“Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends- this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” -The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Working With Others”, page 89. (note: emphasis added does not appear in original text)
The chapter “Working With Others” and the idea of sponsorship or working with other people in recovery was born out of practical experience. AA founder Bill Wilson, upon finding his sobriety, realized that the best way to keep it was to continue giving it away. Neither medical doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist nor wife could convince a man of his alcoholism at the time. Even when, as was the case for Bill, a terminal diagnosis like “wet brain” was given, a man did not seem to be inspired to stop his drinking. Alcoholics felt misunderstood, lost, and confused. They could not explain their irrational compulsion to drink any better than the doctors could. Until, that is, they were able to relate to another alcoholic.
Around the hospital, bed by bed, day by day, Bill shared his experience of struggling with alcoholism, his strength of getting through the detox to recover, and his hope for a better future. Listening to a man with similar stories, thoughts, and experiences, a suffering alcoholic was able to think, “If he could do it, maybe so could I.”
Peer to peer recovery support is transforming from being fellowship based to clinically based. Many treatment centers employ alumni leadership style programs where graduates with months of sobriety under their belt come back to offer support to current program enrollees. Given titles like “peer recovery specialist”, these individuals are able to connect with current members in a way no one else can. One article writes, “intuitively it makes sense. Peers who have navigated addiction are more relatable…they can spend an hour with patients, compared to the emergency doctor who, on a hectic Friday night, may only have a few minutes to discuss treatment. And, perhaps most importantly, they offer living proof that recovery is possible.”
Peer recovery coach programs are spreading, although with challenges. Shared experience alone might not be enough to create quantifiable improvements in patients. As of now, the research is practically non-existent. Issues with payment, insurance, and credentialing step into the picture as well.
In the beginning, a title and a paycheck didn’t matter. Recovered alcoholics helped struggling alcoholics simply by sharing the experience of alcoholism and the hope of recovery. As the process becomes more and more refined, recovery centres continue to support the miracle of fellowship.
Aurora Recovery Centre provides holistic and evidence based care to men and women seeking healing transformation of mind, body, and spirit. For more information about our multiphase program treating alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders, call 1-844-515-STOP.