The countdown is on: our LIVES Challenge ends in four days! It’s been an incredible experience to connect with individuals all around the country, from challenge judges to participants and supporters, hearing inspiring stories of recovery, hope, and healing.
Most recently, we sat down with Patty Powers. Like many of our other judges, Patty’s personal story around addiction empowered her to help others find health, happiness, and freedom in their recovery journey.
Get to know more about Patty in this week’s judges Q&A.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What led you to become a recovery coach? What does your program entail?
I definitely did not set out to become a recovery coach. Coaching more or less found me a few years after I’d found recovery for my own addiction. Friends in the entertainment industry began asking me to join in their travels as a sober support companion. This occasional work helped support my own creative projects. In 2010 I was asked to appear on an A&E mini-series about coaching. This was very unexpected and unplanned and I had to make a decision whether or not to go public as a recovery coach. I honestly had no idea that it was going to take over my life, that all my writing would become focussed on recovery or that I’d be speaking to groups of people about how to create a lifestyle to support ongoing sobriety. It’s turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
As far as what my program entails, every client requires a coaching plan based on their individual needs. My approach is largely focused on creating strategies to recognize thoughts and behaviors that can lead to relapse and learning how to re-route them, implementing activities to create a lifestyle centered on reducing stress and increasing vitality, addressing newly discovered feelings, and developing a support group that will carry them once our work together ends.
Q: What motivated you to support the Recovery Brands LIVES Challenge?
I’m excited by the challenge because it invites people to utilize their creativity to express how stigma has touched their own lives. People love contests and cash prizes and those who enter are going to be running ideas by friends and sharing rough cuts for feedback. It’s a fantastic way to get people thinking about and talking about their own attitudes toward drug addiction and maybe unearthing prejudices that have been informed inadvertently by stigma.
Q: In your experience, how does stigma fuel the shame of addiction?
It’s a morality power trip. Shame is conservative society’s psychological punishment for not adhering to its imposed moral code – for not following the rules. Because divorce used to be shameful people would remain in terrible marriages, often suffering incredible abuse, to spare their children the label of “coming from a broken home”. Sex out of wedlock was another one. The unwed mother was considered “used goods”. Homosexuals were unforgivably outcast. Community and labor organizers were called communists. The examples are endless.
Stigma runs deep. On one hand we live at a time where we no longer have to veil subjects that used to be considered taboo – such as homosexuality, sexual assault, ADHD, bi-polar disorder, depression, addiction or alcoholism – and at the same time we’re locked into a current language of political correctness that restricts honest conversation around issues that have been stigmatized. We’re often blind to our own deeply held prejudices. This disconnect between what we say and what we believe is an example of how deeply stigma has penetrated our collective belief system. I believe the personal shame experienced by addicts is predominantly connected to inherited family shame that is pervasive yet often so subtle it’s roots are undetectable.
Q: Why do you think that sharing your personal story of addiction and recovery is so important?
For all the criticisms of shows like Intervention or any of Dr. Drew’s shows, no one can deny that they created a public discussion around addiction and recovery that had not existed previously. This is a “coming out” time for addicts in recovery not unlike the early LGBT movement. The more people who speak out about their addiction and recovery, the more it becomes normalized. This is how we eradicate shame. Being out about my personal history is my message of hope for others who may need it.
Q: As a society, what can we do to eradicate the stigma surrounding substance abuse and mental illness? How can we educate ourselves and hold people accountable moving forward?
For one, education needs to be honest and not fear-based. It must focus on prevention. Prevention means teaching young people how to express their feelings without fear of judgment, teaching compassion and empathy and the value of service to others, and providing them with self-care skills that include exercise and meditation. In my opinion, prevention means everything from creating call lines for children to anonymously talk about any physical or sexual abuse they are experiencing, to stronger community involvement where young people can create relationships with adults to find support and mentoring that may be unavailable at home. If we can create a healthier society there will be less reason to seek emotional comfort in substances.
Q: What is your greatest hope for the future of the recovery movement?
My greatest hope is that future generations come of age knowing that there is no shame in pain and that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.