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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Peer support coaching...

As many of you may remember, I recently went back to working a real job. It’s only part-time, but it is brain-demanding. I find it a struggle to devote my attention to something that simply provides me an income. To top it off, my Immortal Alcoholic in-box continues to bulge over with more and more requests for help. I often spend three hours a day just on answering e-mails and I would spend more if I had the time available. How can I focus on my paying job when what I really want to do is help others who find them in my situation?

My journey has taken me down many different paths along my walk of life. I tried to count how many “careers” I've had. I've been an apricot cutter, baby-sitter, mother, receptionist, waitress, marketing assistant, sales administrator, executive assistant, word processing manager, liaison, administration manager, reporter, event planner, author, and title examiner. The longest time I've spent at any one thing was 15 years. Considering that I started working at the ripe old age of 14 that means I've been in the workforce for 50 years. So my longest tenure is just a drop in the bucket. Looks like I've been a bit of a “job jumper.” But, in the grand scheme of things, that’s OK because I believe I can use all my past experience to embark on my next career adventure.

I have always said that I wished I could actually make money at writing this blog or by having the support groups. The reality is I can’t make money at doing those things. Any money I receive through donations goes directly to supporting the OARS Group and helping it grow into a non-profit organization. I have grand visions of OARS becoming the next Al-Anon. Wouldn't that be great? A non-12-step alternative for friends and families of alcoholics just gives me a smile too large for my face. It’s one of the reasons I went back to work after retiring. I needed the money to support my dreams.

I've become gung-ho about getting the OARS meeting up and running as live, face-to-face group meetings. To do that, I contacted the local substance abuse facility and asked for their support. They were interested and asked if I was a peer support coach. They gave me some phone numbers and names of people that were “in the biz.” Over the next few days, I googled, phoned, talked, and reached out to anyone who might give me ideas or help me get started.

Recovery Innovations hires peer coaches for the purpose of providing support to addicted persons by recovering addicts. They also have a training program for people interested in coaching. The big “but” was that it was not for friends or family – just substance abuse addicts. The criterion for their program was set out by North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department and they did not have anything in place for collaterally damaged people. My contact encouraged me to rattle the chain of that government entity and bring attention to the need.

(If you are an addicted person and the idea of a peer support coach is appealing to you, go this website:

I asked the contact if I need to be certified before I could start offering my services as a peer support coach. The response was that I had already been doing coaching for several years simply by extending my hand of support to others through my blog, e-mail and support group formations. I just wasn’t being paid to do it. He knew of no reason why I couldn't become an official peer coach without any certification. Besides, there’s no certification offered in our state and therefore the job doesn't exist. If I issue a disclaimer about not being a professional counselor or therapist, in his opinion, that was all I needed.

My next stop was the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) site which is a part of the federal government’s Health and Human Services Department. I found a grant for the creation of peer-to-peer support. I thought this must be a divine sign that I was on the right path. I called the contacts and after many attempts (it is the FEDERAL government, after all) I finally reached someone who told me that she didn't think the intent of the Grant was for anyone other than the addicted. However, she told me that I should apply, but I would have to be a non-profit organization in order for the application to be accepted.  However, she again, encouraged me to apply. Nothing worth having is ever easy.

Well, I would like that $250,000 grant to set up the OARS Group, but I must take those baby steps. I believe I've already taken a few of them. This month I will file for non-profit status in the State of North Carolina for the OARS Group. If I can get it done quickly, I can apply for the federal grant.

While I’m doing that, I will officially hang out my shingle as a Peer Support Coach. I have a website that I have neglected for a while (I apologize to everyone who has been there) and is now being re-vamped and renewed. It will have my rates and how to schedule an appointment to meet with me via the telephone or Skype or Instant Messaging. When I am ready for clients, I’ll post it on the blog with a link to the website. If I can make enough money at doing that, I can quit my day job and focus on doing what my heart is telling is the right thing to do.

As part of the coaching, I have a plan to start offering myself as a public speaker. I’m not exactly sure how to do this, but I've been told in the past that being a speaker is the most profitable way to go. Talking to an audience is not frightful for me and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.

