This article was originally published on Sober Something and was written by Leigh-Anne Brierley who is a Recovery Coach and Wellness Facilitator of The Foundation Recovery Wellness (Outpatient) Program

Working in the emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially and physically rewarding, and equally demanding, world of substance abuse, addictive behaviour and mental health disorders means that my life is filled with purpose and fulfillment.  Yet as blessed as I am to have found a career that feeds my soul, there are of course ongoing challenges.  South Africa has a chronic addiction problem from the streets of Soweto where “nyaope” is rife, to the upper class suburbs where benzos and cocaine are the drug of choice.  The use of “tik” (crystal meth) which has devastating physical, mental and spiritual effects on users is not confined to a single cultural, ethnic or socio-economic group.  And let’s not forget alcohol, which in my humble opinion is the “gateway drug” because I don’t work with too many people who didn’t meet their true love in their drug of choice without a booze-filled night or two.  The list goes on and I could continue to talk about the drugs, the chronic problems and the hopelessness of the situation or I can start to look at it from a different perspective!!
So I position myself as a Recovery Coach assisting people to move from a culture of addiction to the culture of recovery.  And part of the work that I do is assisting in the training of other recovery coaches.  Our aim is to train individuals and groups to empower themselves, their families, organisations and communities to become part of the solution to the SA Addiction Crisis!  Instead of trying to solve a problem that is far beyond our reach, we chose to focus on teaching and coaching using forward-focused and solutions-driven tools and techniques to shift people into a new mindset.  By looking at things from a different angle, we offer clients the option to start moving towards their imagined future, not languishing in the past.

I have been to a couple of events lately which were supposedly recovery-orientated and all I heard was people talking about the problem, firmly entrenched in the culture of addiction.  There were vague glimmers of hope, but mostly people caught up in the gory details of their addiction.  The message was along the same old lines of just say no (if you don’t want to end up like me)! What I believe is that people in South Africa need to change the language that they are using around recovery.  Because the “War on Drugs” has long been lost and the costs are still being tallied.  We as a country don’t have the financial resources to  fight the drug lords, police the lolly lounges, rid the streets of sellers, but what we can do is create #RecoveryCapital which are the internal and external resources required to support people in their recovery.

Rather than spending money fighting a losing battle, isn’t it more productive to start to develop resources that are aimed at assisting those who are ready to move into a culture of recovery!?  Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on developing centres that are safe places for those in recovery to spend their time once they have chosen to embrace recovery!?  Because if we are honest, what is there to support a person who has given up their “best friend” and now has to start to feed their soul with new, recovery-orientated activities.  It’s no good simply telling people to stop using and doing, what we need to do is to offer replacements so that people aren’t enticed back to using because they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired (HALT) or simply bored and looking for something to fill the time which takes care of these physical needs or makes them feel stronger, sexier and smarter.  Able to work longer with less food and very little spiritual or emotional fulfillment!

So one of the approaches from SHARP Recovery Solutions is the training of 1,000 Recovery Coaches over the next two years!  It’s a lofty goal, but the benefits are enormous.  Recovery Coaches are trained to support individuals, families, organisations and communities to start building up the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and social resources through supportive, accountable relationships.  People are equipped with tools and techniques that help them to start to rebuild their lives, both personally and professionally and really embrace what it means to be in recovery.  Because there is an enormous difference between abstinence and recovery the way I see it.

Because empowering people engenders a culture of hope, honesty, integrity and courage (to name but a few of the spiritual principles on which recovery is built).  Offering solutions, rather than simply regurgitating the same drug-addled language about addiction, is about moving through goal-orientated planning.  It’s about offering alternatives and it can all start with just one courageous conversation with a Recovery Coach!  Someone who doesn’t want to look to the past, but chooses to look towards the possibilities that lie glimmering on the horizon.

For more information about Recovery Coach Training and Funding, please contact Leigh-Anne Brierley | (011)728-9200 |