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Peer Support: An Interview with A Nationally Certified Recovery Coach

By March 17, 2021News

Here at ShareHouse, we understand recovering from addiction is a long, lonely, and challenging process. Individuals suffering from addiction know it’s a chronic disease you must manage over time and going through the process alone can be debilitating. That’s why ShareHouse provides additional support for our patients through our Nationally Certified Peer Support Specialists. Our Recovery Coaches use their firsthand recovery experience to help guide and support individuals on their path to sobriety. 

During treatment, it’s often necessary to make changes in your social life such as letting go of old relationships and disconnecting with friends and family who don’t support your life of sobriety. This isolation can often cause relapse and worsened symptoms of depression. Our Recovery Coaches are here to help you overcome your addiction while providing supportive relationships to help you achieve lasting change.

Nancy Austin, Director of Residential Services, has been with ShareHouse for 25 years. She also works as a certified Recovery Coach and has helped many people get through the struggles of treatment through curating a trusting, one-on-one relationship with her Patients. “I’m a good listener and they can trust me,” says Nancy, “They know my office is a safe space and they don’t have to edit their conversation. There doesn’t need to be an explanation of what brought them to this point, they can just start. I’m kind of a cheerleader in a sense.”

I was able to a chat with Nancy about her experience as a Recovery Coach and why she believes Peer Support at ShareHouse is important to her and her Patients.

Why are you passionate about Peer Support?

When I started at ShareHouse 25 years ago, I came here because I was a woman in recovery, and I thought I could make a difference. They told me early that my recovery is only as good as I could give away, and I thought what a better opportunity to help than this. In 2015, my boss asked me to check out Peer Support, I did and now it’s the best part of my day. I have the privilege to meet the men and women that come here and want support, especially those who come from small communities that don’t offer meetings or don’t want to pick up a hotline. I love to meet people and learn about them, and I still hear from [past Patients]. Four years ago, I got a call from an old Patient, they were coming through Fargo and wanted me to meet their husband and two children.

What kind of certification do you have to go through to become a recovery coach?

There is required training plus I had to write a letter about myself, have two letters of recommendation, a phone interview, and a college degree or life experience. Life experience of course correlates to being a Recovery Coach. How can you speak to it if you don’t know it? Some Recovery Coaches are not in recovery, but they grew up in an environment where addiction was a part of their life, so they have a significant impact on the people they help. The training was a week-long, about 45 hours, then I took the training in 2018 and applied for national certification to show I actually went through my training.

How do you think you’ve personally helped people on their journey to sobriety?

In my opinion, when you first walk into a treatment environment you’re filled with shame, guilt, and blame. You’re feeling pretty low, but at this point I would say to my Patient: “Tell me something good about you!” You have to find the balance and you have to recognize the good in people. I like to ask them if I can share some of my own story because most of the time, I have an experience that is so similar. The relationship is one-on-one, and I tell people I coach we have to have some level of mutual respect and trust or I’m wasting your time and you’re wasting mine.

We each carry a ‘coach phone’. My husband calls it the bat phone because he knows when it rings it’s one of my Patients. This morning, I got a call from a gentleman and I knew he was in trouble immediately. First thing I heard was a big sigh, so I asked him, “What’s going on today?” He shares with me what he was dealing with and I say, “Number one, I am so proud of you for reaching out. Now, what are you going to do to be nice to yourself the rest of the day?”

Can you tell us about your own story?

I went to treatment when I was 32 years old. Everything in my life had kind of fallen apart. I had a good job, but I wasn’t a good employee. I woke up that morning, I looked in the mirror and I hated the woman I had become. So, I went to one of the facilities in town, had an evaluation, and started outpatient treatment. The most significant thing I can remember was there was a man who came as an AA member to speak to the group one evening. He said only 25 percent of you will make it. I looked around the room and I pointed to myself and said ‘one’. Fortunately, I did what they told me. They said get involved, get a sponsor, and don’t drink – and that’s exactly what I did. When I got sober, I also had a sponsor. It was another woman who was in recovery and we became trusted friends.

Why do you recommend ShareHouse and Peer Support?

One time, I asked a gentleman if he would be willing to go to meetings because I thought it would really help him. He said no. I asked him why. He said if you are at the café at 8 o’clock on Sunday night, everyone knows you are at AA and I’m not ready for that. But that’s what we’re here to help you with through Peer Support. We originally started it because we wanted to help people living in rural areas who didn’t know where to go for help. It has evolved since then. We gather for meetings in the morning where I talk about Peer Support. I tell them if you are interested or want to gather more information simply stop by! You can choose to have someone younger, male or female; whatever you choose. I have some very respectful and long-lasting relationships with some people and it’s very fulfilling.

Before leaving ShareHouse, I thanked Nancy and she handed me a piece of paper. She told me this is how she feels about being a Recovery Coach, it said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say: I used everything you gave me.”

Want to learn more about ShareHouse Peer Support and our Recovery Coaches? Give us a call today or visit our website at ShareHouse dot org for more information.