I wish I could win the lottery and not have to worry about paying rent or buying little things like food and electricity. The reality is I haven’t found the winning ticket yet – I guess I have to buy a ticket before I can win which is something I only seldom do. Anyway, if I did have that ticket, I would be able to devote my time, money and efforts solely on supporting people who have walked in my shoes. Unfortunately, the reality is that I MUST pay the rent, buy food and electricity and that takes both time and money.


Syd said...

I hope that your dreams are fulfilled. There do appear to be some standards for peer recovery coaches. And it seems that most of them are actually those who have had substance issues themselves.

Bev said...

You sound like me. As a mom I have always had (and I have to say been blessed to be able to have... as many women aren't as lucky) a career of 'convenience'. Family came first-then a job. And the jobs I had were just that - a way to make money, not a career - not a passion - just a paycheck.

Hope that you'll be able to combine both Linda : D

Eclectic Bohemian said...

I admire you so much, Linda. You are exactly what I aspire to be when I reach "retirement age." I think "retirement" is a relative term these days. There's a saying "Ya never slow down, ya never grow old." Which "old" is also a relative term. I know some 20-something that YOU could run circles around. ;) I guess I envision "retirement" as a time when I'll have time to do all the things that I've always wanted to do. (or at least attempt it) Too many folks view retirement as a time to stop work and wait around to die. Then there's folks like yourself who use it to really start living!

I agree with you on the OARS becoming the next great alternative to Al-Anon. Like I've said, I think of Alcoholism as a broad spectrum disorder. Not every method works for everyone. I'm not here to bash any 12-step programs but there's no reason that they should have a monopoly on the whole situation. Ya never know, Linda. You might just be the next great trailblazing women in history that we read about!

Anonymous said...

"You might just be the next great trailblazing women in history that we read about!"

Or possibly a classic textbook example of full fledged codependency in need of recovery.


Anonymous said...

You are an inspiration Linda! And I do believe that you will be a "the next great trailblazing women" as written above.
I have always wanted to do something that will benefit the young children of alcoholics...you inspire me!
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to hear about your new job and ventures into coaching. I'm sure you'll be a success. Reading your blog over the past few months has inspired me to begin therapy and do all the reading and research I can to focus on me and not the insanity in which i live.

May I give you some feedback on your new Web design? The white/red letters on pink background are very hard to read. Please reconsider...

Thanks for all you do.


Anonymous said...

Linda...I found your blog while researching how alcoholics die. My boyfriend of 8 years is a severe alcoholic...starts at breakfast. Our relationship is on and off due to drinking binges, etc. I have tried for years to break up with him but always go back. My question is ...I love him...you are not in love with your husband but do it to protect your daughter. This I admire as I am also a mom. BUT..isnt it easier to detach from the crazy when you dont love that person? For our own sanity i would assume that love would fly out the window. I dont think i would be able to do what you do....but again im not protecting my daughter ..he isnt her father. I find it hard to detach from him....emotionally...so he comes to me and i enable him ...i know i shouldnt. Thanks for writing this blog.,...its amazing how much confusion surrounds having an alcoholic in your life. Blessings to you.

Emily said...

I wish you the best of success in this new endeavor. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that yours is the only prospective (and I've been through the gamut of them) that resonates with me. The idea that you could be a true alternative to Al-Anon makes me ecstatic. I do not believe in 12-step, at least not for myself. I am not sick. I am not codependent. I am not powerless. If I were any of these, I would not have been able to hold the family together for 25+ years or have the strength to care for my alcoholic husband, similar to your situation. AA and their ilk just don't get it. I wish I could donate gobs of money to your cause!

Anonymous said...

Sigmund Freud's description of an inborn trait to describe a distinctive feature in the personality of a person suffering from alcoholism -- His Majesty, the Baby

Tom Cunningham later coined the term "King Baby" in his Hazelden pamphlet of the same name to describe this trait found in people afflicted with addictions of other kinds as well.

It's the King or Queen Baby -- aka spoiled child -- who plays addiction games. His/her motto is "I want what I want when I want it... and I want it NOW!"

Caretakers create babies. It does not work for me to worship an alcoholic. Or myself as the savior of the alcoholic or the "family". Parenting an adult sounds nuts.

I guess I want more out of life than the an idea "making me ecstatic". I think Dr. Phil would say....How's that working for you?

The game continues.

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