couple LA friends to see if anyone had leads.

The stars aligned and within 24 hours I had my first client outside of the entertainment industry. What was interesting to me was how everything I’d ever learnt in my life came into play - not just my personal experience in recovery but the information I’d amassed on nutrition, exercise, meditation, dealing with anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Every aspect of my life had prepared me to do this work.

The real test came on day three when my client’s prominent psychotherapist called for an update. Until then I had been working intuitively and unlike managers, agents, and the people I was used to dealing with, the person on the other end of the phone was skilled in mental health work. If I was a fraud she was going to call me out. Nervous, I took a deep breath and told her honestly what I saw and what I was working on with the client. The phone went silent and my stomach flipped. “I have been working with ___ for three years and you nailed every single item on my list”. His words confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

For me, falling into coaching was a spiritual experience. When I finally “let go” sober coaching came into my life. I loved it and had great results with clients. From that point on, doors kept opening. One day I got a call from the producers of Intervention about a new mini-series they were casting. Over night, this semi-secret career of mine became very public.

The television series shifted the direction of my life yet again. I received many heartbreaking emails from addict viewers who were without financial resources for treatment. I decided to set up a website and share freely what I do with clients. Currently I’m in the process of writing several books on recovery. What started as a part-time job to finance my writing has become the subject of my writing. No one could be more surprised by this than me.


To read what I do with clients as a sober coach, visit http://pattypowersnyc.com/sobercoac/

 

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