By David Golding
As a full-time professional Sober Coach and Sober Companion resident in the UAE, potential clients (and those close to them) often approach me asking what solutions exist to find recovery.
The moment of reaching out for help is hugely significant. Those with a substance use disorder (“SUD”) (we try to move away from using labels like ‘addict’ to describe others) might find themselves at their ‘rock bottom’. The moment when they finally surrender to the fact that life has become unmanageable, and they can’t manage their own lives without drink or drugs.
Many of us (and I talk as a recovered alcoholic myself) have tried and failed for years, attempting to ‘manage’ our drinking, or using. We come to realise that we cannot. And once we start, we cannot stop.
The nature of SUD is that there are two components at play here:
The obsession that somehow, we can ‘drink like normal people’. The obsessive and intrusive thoughts or urges related to using drugs, alcohol, or destructive behaviours such as gambling. These urges become overwhelming slowly over time as the disease is insidious and progressive.
This refers to the irresistible urge to engage in these behaviours despite the negative consequences. Even though we know that drinking or using is not a solution, we do it anyway. Once we start; we cannot stop.
Obsession and Compulsion feed off each other. The spiral of decline, sometimes over years, which leads to the ‘rock bottom’ moment when we surrender to the truth that we need help.
Of course, for some, there never is that moment of surrender and lives are shattered. So, what options exist to find recovery?
Simply put I explain to potential clients that there are only four options:
1. Residential Rehab
For some, it is necessary to stop by exiting life as we know it temporarily, for a 28-day inpatient stay in a hospital. For many that is an extreme measure that is rejected. However, once attending an addiction treatment programme, we are given the time and space to stop drinking or using, become educated about addiction and recovery, and find a way to embark on a journey of change. Rehab is an amazing way to begin recovery if you can afford it and take the action to go.
2. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and others
Attend fellowship groups like (AA), NA and others. AA began in 1935 and is the largest recovery organisation on the planet. Many individuals do find the strength to walk into their first AA meeting and stick around. The recovery community does not “shoot their wounded” and individuals will find a wealth of hope, strength and likeminded individuals’ who want to help. The other important points to note are that fellowships exist all over the world (and on Zoom too) and ‘membership’ is free.
3. Sober Coach or Sober Companion
Work with a professional Sober Coach or Sober Companion. Many of my clients reject the notion of rehab and/or AA. They also explain to me that leaving their family and work for 28 days is not an option. I offer a one-to-one bespoke recovery programme, which includes DayHab; more on that in a moment.
4. Carry on as you Are
For some this route is not an option and I would suggest it really isn’t an option. The moment of reaching out for help is the moment when it has been accepted that they can’t carry on. There are no other options than the three above.
When working with clients, I would say the critical measure of success is consistency. Focussing on recovery every day by breaking the cycle and committing.
Many clients accept that they need guidance, but still try to ‘negotiate’ with their commitment to it.
Recovery needs to be an everyday programme of action. The process is one of change and we begin one day at a time.
There are essentially, four ways that I work with clients or those close to the client:
An intervention is a structured and formal process designed to help an individual recognize the severity of their substance use and accept help to address their problem. As a professional interventionist, I typically work with loved ones, family, and friends to confront the individual with an SUD about their behaviour and to seek treatment. The process is one based on love and support, where we work together to provide a safe and effective opportunity to express concern. Interventions must always be conducted with care and sensitivity, and as such must be well planned and executed. An intervention is a powerful tool in helping individuals with an SUD recognize the need for help and take the first step toward recovery.
2. Sober Companion
This is where I live with a client and his family, working every day intensively on recovery. A typical engagement lasts a minimum of 30 days. I recently completed a 33-day live-in Sober Companion role in Dubai, with a client whose drinking had grown to unacceptable proportions over the last decade, with COVID accelerating its impact on the family and the client. We work together daily for several hours on learning new tools and coping strategies for recovery, so that he is fully equipped to stay sober when I leave. I attend all social functions, travel where necessary and build a reliable and effective daily routine. This can be very expensive, but for some, it is the most effective route to sobriety.
The definition of a DayHab is an intensive outpatient programme (“IOP”). Whereas a Rehab involves moving out of the home for a period of time, DayHab brings recovery to the home (or office). I offer a bespoke recovery programme, where the client and I meet every day. Flexibility is key here, so that the client can attend to normal life, family and work but is committed to working for a minimum of 2 hours on average per day. I build the recovery programme around my clients’ work/life balance and typically work with the client every day (including weekends and evenings) for 30 days. The programme is very similar to the Sober Companion role, but without my living in the clients’ home. There has been a significant growth in DayHab’ s around the world, due to the flexibility it offers.
4. A 13-Week Programme of Recovery
Some clients prefer to work with me once a week. Whilst this is not my preferred route to sobriety, I do offer a 13-week programme of recovery. Meeting for two hours per week on average (plus unlimited phone calls), we work together on a bespoke recovery programme, so that new skills are learnt, routine is created, and recovery begins.
In my experience, recovery becomes ‘good recovery’ when action is taken every day. We build our knowledge, skills, and experience one day at a time. This is how we build new habits and move away from old ones.
Some clients prefer to work with me once a week. Whilst this is my DayHab programme is still a bespoke one-to-one programme of recovery whereas in the future it might be possible to provide a setting for working in groups, to keep the cost down and my clients can find a new community of recovery together.
David Golding is a sober coach and the founder of Sober Lifestyle Coaching LLC (Dubai), which anonymously and confidentially supports and mentors' clients in recovery. You can visit their website here.